Thursday, 3 December 2015

Vintage Home Christmas Decor Inspiration

It’s time to deck the halls!  If you are looking for a vintage theme to your Christmas home decor, I have three ideas outlined below.  Do you love the over-board colour of the 1950s, with all things kitsch?  Do you prefer to bring nature indoors for something more muted?  Or do you revel in the rich nostalgia of a Victorian Christmas?  Whatever your tastes. there is something for everyone - and on every budget.  For every theme, the best inspiration is freely available on the internet, but don't forget to rummage in your family photo albums too.

1) 1950s Kitsch
A 1950s Christmas is all about colour and shine, and embracing the novelty and the fun.  My mother still has some decorations from when she was a child in the early 1950s and they’re beautiful glass baubles in bright colours – magenta pink, cyan blue, gold and ruby red.  Blue fell out favour for a while, but luckily it's now back with a vengeance, no longer confined to being part of an ‘icy’ theme where it’s teamed with white and silver.  Don’t be afraid to throw some blue in with the reds, golds and greens.  When in doubt, go for every colour, rather than limiting it to a few!  Trees themselves could be silver, artificial twigs, or a real tree sprayed with paint, and they were loaded with baubles and draped with tinsel, to make sure they were as shiny and flammable looking as possible.


Melvin the Realtor and his Christmas Tree - Brookings, South Dakota - 1950 
Above images, Christmas circa early 1950s
Photo credit: Viellies Annonces on Flickr (Some rights reserved)

Paper chains made from vivid coloured sugar paper (or even newspaper!) were also popular, and today is an ideal pre-Christmas activity to keep children occupied.  If you don’t have any, borrow some, and then you’re also helping out a friend so that they can get their Christmas shopping done with the children out of the way.

Yes that is a paper chain, Epic clothing swap day in T-46 hoursPhoto credit: Lori on Flickr (some rights reserved)

Although the 1950s was the first decade in which the television would have been more widely available (from the middle of the decade onwards), it wouldn’t have really been a big feature of Christmas day.  More likely, a fully stocked cocktail cabinet and a few classic board games would have been the order of the day!  For 1950’s style gift wrapping ideas, I refer you to a very amusing post by Jen of ‘Jen but Never Jenn’, where she chronicles her attempts at a 1950’s Christmas.

Original vintage baubles can be found on Etsy, but bright coloured baubles are all over the high street too.

1950s bauble inspiration

Clockwise from top left: telephone bauble (£5), dog bauble (£6), green finial bauble (£4.50), rainbow swirl bauble (£3.50), midwinter vintage green and red baubles (£10, pack of 12), all John Lewis.

2)  Victorian
A Victorian Christmas is an elegant, ordered, elaborate affair.  In a Victorian theme your main material will be printed paper, as this was an age when printing techniques took a giant leap forward, making colour printed materials accessible to the masses.  There are plenty of Victorian Christmas images on the internet, or even in your word processing programme’s clipart section.  All can be printed on to card or paper, and then used to make paper garlands, crackers, greeting cards, or strung with ribbon to make tree ornaments.  The BBC has a great site ‘Make Your Own Victorian Christmas’ with tutorials.  Just don't be surprised if Father Christmas is in green, not red!
Photo credit: Artvintage1800s on Flickr (Public domain)

Victorian Christmas trees would have been adorned with candles, but today for health and safety I would advise using electric imitations.  There’s a lot of choice nowadays, and lights are quite inexpensive.  If you stick to clear bulbs it will look a bit more authentic than the coloured ones.  As well as handmade ornaments, Victorian trees would have been adorned with sweets, fruit and small gifts.  To add a bit of bling to your tree without losing the Victorian feel, what about using old jewellery threaded on ribbon?  The more ostentatious the better!

christmas inspiration
Above: a bit of old broken jewellery threaded with ribbon

A good source for Victorian inspired decorations used to be the lovely British store Past Times.  The physical stores closed down in the UK a few years ago, but they used to stock Victorian style decorations such as this decoupage bauble.  Keep an eye out for similar styles on Etsy and Ebay, as they don't seem to be popular on the high street this year.

3)  Natural
A natural Christmas is simple, homemade and brings Winter foliage indoors.  This has to be one of the cheapest options but will involve you rummaging in hedgerows in the cold, armed with a pair of secateurs!  In an ‘au-naturel’ theme use sprays of holly, pine cones, sprigs of mistletoe and poinsettia plants, adding ribbon scraps from your sewing box here and there.  Dried slices of orange or lemon from the kitchen arranged with cinnamon sticks tied with string can be added to wreaths or mantelpiece boughs.  And of course, a real tree will be the centrepiece.  You can now buy varieties that don’t shed needles if you’re worried about the vacuuming.  Gingerbread shapes hung with string or ribbon on a tree are also a good choice for a natural theme.

