Claudia Schwartz, the proprietress of Bell’occhio, a whimsical boutique on a tiny lane off Market Street in San Francisco, is a bona fide expert on the presentation of the gift. She teaches gift-wrapping classes several times a year ($125 for a three-hour class, sparkling wine and worldly treats included), and in the back room of her shop come mid-December, baskets full of gifts are stacked high, all awaiting Claudia’s touch before decamping by post (often to the famous and the fabulous).
She comes by the skill honestly: As a child, her father taught her to make boxes by hand, “sometimes in beautiful shapes and always designed for the gift inside.” She combined her early education with a lifelong passion for commerce and founded Bell’occhio more than two decades ago—and has been teaching San Franciscans the art of the gift ever since.
Today, Claudia shares three favorite wrapping techniques with us. Join us for a lesson:
Photography by Leslie Santarina for Remodelista.
Festive Wine Bottle Wrapping
“If you wrap something in tissue paper with no flourishes, it can look depressing and cheap,” says Claudia. “This way looks jaunty and lovely.”
- Several sheets of tissue paper (we used red paper available at Bell’occhio)
- One sheet of stiff, decorative paper (we used Pollock’s Theatre Wrap; $8.50 per sheet)
- Ribbon (we used one-and-a-half-inch Red Stripe Ribbon; $4 a yard)
- Fringe Benefits scissors; $22
A note on scissors: Many of Claudia’s wrapping techniques rely on Fringe Benefits scissors ($22), made in France of stainless steel. As with all things Claudia, there’s a story here: On a trip to France years ago, Claudia found some vintage French candy wrappers with fringed edges and bought up the lot. To re-create the finish back home, she used an electric paper shredder for years (the consistency of the fringe “depended on your reflexes,” she said). But after the shredder died, a friend gave her a pair of fringing scissors, and Schwartz realized they were the ideal tool for gift wrapping.
You can cut the scallop a few ways: Try it freehand, or do a quick online search for a scallop template and print it out and cut along. If you visit Claudia at her shop in San Francisco, ask for a free scallop template when you purchase decorative papers. Last, you can contact Claudia (the store’s email address is on the shop website) and she’ll be happy to oblige by sending you a template by email.
Jovial Fringed Ends“What I like about this one is that it’s quick,” said Claudia. “It’s kind of a shame to lavish hours on something someone’s going to rip open. This wrapping is plush but not too precious.”
- Up to three different colors of tissue paper, several sheets each (we used red and white paper of different widths)
- Ribbon (we used Cotton Sateen Ribbons in Paris green; $4 a yard)
- Fringe Benefits scissors; $22
- Optional: A decorative centerpiece, like a Lacquered Tree ($6 for a set of six), Petites Feuilles leaves ($1.50 each), or an Antique Rose Sepal ($6)
- Two colors or types of ribbon, preferably the same width (we used Cotton Sateen Ribbons in rouge and vert vapeur; $4 per yard)
Among the Claudia-wrapped treats shown here: Crystallized Flowers in pastel cones (they arrive from France in plastic bags, says Claudia: “not very poetic”), Sauternes-Soaked Raisins in red, and, in green tissue, Handmade Caramels by Little Apple Treats (a friend of Remodelista and past vendor at our holiday markets).
For more holiday decor ideas, see:
- Joyeux Noël: How to Throw a Holiday Party the French Way
- The European Holiday: 14 Ways to Decorate the House, from France, Sweden, and More
- The Last-Minute Host: 10 Tips for Setting the Holiday Table, from Tricia Rose
- Mantel Trimmings: 7 Favorite Holiday Stockings
- Last-Minute Holiday Gift: Homemade Orange-Spiced Wine
N.B.: This post is an update; the original story ran on December 18, 2017.