“I wait all year to decorate for Christmas,” says Wendy Lau, design blogger and Instagram sensation. “But that doesn’t have to mean reinventing the wheel.” For Wendy, who shares her Thornhill, Ont., home with husband Kwan, getting holiday-ready involves foraging greenery for simple, twine-tied garlands and pulling out the same DIY orange-slice ornaments year after year. “I was addicted to drying oranges at one point,” jokes Wendy. “I like that they’re natural and sustainable, and eventually I can compost them.” (Want to make your own? Slice a few oranges, poke a hole in each slice and bake for two to three hours—flipping once—in a 250F oven. The slices will transform into stained-glass-like ornaments that last for years.) This winter, Wendy plans on reaching out of a second-floor window to trim extra greenery from the top of her cedar hedge, as the bottom is a little sparse from Christmases past. The handmade vibe of the resulting garlands is charming—and the price tag can’t be beat.
Frugality runs in the Lau family. “My parents immigrated from Hong Kong, where it’s hot all year and decorating for Christmas isn’t as big of a thing,” says Wendy. Instead of splurging on fancy baubles, she grew up thrifting for ornaments with her folks and waiting for Boxing Week sales—two traditions she carries on today. “The holiday spirit is infectious and you can’t help but want to take part, but I never want my Instagram followers to feel like creating a welcoming home has to cost a lot of money,” Wendy says. As a kid, she remembers waking up every few months to see her whole house had been redesigned, without costing a dime. “My mom would rearrange the furniture, pillows, art, you name it. It made me understand that decor is fluid, and you can move things around and make it feel like a different space without buying anything new.”
Seeing decor as an extension of her hospitality is something Wendy prides herself on. As any of her holiday visitors can attest—this year it will only be her tight-knit family, but other years it’s been upwards of 100 people throughout the month of December, culminating in a holiday dinner for 40—she knows how to make guests feel at ease. “Your home is to be enjoyed by the people you love,” says Wendy, who attributes that feel-good mentality to her late aunt Brenda. “I get excited and emotional talking about her. Since we were an immigrant family, my aunt knew we didn’t have a fresh-cut tree, so she’d put one up for us and we’d decorate gingerbread houses. Now Wendy and Kwan carry on Brenda’s legacy with their young cousins: The gingerbread house competition takes place in the basement and carols are sung in the string-light-lit sunroom (which is also home to many of the couple’s 75-plus houseplants). “I know there’s going to be a big cleanup at the end, but I want my cousins to have the same fond holiday memories that I do,” Wendy says. “I want it to be magical.”