Understated (Mostly Vintage) Christmas Decor

First, let me say we got our Christmas tree a few days after Thanksgiving. This has never happened before. Ever. But it has been an extraordinary year in many ways and we were not alone in wanting to start the holidays early. We have all need a bit of cheer.

Now I love Christmas, but I have never been one to go overboard decorating for it. In part because I have always lived in small homes that have very limited storage space (no attic, no basement). But as time went on I realized I rather liked having just a few special touches around. No huge collections, blinking lights or globs of tinsel. No big blow molds, big ribbons or big santas. Nothing wrong with any of this. In fact I’ve seen photos of friends’ homes on Facebook that are jaw-droppingly beautiful. But it’s just not my thing. I prefer a minimalist approach.

Here’s how we decorated this year…

First, we got a tree as we do every year. Not too big. Not too small. My youngest daughter and I decorated it with our favorite ornaments.

In this photo it looks a little bare, but not in person!

This mercury glass clip-on bird (circa 1930-1940) was found in a bag of ornaments I purchased from Goodwill a few years ago. He takes pride of place on the tree.

Then I put my tiny vintage Dakin teddy bear (an Etsy find for myself!) in a brass dish on the mantel. I thought he looked Christmasy with his green overalls. The Korean brass dish was a thrift store find as was the textured pottery vase.

My mom made this lighted ceramic Christmas tree for me in the early years of my marriage. It means a lot to me. This year it’s finding a place on a vintage Fortnum & Mason basket given to me by my friend Lisa. The handmade shoe shine box thingy was a $40 Craigslist find. Right now it’s housing some old letters and a glass book ornament.

I bought this sweet garland of hand-knit wool Nepalese socks from Sundance catalog years ago in an after-Christmas sale.

This year I draped it over a mirror that is located between two doors in a darkish hallway. The mirror reflects back into the living room.

My MCM sommerso glass ashtray in red and gold is perfect for the holiday season and is sitting on our coffee table filled with some chocolate candies. I’ve had this listed in my Etsy store, but deactivated it because it is one of those things I want to keep longer.

These antique brass candlesticks (part of a larger collection) sport wine-colored beeswax candles during the holiday season and at night illuminate the Italian Florentine plaque that is an image from the “Adoration of the Magi” painting.

And that is it. Darn subtle except for the tree.

Online Inspiration

I started looking online for other subtle vintage-inspired holiday decorating efforts and found several that I just adored.

First I’ll admit, I’m a big fan of designer John Derian’s aesthetic. Here he’s piled vintage ornaments on a worn antique feather tree and stuck it in a weathered urn. I love the wabi-sabi nature of this display.

Photo by John Derian.

And this antique bread bowl/trough looks fabulous just piled with glass ornaments. Such a simple, yet pretty way to decorate for the season.

This vignette mixes an old camera and candlesticks and with bit of greenery, pinecones and a few baubles. Perfect.

No Right or Wrong Way

Obviously there’s no right or wrong way to decorate for the holidays. It comes down to personal preference. And it my case (and maybe yours) constraints of storage space. For me, less is more and vintage things will prevail!

Would love to hear how you’ve decorated your home.

Stay safe,



  1. Karen, I love your decorations! Simple but classic! I see that you have some “Shiny Brights” ornaments on your tree! I have some of my Mom’s too! Merry Christmas my friend! Love, Pam

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice decoration! I used to have a clip-on bird (or two) like that when I was a kid and we put up a lovely room-height Christmas tree. I loved it. With small lights and all…. I miss it. Back then we still were a family, if dysfunctional.
    Hugs and season wishes ❤

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Don’t think we’ll get a proper tree this year as we seriously lack in space. I’m a bit sad about it. We’ll probably do some decorations if I manage to find time and energy…. I really hope we manage to. Life seems to be passing by without time to enjoy it is being allocated!!
        I feel that stress it’s getting too much in the way of living life generally. Do you ever feel like stress is holding you down?

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Gabriella, oh my yes. I’ll get to the end of a day and think: what did I get done? It’s so hard to get motivated. And I think grief plays into it as well. I miss my former life and grieve for the people I can’t see and the things I can’t do. I’m praying 2021 is better. Take care, Karen


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