Part of a series: Living the Good Life with Chris Olsen
Christmas decorations for the home provide the lion’s share of all seasonal marketing year in and year out. The Victorians were the first to install—and instill—holiday scenes and festive touches in each room of their houses. Manufacturing and mass merchandising were coming into their own and the burgeoning middle class all of a sudden had income to spend on baubles that were only meant to be enjoyed a few weeks of the year. But it was always sensible to pack them away for the next year, so as not to be too frivolous. These little decorating novelties often became imbued with memories and sentiment, however, and extra care was taken so they could be brought out annually, along with the stories they told and the feelings they evoked about the family whose attic in which they resided 11 months of the year.
That’s the sociologist’s clinical observation of it. But I want to interject here that all those stacked boxes, all those reams of creased and worn tissue paper, hold items that you can not only use every year, but can use in unexpected ways, and add some real depth and flavor to your Christmas decorating.
Find a shelf or corner, preferably one you pass with frequency. Then plan out a Christmas vignette in proportion to your space. Here you see the usual suspects—Santa, two versions of a tree, poinsettia–but they’re arranged cheek by jowl along with other items already housed there. The blocks proclaiming JOY fit perfectly, and don’t overpower the small tree behind. All are vintage items from storage, all mean something to me. But they’re used sparingly, and along with other possessions, and along with the existing color scheme. Integrating your holiday mementoes among books, ceramics, and other treasures makes it all a little more special.
What about those Santa mugs? I bet most of you have one or more. Too small to be functional, too fun to leave in the attic. Find a surface and line them up. There’s power in numbers.
It doesn’t have to be an evergreen or conifer. Green is good—and needed—for any holiday display. I love birds nest ferns any time of the year, and this is my favorite cachepot. Why not just add Christmas to what’s already there?
And here it is: a drift of Christmas. My favorite objects on a table—plants, interesting pots, books—now become a backdrop for holiday decorating, with nothing more than a few vintage ornaments tossed about. You may have ones or twos of ornaments from years gone by. You don’t have to do anything more than place them among what’s already there. Perhaps these ornaments don’t really ‘go with’ your decorating scheme, or their sizes are all wrong. Use them anyway in this careless, yet cheerful manner. You can see the large tree and other elements in the background, but using small things in this way can have big impact.
Use interesting containers to hold heaps and scoops of vintage ornaments. What better way to display bounty of the season than by mounding up a collection of small ornaments. And the bowls they are collected in are the bowls I love, which I use throughout the year. Mix your collections for great appeal.
Or display heirloom ornaments in a case, such as this one. This grouping, part of typical Christmas ornament sold as sets, becomes that much more special when featured this way. They don’t have to be large or expensive to be precious. Every one of them holds a memory.
Incorporate everyday items into your holiday display. Photos, plants, a natural piece you love, are also part of this Christmas tabletop. Reindeer votives lead the way here, proportions all fit, the mix is unexpected, and the effect is cheery.
What does your attic hold? What’s in all those boxes? Unpack and find ways to weave little happy elements into your home for the best kind of holiday. Your holiday display doesn’t have to take up too much real estate to be something you and your guests can enjoy. And your personality can shine through every time.
Live Life to the Fullest,
Chris H. Olsen