•Scrimp on paper; splurge on ribbon. Solid color gift wrap is less expensive than patterned wrap and looks more chic. Besides, reindeer and Santa motifs don't work year round. Craft paper comes in brown or white and is a good inexpensive solution if you have to wrap a lot of gifts. Newspaper — pick pages that don't have color or much advertising — makes handsome neutral wrap. (Iron the pages to remove the crease). Accent the gray newsprint with a bright ribbon.
•Buy the best ribbon you can afford. Only buy ribbon you want to use again and again. Good double-faced satin ribbon is always appropriate. Black or metallic ribbon works on all backgrounds.
•Use white tissue. It's cheaper than colored tissue, always looks right, and makes items stand out, said Kniel.
•Have two pairs of scissors. Use one just for paper, and one just for ribbon. “They don't have to be expensive, just dedicated,” said Kniel. “If you cut ribbon with the scissors you use for paper, the ribbon will look chewed on.”
•Use double-sided tape. “It makes packages look so much better.”
•Tie it and top it. Wrap ribbon around a package once and tie a bow. Then wrap another ribbon around the other way and tie a bow, so you get four loops. Or just use bands of ribbons and glue the ends together, said Kniel. Then add a topper, such as small millinery flowers, a velvet bird or butterfly, a small ornament, or a pine cone.
•Avoid Kniel's three peeves. Curling ribbon. “It's inexpensive and looks inexpensive. No one keeps it.” Sticky bows. “Eyew. Tell me: Have you ever seen a sticky bow that's beautiful?” Gift bags. “They say, ‘I ran out of time.' The exception is the little blue Tiffany bag, other than that ... forget them.”
•Bask in the glory. “The biggest compliment you can get is someone saying: ‘This is too beautiful to open. That's when you know you've done it right.”
Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press). Contact her through www.marnijameson.com.