Design & DIY

How to wrap gifts for the cottagers in your life

A gift decorated with a pine cone and ribbon Courtesy of Corinna vanGerwen

The holiday season is upon us, and once again it’s time to scramble to get presents for all the people on our lists. Shopping can get stressful, so when you sit down to wrap those gifts, why not have some fun with it?

We spoke with Corinna vanGerwen, a professional gift stylist and former editor here at Cottage Life, about how to wrap your presents sustainably and personally—whether it’s for your resident nature-lover, the self-proclaimed cottage chef, or a passionate putterer.

Keep it green

Whatever style you choose, vanGerwen says there are lots of ways to ensure your gift-wrapping is as environmentally-friendly as possible:

Boxes and bags: put your gift in an old wine box or a cute cookie tin. If the box isn’t the most pleasing to the eye, wrap it or place it in a gift bag for that desired holiday aesthetic. Most of us have a few old, sometimes interesting boxes that could be put to use and personalized for cottager-specific gifts. Add some boating or outdoorsy themed decor, or even wrap the box with a map that depicts the area of the recipient’s cottage!

And, “don’t feel like you can’t use a gift bag,” advises vanGerwen. “You can get multiple uses out of gift bags.”

Ribbons and cloth: Fabric ribbon can easily be used multiple times, as opposed to polypropylene ribbon that can usually only be used once. Got any old clothes you no longer wear? If it’s in decent condition, you can easily take an old shirt, cut it into fabric strips, and create your own DIY ribbon. Alternatively, cut a square out of the cloth to use it as wrap for a small to medium sized present, or borrow (but don’t cut up!) one of Grandma’s old but nostalgia-inducing tea towels or apron for the job.

Paper: If you unwrap wrapping paper carefully, without too many tears, that can be used to wrap another gift as well. Also be aware of whether the items you’re using can be effectively recycled (or burned, since you’ve probably got the fireplace or woodstove on). Look for wrapping paper without a coating (it’s usually matte) as it is  most easily recycled. Avoid plastic wrapping or adornments whenever possible; paper is more likely to be accepted by your local recycling facility.

Make it personal

Unwrapping a gift is an emotional experience for the recipient, so don’t underestimate the impact of a well-wrapped and personalized present. “It’s an act of caring, of gratitude,” explains vanGerwen. “There’s a lot of emotion involved. There’s anticipation, a moment of happiness, or trepidation if you’re worried grandma is giving you an ugly sweater again.”

You can also look outside the gift wrap aisle for ways to personalize the present. Got a friend who lives for the outdoors? Grab a cluster of berries, a piece of birch, or pine cones, all of which can be used as embellishment on wrapped gifts.

For the person in your life who’s always tinkering, raid the workshop! Grab some twine or duct tape, or an old crate and use them to wrap and decorate a gift.

You can also keep it simple: wrap the present in paper of their favourite colour, or with a specific, niche design that reflects their interests (a sports design, music design, or one of the many other options out there!). Alternatively, newspaper gives a cool, vintage look. If you know they enjoy unwrapping a gift more than pulling it out of a bag, use paper.

The most important thing is to “keep the person in mind,” says vanGerwen.

Putting in the effort to cater your gift-wrap to the person helps augment the experience for them, and they’re going to notice. It makes it personal for them.

“The person is going to stop and notice that. It prolongs the moment,” says vanGerwen. “They get to be in the moment with that one item, and with you.”

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