I'm a fresh flowers or foliage girl. If an affordable choice isn't available at a local market, I try to find something in the backyard. Anything green. In fact, the prettiest blooms often come from those old fashioned gardens like our great-grandparents used to have. Unfortunately, these days, we don't all posses backyards overflowing with camellias and roses.
I like the passage in Vogue's Book of Etiquette that says, in the right hands, a little obvious pretense can be light-hearted and fun: the frankly fake fur rug, enormous paper flowers. (The book also advises that in the wrong hands these things can "cheapen a whole room.")
Clearly Mary McDonald has the right hands. She can mix lavish millinery blossoms into sophisticated settings.
So maybe the handmade chrysanthemum project from Alabama Chanin is worth exploring. These flowers aren't pretending to be real. And they aren't too cute. On a bedroom table they could be fun mixed with heaps of jewelry.
Sewing is required but the needed supplies sound modest (jersey T-shirts that you can shred, florist wire, scissors, needle and thread). Several people I know say the recession has made them determined to be more self-reliant and master basic sewing skills. Making a few flowers might not be a logical way to begin, but it could be therapeutic. Instructions are available here, and are also included in Chanin's Alabama Stitch Book, which retails for about $24 at Amazon. Or you can buy the book and DIY kit with all the needed supplies directly from Chanin for $40.
Credits: images one, five and six are from Selvedge, issue 23; image four is Mary McDonald's house as seen in House & Garden; and image two is from Joslyn's beautiful house, as seen over at design*sponge. Joslyn says that every single piece in her grouping came from an estate sale or antique shop, "already framed, so I was quite lucky..." The larger piece at the bottom, a framed exhibition poster, is the first she purchased as a grown-up.