Ever since I was a little girl, my heart would flutter with excitement when it was time to decorate for the holidays. I remember trying to keep my hands calmly by my side while the dozens of tree boxes, bags, and totes of Christmas decor made their way down from the attic, or up from the basement.
It was a day-after-Thanksgiving custom in my house that each room be embellished with the traditional symbol of Christmas, an evergreen tree, each themed in a complementary color with ornaments that correlated to the function of that specific room. The kitchen tree had gingerbread cookie cutters and candy canes hanging from the prelit tree branches, while the dining room tree had lenox ornaments in red and white. The large real tree was reserved for the family room and was decorated with handmade crafts, travel keepsakes, kickknacks representing family memories, and the only string of multi-colored lights in our home, a true treasure to behold.
Once my mom had organized the trinkets by which room they belonged to, and gave the a-okay, my brother, sisters, and I would immediately dive into the boxes in search of our own fake trees that proudly stood within the walls of our bedroom. We each had our very own set of ornaments we accumulated over the years, which we all still have and use to this day. We would then lock ourselves in our rooms, blasting our own favorite Christmas album. Meanwhile my mom and step-dad would set up the other trees, the candles in every window, and put together the quaint porcelain Christmas village.
Though this operation took the entire day to complete, our hearts were filled with cheer as night fell upon us and we made our way around the house flipping the switches that resulted in a warm glow from all of the trees and decorations. Some of my fondest memories take place snuggled under a blanket with my sister or mom, my dog Duke curled in a ball by our feet, in a room that glimmered from the lights of a Christmas tree. The atmosphere for all who entered gave off cozy and welcoming energy, so much so that when Phil and I moved in together, this tree tradition was one that we decided to implement.
Since we are still renting our current home, we can only do so much from a decoration standpoint. We can’t put numerous holes in the wall trying to get the perfect placement for our Christmas lights — in fact we can’t put holes in the wall at all! Even still, I do my best to make it feel cozy and warm, just like the Decembers in my childhood home. And it all starts with, you probably guessed it, the trees! Yes, we have more than one. Not one in every room (yet), but we do have three!
The bedroom is home to a tabletop vintage fake tree. As Phil likes to say, vintage is just a nice way of saying old. My mom would attest to it, this tree is old. In fact, it was her fake tree when she first moved to New England some 30 some odd years ago.
The same ornaments also still adorn the branches today. Tin, hand-painted scenes from the classic holiday carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas.
The bedroom decor is complete with winter themed decor, including a fir tree themed throw pillow in a neutral linen fabric, fur pillow cases, and extra branches from our real Christmas tree in a lenox vase.
Moving on to the second bedroom which currently serves as a sitting room/library/workout room/Phil’s closet, this room’s main decoration is what we call the travel tree. Each of the ornaments on the tree is a keepsake from our travels. When away, we actually scour the area we are in for the perfect representation of that specific trip. They line a window sill in the second bedroom room until the day that this specific tree is put up. We then take turns putting them on the tree, saying one of our favorite memories for that trip. This year we added six new ornaments to our tree, one from Seattle, WA; The Bahamas; St. Lucia; Hilton Head, SC; Woodstock, VT; and Darby, MT.
There are also a few other personal mementos on the tree, including a few memorable ornaments from my personal, childhood tree, which I fully intend to put on a smaller tree in a future home office. To finish it off, this tree is prelight with soft white lights, topped with a festive, old Santa Claus hat, while a red, white, and burlap colored tree skirt covers the base.
The last tree in our house is the real tree located in our main living space, which can be seen from the street. This tree is what we like to call, the trendy tree since each year we decorate the tree with festive white lights and contemporary ornaments in the color scheme of metallics (golds, silvers, and bronzes) and blacks (matte and glossy). This year, in an effort to tie in the rest of our decor in the living room, dining room, and second bedroom, we also bought some traditional red stars with a twine tie. The tree is always finished with a galvanized silver and gold tree collar, rather than the traditional skirt that covers the base of the travel tree.
The rest of the room has decorations from both my Slovak and Swedish heritage. Little Tomtes and Slovak dolls help make the bookcases and side tables more festive, and bring the curated, eclectic personality of our everyday style into our holiday decor.
Supporting the traditional vibes, bottle brush trees in a pale neutral palette, a reindeer formed from branches, tall golden candlesticks for pillar candles, and fake small potted firs help make the space cozy and warm. Seasonal candles are also a must as is the yule log on our television!
The dining room was the main space I struggled with this year, and the one that saw the major updates. Since the living and dining rooms are connected in an open concept design, I wanted to try to continue the traditional, yet contemporary energy into this space.
Though we don’t host a Christmas dinner, we wanted the space to feel more welcoming, more mature with an elevated style that better fit who we are today. To ensure the dining and living room felt coordinated, candlesticks in matte black and gold were purchased and placed in between trimmings from the tree, mimicking the theme of our real tree in the family room.
Boxwood wreaths were placed on the windows to bring a bit more of the outside in, while channeling a more modern, clean look.
Our bar located in our built-in shelves picks up on the bronze ball and red star ornaments from the living room tree to create a festive scene with bronze Moscow mule mugs and a red Santa-themed wine cork.
Picturesque wooden and matte black deer were placed on our large radiator cover to help give it the feeling of a mantle, and bring a bit of whimsy to the space while capturing the neutrals from the bottle brush trees and matte black accents throughout the living space.
Lastly, the traditional, personal aspects of our decorating theme are carried through to the space with each of our stockings, knitted from family members, hung from the radiator cover, and my 20-year old nutcracker collection which is seen on our ladder shelf with some of our plants.
Overall, we are pleased our home decorations this year. The cozy, welcoming vibes complemented by our personal style choices are the perfect combination of holiday traditions within a contemporary home.
How do you decorate for Christmas or the holidays? Do you have more than one tree in your house? Are you a real tree supporter or more of a fake fanatic?
We’d love to hear your ideas, happy decorating and celebrating!
2 thoughts on “Traditional Holiday Decorations in a Contemporary Home”
Everything is absolutely beautiful. So glad memories of your childhood resonate with you today. Merry Christmas
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[…] Since moving in together, Phil and I have worked at combining the elements of a space that make us feel at home, comfortable, and relaxed, while also being a reflection of our individual personalities, and partnership, simultaneously. After four years of living with each other, this apartment that we’ve been renting feels like home. From those conversation pieces sourced by me, like our cow hide rug or purple rattan side table, to Phil’s choice of art and leather upholstery on our dining room tables, our place accurately represents who we are, inside and out. Even this past holiday season, we both felt that the decor finally reflected us to a tee. Heading into our ninth year together, and we just now nailed what the holidays should feel like in our space (if interested, check out some of our holiday decor here). […]