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Emily Henderson

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by Emily Henderson
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In my constant internal (yet playful) battle between “low-maintenance mom of two” and “internet stylist,” “mom” is currently in the lead, as she should be. Meanwhile across the street at the sofa battling arena “traditional navy blue” sofa has won for the month of December. Typically we DRIP over here in holiday decor, on every surface (mostly to give inspiration/ideas) but I tried to pull it back while still feeling festive and fun and VERY COZY. This Christmas, I made the shift towards A. More personal and sentimental pieces (let the ornament obsession begin!), B. Using what we already had (you’ll see a lot from years past), C. Easier maintenance (yes I used a real garland and tree, but less cedar everywhere) and didn’t replace/store as much art and accessories, and D. cozy, cozy, cozy (thus the return of the dark sofa and those big gray chairs).

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I was in New York for work last week, and, as I wrote this, I had like 30 minutes to get it all down, so I approached it with an old school blog style “brain dump.” Hopefully, you’ll glean some tips and get some inspiration throughout said dump. 🙂 If nothing else, you’ll know what I would change.

***Side Note: I have a pretty epic tree fail to tell you as this tree I’m about to show you was not the first, nor second, but third tree that we bought, set up, lit and decorated (more on Stories). In short, I messed up and got one too Scandi and sparse (Brian said it was depressing), then Brian chose a classic bushy one but it was too skinny for that window, so I had to get an 8-9 foot one and cut it down to be 7 feet, thus making it wide enough to fill that massive window. Meanwhile my dining room and neighbor are celebrating the EHD free tree giveaway of 2019. The kids were indeed confused when we were again UNDECORATING our tree the weekend after Thanksgiving.

Okay. I didn’t want it to “drip” again, but I tried to have something holiday in every corner: the big bushy tree in the window, the garland over the opposite window, the faux tree with lights in the corner (almost like a plant), and something over the fireplace (welcome back, bear, sans wreath-collar this time).

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The biggest change for me was the realization, like a train in the face, that trees should be personal and sentimental. Had someone told me that your tree is basically a scrapbook for your year and your entire life, I would have understood this YEARS AGO. But growing up we didn’t do an annual ornament and while I think we made sweet/janky ornaments in school, that wasn’t our thing in our family…at least not that I remember.

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Shop the Look: Tree Topper | Small Ceramic House Ornaments | Wood Ornaments | Starburst Ornaments | Wood Bead Garland (similar) | White Faux Fur Throw | Cream Embroidered Tassel Pillow | Sloth Ornament | Red Ball Ornament Set | White Abstract Painting by Melinda Forster

Well the TIDE HAS TURNED and I’m currently obsessed with commemorating our lives with ornaments as if photos don’t exist and the only way to remember each year is through our ornaments. If you are scared for my family, imagine how scared they are. Brian was in Othello this year, so boom, a mini Shakespeare on its way from Etsy. 2019 was the year of soup, right? A little copper soup pot is obviously going on that tree.

I think the reason I always had a more curated tree was simple: I didn’t have the collection of ornaments because my kids were so young and since I didn’t have this tradition growing up, it’s not like I bought myself an ornament when I was 28 (may I retroactively???). But now I do, I get it and it makes me incredibly happy.

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I also robbed Brian’s parents over Thanksgiving of all their family ornaments that had a story or were homemade by them since they don’t put up a tree and join us instead. How sweet are all of those???? Most have dates on the bottom and many were handmade or sewn by Brian’s grandma. I realize that many of you might be rolling your eyes like I’ve just announced on the weather channel the benefits of wearing rainboots as opposed to cross-trainers when jumping in mud puddles, but moms learn things when they learn things. What can you do?

Shocking that adding meaning to things is some sort of revelation, next I’ll tell you that candid family photos make a house feel more personal (they do, obviously).

Speaking of, I lightened up the shelves guys and I’m MUCH happier.

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Both sides just have some neutral books, white or wood-framed family photos, some white holiday trees and houses. Admittedly, each vignette could use some cedar branches falling over or some pops of red, but the room as a whole feels really cozy and warm, without being messy or overdone so I didn’t do what I usually do (plus that cedar dries and yes makes a mess, so great for a party of Christmas Eve though, but opt for faux if you want it to look good for longer).

