‘Tis the season for seasonal decorating advice. You’ll find it online and in print, and also be able to cadge ideas from displays at the neighbors or in stores. The advice—and design—boils down to two simple principles: use something that represents Christmas, and create fun or a sense of wonder with your display. I’d like to add another idea along with those two. Make your Christmas display mean something to you. Almost every one of us will have a box, or numerous boxes, which contain Christmas elements that have history with us, that may have been handed down through the family, that hold a bit of sentiment. Who cares if they’re beginning to tarnish, or that they might be a bit timeworn, chipped or dented? It’s the fact that they hold real personal meaning to you that gives them strength. Use what you’ve been saving, and place it alongside your new additions for seasonal decorating, and make the display work for you.
My last posting showed you how to make shine an active presence in your Christmas decorating. Now, for something different. How about a natural tree, bedecked with simple ornaments and glittering white lights instead? A tree that, while holding its own, is in sync with its surroundings and fits into the room without fanfare. If you seek a tree that harmonizes with your existing décor, incorporates natural elements, and isn’t an exclamation point in search of the right sentence, then here’s an idea for you.
A classic Christmas tree in a classic room creates its own music. Its natural approach fits into the existing scheme, yet brings in every element we think of in seasonal decorating. The tree, instead of being a huge presence, fits into the space between two chairs, not receding into the background, but becoming part of the room. One advantage a live tree has over its manmade counterpart is that live ones have boughs that aren’t uniform and contain plenty of space between. While we may love the symmetry and fullness of manufactured trees, they don’t become a part of existing décor as well as a real one can.
A natural tree also won’t impede traffic flow. While you might think you need to buy a smaller manmade tree for a smaller space, you don’t have that much of a concern if the tree is real. And it’s a softer, welcoming presence.
Decorated with natural elements—handmade cardinals perched on branches, circles of dried orange slices suspended by slim red ribbon, punctuated by pine cones, and lit simply—the tree is almost dreamy in its appearance. An added bonus is the architectural detailing around the door behind, which almost frames the tree. A tartan tree skirt forms a contained pouf at its base. While tartan is what we think of when we think ‘Christmas plaid,’ it also fits perfectly into the traditional setting of this room.
Dried orange slices are the primary decoration of this tree. Held by thin red ribbon, which is worked between the rind and sections, they are translucent, as well as providing a good punch of color. And you can’t beat pine cones to underscore the natural aspects of its decoration. You can dry citrus slices yourself, or buy them already preserved. And they still have that great citrus scent.
Tiny birds and Christmas seem to go together, don’t they? In keeping with the simplicity of this tree, redbirds were used, and provide a whimsical touch perched on the ends of branches.
If you aren’t one of those people with boxes full of ornaments in the attic that you use every year, and fill the tree to bursting, then maybe this idea is for you: Limit your decoration types—like the three items used here—and use as many as the branches will allow. Strength in numbers, yet a limit on ornament assortment. The same tree-trimming philosophy can apply, no matter whether your tree is natural or manmade.
You can bring an all-natural approach to your tree and accompanying décor, which will ‘wow’ your guests every bit as much as something enormous and gleaming. Sometimes, we all seek a bit of quiet and serenity, and this tree provides just that. And another fun bit about using a live one is that you get to bundle up and go to the tree lot, and find that perfect, yet individual, tree for your space. Oh, and then there’s that Christmas smell that you won’t find with anything out of a box. You can’t beat that.
Live Life to the Fullest and Happy Holidays,
Chris H. Olsen
Do you remember Pixie Sticks? Those paper sleeves of awesome tart candy powder. Not only did they TASTE great—eating them was such fun! You ripped the end off and tipped the ‘stick’ up, tilting your head back, pouring all that sour goodness into your mouth. Here’s a design idea that, while not edible, will satisfy your urge for color and simple design. And this time, it’s light, and won’t cause you extra time at the gym!
Take lengths of standard PVC pipe, measure and cut them in comparable lengths. But, before you cut, think about where you want to display your Pixie Sticks, if you are going to use them indoors or outside. If you’re using them outside, you might want them longer. You may want to cluster your pipe pieces, so think about using units of three pipe pieces. Yes, as usual, ‘three’ is your magic design number.
Using a drill, you want to drill many holes in random spots up and down the length of a pipe. Yes, ‘many.’ While drilling is tedious, remember the more holes you create, the more light will pour out. And don’t drill your light holes uniformly because you want scattered pinpoints of light, not rows.
Once you have plenty of holes drilled, then you want to think about color. You’re going to spray paint your pipes, and you’re only as limited as there are colors of spray paint. In this example, I used red, because they were incorporated into my holiday design. Any metallic you use would be great for year-round effect, orange for Halloween or Thanksgiving, blue for Hanukkah, or any other color or combination of colors to evoke any feeling or holiday you wish.