A snow effect can be achieved with a dusting of icing sugar or flour through a sieve –fake snow sometimes has chemicals in, so this is a good option for households with pets (just don’t get it wet!).  Also please remember that caution should be used with bringing berries into the house as the majority are poisonous, and would be highly toxic to both pets and small children.  Alternatively, ‘berries’ can be mimicked with buttons, or mini pom poms that are widely available in craft stores.

Christmas 2011 -- Arlington (VA)
Photo credit: Ron Cogswell on Flickr (some rights reserved)

christmas inspiration
Above: a wreath I whipped up using a wire coathanger, and foliage from the garden.  The hydrangea heads add something unusual.

As for gift-wrapping, presents in my parents’ childhood were simply wrapped in brown paper/newspaper and string, or would be hidden in a woollen stocking.  I remember receiving a bicycle once in my own childhood that wasn’t wrapped (too big!) but I had to follow a piece of string around the house to find it.  Remember that it’s the anticipation with children, and a similar treasure-hunt type activity to find a present will give more thrills than the pricey wrapping paper (which gets ripped off in seconds).  Or what about a lucky dip?  Find a huge cardboard box and fill with shredded newspaper, hiding toys in the layers.  Games to draw out the present-opening process will make it much more fun – I remember being with some of my nieces one Christmas and they tore through a pile of presents at such speed that the whole thing was over in under 5 minutes!  A bit of an anticlimax.

All of these themes can be done on the cheap, or you can really blow the budget with them.  If time to make your own decorations is something you’re short of, how about hosting a Christmas drinks and crafts evening for some of your friends to help you make some?

What's your vintage Christmas style?  I know some of you must have your decorations up already, let's see some photos!


  1. Over the years, Pete and I have bought a bauble or two every year, plus we have a couple of old family ones my mum gave me (a bugle and a teapot) and some Pete inherited from my mum. It's such fun unpacking them - the blue glass one which was the only souvenir I could afford when we were students and went to London, a ship in a bottle from the SS Great Britain, a Delft one from a trip to Holland, and so on. It's like getting years of beautiful memories out of the box. There are even some tatty ones I made from Fimo when we'd both finished university and were too broke for a proper Christmas - we hung them on a houseplant! I like our tree, because there's always something different and interesting to look at, whichever angle you view it from.

    This year, however, we've bought in some extra unbreakable baubles because of the kittens. We've already got a fair few unbreakable ones. The precious glass ones probably won't go near the tree for a few years :-D

  2. This was an interesting read.

    I remember all that tinsel!

    We don't have out Christmas decorations up yet. I've been too busy. Maybe next week.


  3. I would love to do a proper 50s Christmas tree, but at the moment I'm just working with a big box of matching gold decorations as it was a quick way to fill our ridiculously large fake tree. Until we move house (if/when we do), I don't really know what size tree we'll end up with then, so I'm kinda thinking these will do for now and then I'll have a rethink in the next place. It does look classy having everything match and in one colour - and you know I love matching! You shall see it soon, assuming the photos I've literally just emailed you about come out as I hope they will! xxx

  4. I love this, I have taken some of my mums old baubles she was going to throw out, tho I think there more 80s doe 50s, they are so kitch tho I love them!

  5. I love Christmas decorations. I usually go for the more traditional theme with the shiny bauble ornaments. One year I even strung popcorn to make a garland to go around the tree. Sometimes I also like to go for a candy theme since for me Christmas usually means candy time! :D I love all these ideas! I hope you will post on which theme you will be decorating with this year! We'll probably skip decorating the inside this year and will probably skip a tree all together but I did buy some new decorations for outside :D

  6. No decs up yet in our house - we tend to do it a week or so before the day, just a tree, cards up, and ivy over the pictures. No theme, simple, the kids do it, and then the cats wreak havoc! xxx

  7. Soooooooooooooooo very lovely

  8. I love all the quirky, kitsch Christmas decorations! xx

  9. Great post! I swear, you picked three of my absolute all-time favourite Christmas themes here. I can't pick a single favourite, because each one speaks to different side of my eclectic soul. Another that I've always really adored (and which sometimes overlaps with any of these three) is the classic Bavarian/Tyrolean Christmas look.

    Big hugs & tons of festive wishes,
    ♥ Jessica

  10. I love all the styles you have mentioned and have a little of each in my home. I live in an 1870 Victorian so my parlor is done in that style. My dining room is a mix of industrial, country vintage woodland. All the styles are mixed through the rest of the house. I need about 4 houses to decorate for Christmas in all the styles I love! Great ideas here too for gifts and décor.


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