Cue the angelic chorus. You’ve found the perfect presents for everyone on your nice list this year and now it’s time to package them up.
Sure, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, but elevating your gift wrap can make gifting feel extra special this year.
Luckily, Melinda Morris of Arni Paperie in Southold is a gift-wrapping guru with a wealth of knowledge and expertise.
Though she was raised Jewish, Christmas was a pretty big deal in her life growing up.
For decades, her parents, Jane and Arnold Greenberg, ran Lion in the Sun in Huntington Village, a paperie stocked with stationery, gifts and custom invitations. Then, Morris brought the family business to Brooklyn when she opened a second location in Park Slope in 2002.
“I didn’t get to do a tree, but I was always wrapping everything for everyone else,” Morris joked. “When your family is in retail, you only have Christmas off!”
Morris ran the business until 2018 when she sold it to another stationery company. She opened Arni Paperie — named for her father — in Southold in 2020.
We asked Morris for some advice and learned that attention to detail and little touches can go a long way, making your presents look almost too pretty to unwrap.
“What I love about beautiful gift-wrapping is that it really imparts an added layer of thoughtfulness for the receiver,” she said. “It makes what’s inside that much more special.”
Here are her tips for helping you get your holidays all wrapped up. It may be peak gift-wrapping season, but this guide will serve you all year round as birthdays, bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings and baby showers pop up.
Mise en place is a crucial element for chefs, but the same theory applies here. Gather your supplies — and make sure you have a pair of really good scissors. Morris also recommends using double-stick tape or glue dots to seal up the package in order to avoid visible tape.
Measure twice, cut once
This age-old saying strikes again. We’ve all been there, folding gift wrap up over the sides of a box to be left with an exposed gap down the middle. (Or with way too much paper and a bulky mess!)
“The most common mistake is using too much or too little, paper,” said Morris. “The key is to measure the box first and test the paper around the box before cutting.”
She recommends trimming the paper to wrap around the box with about ½ inch of excess to ensure it meets the other side for a clean edge. This can help eliminate excess waste.
Crease your edges
Raise your hand if this makes you think of your own mother. It’s the only way to achieve that picture-perfect look.
“My pro tip is to carefully crease all edges as you fold with the edge of your finger to ensure crisp lines,” Morris said.
Fold over all the edges to create a tidy seam and use double-sided tape for a professional finish.
“Don’t be afraid to wrap the box in a non-obvious pattern to create interest, creative folds and interesting textures,” Morris said, adding that there are thousands of tutorials on Instagram to inspire you.
Little decorations like a wax seal, sticker, ribbon or natural found element like a sprig of pine, sage or lavender can help transform an ordinary-looking package into something very special, even on a budget.
Kraft paper, white butcher paper and newspaper are some of Morris’ favorite options, especially when paired with textured elements like a luxe velvet ribbon.
“Think outside the box and, where possible, reuse or repurpose,” Morris said, suggesting using items like baker’s twine, Manila shipping tags or paint chips from the hardware store as inexpensive options.
You can involve the whole family by getting the kids to doodle on the kraft paper too, adding a truly one-of-a-kind touch.
Creativity is encouraged, but don’t overcomplicate it. Sometimes all it takes is a real fabric ribbon. “I think nothing is more appealing than a simple box with a beautiful, luxurious bow,” Morris said.
A fun way to avoid gift tags is creating a color system. “I love color coding so each person gets a theme color for their gift wrap and all the gifts match to create a unique palate each year under the tree,” Morris said.
She prefers color coordination, but also thinks outside the traditional red and green box with shades, patterns and textures that don’t scream Christmas. “I like pinks, purples, silvers and sometimes even black for holiday wrapping because it’s sort of unique,” she said. “And wintry patterns, since they’re nondenominational.”
Get creative with wonky-shaped items using either wrapping paper, cellophane or even fabric to wrap around the item, gather and tie with twine or curling ribbon.
“Anything that can be rolled or is round can be created into what I call a party popper,” Morris said, like a blanket, clothing that isn’t in a gift box, or a soccer or basketball.
In the Brooklyn shop, Morris offered “elf services,” to help people wrap all their gifts during the busy holiday season. “We would color code them for their friends and family and do all kinds of fabulous and creative wrapping with their very unique and sometimes weirdly shaped gifts,” she explained.
Large stuffed animals were always a challenge — you have to make sure they can “breathe!” — as were larger items like bicycles. “In that case, there’s no hiding it,” Morris said. “You just have to go with a really big bow.”
If all else fails and you’re opting for a gift bag or basket, Morris says using more tissue paper than you think you need in fun colors and patterns can add dimension, height and volume.