When painted, cram your pipes with ordinary holiday light strings. The more the better.
If you use your Pixie Sticks indoors, they become part of holiday structure, and are a nice foil for round ornaments. They can be hung, piled up, or even propped in corners. And another benefit to using PVC pipes is that they’re so lightweight, if you wish to suspend them, it’s easy.
And, if used outdoors, they take on a sculptural feel, and can be used alone or in conjunction with other exterior decoration.
Note how you can set one up, then the next, and then have one leaning into the two. Yep, three pipes have just the right look.
If you place your light sculptures within your landscape, they can mimic slender tree trunks, and form a nice design echo.
All you need is pipe, strings of lights, a drill, and spray paint, and in just a short time, you can create a cool light sculpture to use indoors or out. And not a single calorie was consumed.
Chris H. Olsen is a nationally known home and garden guru, designer, author, TV personality and public speaker. In his book, Chris shares his landscape and gardening knowledge along with his unique flair for home decor and design.He is also a member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers. Learn more about Chris and all of his work at chrisholsen.com.
We are avid readers of Elizabeth Owen’s blog, Mabel’s House, in part because she always makes us giggle, in part because we love her writing style, and in part because we think her signature vintage style is absolutely, positively fabulous. In fact, we recently visited her lovely home for an official photo shoot because we’re featuring a before-and-after of her aqua blue master bedroom (look for it in our Color issue this Jan/Feb). We asked Elizabeth to shed some light on how she creates vintage holiday style within her home, and she gladly obliged with lots of tips you don’t want to miss.
It’s all yours, Elizabeth!
When it comes to Christmastime, Iâm a big sentimental lump, which I blame on my grandmotherâs retro flocked Christmas tree with revolving base. As a child I remember watching it spin in her big bay window, blue lights and matching glass balls reflecting onto the street out front. Alas, the tree of my childhood memories is long gone, itâs poor rotating motor burned out and thrown onto the curb long before I was old enough to shriek, block the doorway and scream, âNO, I want it!â
If I had my say, our tree would be an exact replica, but reproducing a retro Christmas wouldnât be the most economically prudent move in the midst of holiday travel and gift buying expenses. It wouldnât go over well with my sisters if I met them on Christmas day, shrugged and said, âSorry guys, I couldnât afford to buy you a present this year. Instead I bought myself a vintage tree. Who wants eggnog?â
And while Iâm resisting the urge to turn my entire house into a set on “Mad Men,” I have managed to incorporate a few retro touches here and there, saving money and yet satisfying my craving for an era that hearkens back to the days of Doris Day and Rock Hudson.
1. Shiny Brite Ornaments
Nothing encapsulates the cheeriness of a retro Christmas like these candy hued ornaments. Thanks to the current supply at antique malls, boxes of these ornaments can easily be found in prices ranging from $1 to $10. They can be used on a tree, gathered in a bowl as a centerpiece, or collected in a tall clear glass vase on a mantle. Any way you choose to use them, theyâre an affordable nod at your grandmotherâs Christmas style.
2. Table Linens
These festive table coverings can easily be paired with modern dishes to give a fun throwback feeling to holiday dining. And if you donât prefer the straight forward Christmas designs, there are many vintage tablecloths with more subtle pine cone or winter scene patterns. Depending on the quality, they can be purchased for $10 to $50, and are easily found at antique malls and on eBay.
3. Vintage Glasses
The holidays give me an excuse to pull out my vintage drinking glasses and fill them with candles. Peach carnival glass, bubble glass, and mismatched blue juice glasses make cheery (not to mention cheap) candle arrangements.
4. Retro Dishes
Who said holidays always require fine china? Retro dishes are available in abundance online, at estate sales and in local antique malls. Pick up a few plates here and there to complete a fun, funky and unexpected set of dishes for your holiday table.
5. Handmade Craft Items
Thanks to Etsy and online bloggers, there are hundreds of unique, handmade holiday dÃ©cor options you just canât find at your local department stores. One of my favorites is this vintage style banner made by local crafter Jerusalem Greer.
Christmas is the one time of the year that evokes feelings of sentimentality in all of us. Whether your tradition involves watching “A Christmas Story” 30 times, or building a gingerbread house with your kids, retro Christmas touches are a perfect way to not only decorate in the cheeriest of styles, but also to incorporate a little bit of grandma into your traditions.
Is your Christmas tree up yet?
Ours is! The At Home team recently gathered for a morning of Christmas tree decorating, featured in our December edition of Last Look, and we quickly realized how fun it is to decorate a tree with a staff full of creative people on hand! Here are some behind-the-scenes shots.
Lauren Strother and Mandy Keener add some finishing touches.
Laura LaRue digs through a box of tissue paper and sparkly ornaments.
