Part of a series: Living the Good Life with Chris Olsen
By now, maybe you have succeeded at bringing in and setting up the tree, which reaches almost to the ceiling. Of the second floor. You’ve bought or made enough wreaths to hang in every window facing the street, and nailed the largest one to the front door, making bows and checking lights for every single one. And you’ve strung enough garland, that if stretched from end to end, would reach from the front curb to the back fence. Great. But you’re not finished yet! Go to the attic and retrieve those boxes full of keepsake holiday items, stuff ranging from your childhood to yard sale finds, and something given to you just last year. Now, find a place and a way to use them. Small holiday elements grouped together can make all the difference in the world in how really well decorated your house is for the holidays.
If you’re of a certain age, you remember these Christmas light bulbs. Painted and pointed, they were always the same. The first thing you had to do every year was plug the strand in to see if any bulbs had burned out. Your mom bought replacement lights mounted on a card and you used those to fill in. I happen to have some—not for my current lights, mind you—and I tossed them all in a bowl. Nice little touch for an out-of-the-way place!
Yes, these are holiday pipe cleaners, definitely from another day and time, when people (mostly men) smoked pipes. Even with their little Santa heads, they’re still almost delicate, so I arranged them all in a ceramic cup—no need for a holiday-themed container. Just use what you have so your small display will fit in with what’s already there.
A pair of Santa mugs hold a pair of poinsettias; Typical poinsettias wouldn’t fit, but the little budded ones do. They’re really cute by themselves, but I happen to have a cartoon-ish painting of carolers with faces that match that of the Santas, so I put it alongside. The colors are nice with the wooden sideboard and I didn’t need to do anything else.
Here, I took three small trees that did not match in any way and grouped them. A Santa small enough not to dwarf the trees was placed among them. You‘ll want to stagger the heights of your forest, so use books or bowls to do so. Keep dimensions in mind and nestle your grouping as needed—there‘s nothing wrong with sliding a potted plant over to sit among them!
You can go even smaller and use tiny elements in among potted plants, or bring in small ones, like these cacti. Greenhouse plants—always found at a nursery like Botanica Gardens—don’t necessarily whisper Christmas, but when you pair a regular little cactus with one dyed red and place in simple white votives, they do! Toss in a pair of red candles and a Christmas card, and you’re done.
Now, find one more corner and bring in all that’s left from the attic boxes. It’s nice to have pairs or multiples of figurines, but it really doesn’t matter. Use them all together, as long as they don’t overpower the space. Don’t forget to vary the heights of all! Light the small votive and step away. Looks happy, doesn’t it?
We’re so busy trying to get all the major parts of holiday decorating done that we forget what really makes holiday decorating special can be what we already have, not what we have to get up on a ladder to assemble. Don’t forget common household surfaces are your best friend when decorating for the holidays: Counters, corners, mantels, side and occasional tables can come to life with a little dose of Christmas. You don’t have to change the entire area, either. Just bring in your small items and use along with what’s already there. Think about scale and avoid uniformity of height and even color. Make the holiday yours by using what you have. It’s the little things that can matter most in life.
Chris H. Olsen