How to making your special gift unique

Now that you've found the perfect holiday gift, it would be only fitting to wrap the package in a perfectly unique way.
Presentation is everything, according to Eleanor Leinen, founder of the gift-wrapping company Uniquely Gifted. It's a lesson the former high-end boutique owner learned 12 years ago when a customer demanded her money back after Leinen had poorly gift-wrapped her purchase.
"That's when I knew I could do better and decided to experiment," says the Hollywood, FL, businesswoman whose techniques include faux flowers, air-brushing, non-traditional papers, decorative trims and vintage jewelry. "My clients began to respond in a way I never anticipated and my sales tripled!"

Since then Leinen has received national attention for her custom designer boxes and gift bags. She has even wrapped gifts for such celebrities as Mariah Carey, Lauryn Hill and the late Luther Vandross.
Leinen, author of the book Uniquely Gifted, credits her success to creativity and customer service.

"I like to use non-traditional containers. Anything I think might hold something," she explains. "I also personalize each gift so that when the recipient receives it they really know it's absolutely for them. That is what truly makes the difference."
As a one-woman operation, Leinen stays busy year-round, especially during the holidays. Depending on the supplies and the labor, the gift-wrappings range from $125 to $500 and up.
"Every piece that she does is like a work of art," says Broadway actress Cheryl Freeman, who often calls on Leinen for her expertise. "When I give a gift wrapped by Eleanor, most people think that [the package] is the gift. They keep it and use it as art in their home."

That's exactly the response that Leinen wants from each recipient.
"That's the beauty of my package designs," she says. "They're not just a one-time deal."
Eleanor Leinen offers these tips for a perfect present.
Pick an area with a flat surface to begin your wrapping. Choose two styles of wrapping paper that complement each other.
1) Cut a strip of paper from each roll, long enough to encircle the box in each direction; one strip should be the length of the box and the complementary strip should be slightly shorter.
2) Center one strip of paper around the box and tape it down with clear tape. Center another strip around the other side of the box so the two strips cross in the middle. Tape the strip down on the box.
3) Using a thick, wire-edged ribbon, wrap a band along the bottom and tape it down. For the top, create an elegant bow by tying the ribbon around the top of the box like you would a shoelace. Make small folds or creases in the ribbon for added texture.
By Marti Parham