Kathy Condrey, Katie Rawlings, Shannon McMasters and Jennifer Hay wait for their photo op.
Lauren, Jennifer and Laura share a laugh.
Ta-da…Looks good to us!
1. Editor in chief Diane Carroll reads Little Rock resident Jerusalem Greer’s blog because “she has a real-life perspective. It’s not about perfection, it’s about enjoying the small moments.” Diane’s pick of the week is a lovely example of that.
2. Art director Mandy Keener always has some sort of project going, so it’s no surprise she is an avid reader of Design Sponge, where these DIY printed burlap chairs caught Mandy’s eye. She says, “Iâm a sucker for anything with typeâ¦and I have the perfect chair waiting at home.”
3. Paulette Pearson, associate editor, loves the food blog Cannelle et Vanille and will be picking up the ingredients for these Sweet Potato, Yogurt and Hazelnut Cakes this afternoon. “Cannelle et Vanille is pure eye candy, with unique recipes and beautiful photos to match.”
5. Lauren Strother, our marketing coordinator, says she will definitely be using this peppermint bark recipe from The City Sage for Christmas treats!
6. Account executive Kathy Condrey has a new baby girl, and looks for inspiration on Kelly’s Korner, a popular mom blog. Kathy says, “These handmade ornaments are really cute and would make a great gift idea.”
8. Northwest account executive Shannon McMasters kept it local to northwest Arkansas with her choice of the Riffraff blog, founded by interior designer Kirsten Blowers.
Interested in all things colorful? Check out our Color issue (now online with a rainbow of tips), and then hop on over to some of our favorite sites.
Check out Colour Lovers, a “resource that monitors and influences color trends, giving people who use color–whether for ad campaigns, product design, etc.–a place to see what’s going on in the world of color.” Have a gander and get lost in a sea of palettes and patterns.
Providing an in-depth look at color in the home, fashion, beauty and more, Sensational Color even delves into the messages and meanings of certain hues.
Decor by Color is the place to go if you want to play out your obsession with with a certain color or mix of colors. Click on any of the number of colors on the main page (pink+brown, turquoise, green), and you’ll be directed to a variety of home products available for purchase in that shade.
Repainting? Remodeling? Revamping your bedroom? That will likely involve slathering on new paint, and My Perfect Color is here to help you find the perfect hue with more than 100,00 color matches from more than 100 paint brands.
It’s Week 1, Day 2 of our Spring Guest Blogger Series, and none other than local blogging sensation Jerusalem Greer, of Jolly Goode Gal, is here to set the scene for a delightfully beautiful Mother’s Day Brunch! Jerusalem, whose own blog is a mountain of colorful vintage and craft-inspired ideas, is also the proud winner of the Before & After category of our Arkansas’ Best Contest! Check it out soon in our July issue, and keep reading here for a snippet of Jerusalem’s sensational style. You’ll be charmed through and through.
At Home is smitten with the table you set for us, Jerusalem. Thank you!
Spring is the time of year that is filled with celebrations of the heart â weddings, births, graduations. And sort of in the middle, squeezed in between the goodbyes of graduations and hellos of weddings, there is Motherâs Day. A day that should be filled with all things lovely for all the hard working motherâs, but a day instead that is often filled with (well intentioned of course) hastily purchased gifts and predicable lunches.
Well this year, why not instead take the reins, and throw a Vintage Garden Inspired Motherâs Day Brunch for all the wonderful mothers in your life? Why leave loveliness up to chance?
Here are a few key ingredients when planning your dÃ©cor for a Vintage Inspired event such as this:
- Remember the adage: âEverything old is new againâ â A vintage sheet made into table cloth brings color and a sense of comfort, while vintage vases & creamers look all grouped together add a touch of whimsy. Antique silverware finishes the look by adding the perfect touch of elegance.
- Mix & Match â The clean lines of new tea glasses sit perfectly beside the more intricate pattern of the vintage juice glasses. Delicate vintage tea cups sit on hand-painted pottery snack plates.
- The Unexpected Can Be Delightful â Handmade crepe paper flowers and pink napkins are mixed together in the vintage vases instead of a traditional (and more expensive) floral arrangement. Simple to make, they can be used over and over, or passed on to your guest as a party favor.
- Speaking of Party Favors – Don’t forget, everyone likes a little gift or two or three, especially mothers! Hand-crafted signs reading âBloom Where You Are Plantedâ help provide a color and texture for this table setting. Chopsticks in festive colors and small candies in pink boxes are additional party favors for each guest, along with a sweet note card and fancy tissues all tucked into the tea cup.
By showing each guest that you are their biggest fan, and by having the forethought to plan a lovely brunch, lunch or tea experience for the mothers in your life, you will be showing just how much you care with style!