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Shop the Look: Large Ceramic House (similar) | Medium Ceramic House (similar) | Large White Tree | Small White Tree | Wood Frames

I also hung a piece of art on the shelves which I LOVE. I’ve wanted to knock out the top shelf so that I could lean art, but before I grabbed the sledgehammer, I hung this there instead and I’m living with this now. What do you think?

The houses are from last year (but Target has more this year, and they’re like $5 and $10 a pop) and the trees and frames are from there, as well.

Next to the shelving, I went a bit gothic style-wise, just so the holidays know how edgy I am.

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Shop the Look: Totem Candle – Large | Totem Candle – Medium | Totem Candle – Small | Balsam Candle

That lady had a really great holiday in 1746, I promise (it’s an original portrait with name and date on the back, she real old). I wish I had lit those candles, but otherwise, I like that weird moody vignette. I decided to try Christmas berries because Mallory didn’t understand my aversion to them and gave me the challenge to make them work. Once they were next to lady, kinda sparse, in the black vessel and modern candles, I actually really like them.

I know you guys are going to give me flack for the lady and the bear…two rather creepy holiday elements that I experimented with this year, but it’s fun and again, it’s just an experiment. Holiday decor isn’t permanent. Do weird stuff, people.

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Shop the Look: Rug (Similar) | Memory Foam Rug Pad | Double Shaded Lamp | Square Pastel Art (top right of bookshelf) by Ninos Studio | Fairy Lights | Beige Pom Pom Lumbar Pillow (on lounge chair) | 4ft Faux Tree with Lights

Looking at this now, the bear does kinda look like it has wings; like not like an angel, but a demon. ‘Tis the season!

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Shop the Look: Falala Pillow | Joy Pillow | Embroidered White Tassel Pillow | Rebecca Atwood Patterned Pillow (far right) | Candle | Blue and White Throw

The textiles are warm and cozy with the falala pillow and Joy being my subtle version of Christmas pillows (both from Target and so cute).

I switched out the credenza for the vintage chair/ottoman and added more art:

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I LOVE the idea of this. I love the art going to the floor and just one chair/ottoman engaging that corner. I might reupholster the antique chaise in a floral, or keep this chair and reupholster it in something happier because that gray is pretty dirty and old with lots of stains—stay tuned. We moved the sheepskin over there because it’s 2019 and we can’t end the year without one more shot of a sheepskin. How else will we know that this photo was taken this year?

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Ugh, that carpet is so cozy you guys. It’s like 2 inches of plushness (and the memory foam carpet pad doesn’t hurt at all). Along with the wood and pillows, this room is pretty darn inviting.

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I bought that weird floor lamp in the back of a thrift store and rigged that shade onto it. I kinda want to get a red or white pleated or tapered (or both) shade, as if those are easy to find.

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I’ve had the blankets from Schoolhouse and Pendleton, and the Rebecca Atwood pillow forever, and the rest of the pillows are all still available.

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Shop the Look: White Lit Tree | Large Ceramic House (similar) | Medium Ceramic House (similar)

In other holiday risk-taking news, I went with a square wreath (!!) and framed what many of you have DM’d calling “testicle ornaments”(!!!!). I personally DO NOT (well, did not) see the resemblance and was proud of myself for finding pretty wood ornaments for $1 at the flower market and dangling them gently inside a unique boxed wreath. For the record, nobody said to remove them, and now I can’t unsee it.

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Lastly for the piano, I kept it super simple with cedar branches, fairy lights, a wood nutcracker from years past and pretty art/accessories instead of doing a full-on holiday piano-scape. The M. Quan bells kinda feel holiday anyway (as does the piano music, who knows why?). Perhaps this is the year that we carol around the piano (I’m serious, actually).

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I have two regrets while looking at the photos (this always happens and no I’m not bummed, I just like to externally process literally everything that I’m thinking to you):

  1. I wish I had added either more lit candles OR more pops of red or more pattern. Will do. It’s only December 6 and that’s an easy fix. If I had cool fireplace tools, that would be awesome, or maybe a pouf in the foreground. I just can’t tell why it feels a bit colder in photos than in person (I think it’s the gray chair on gray rug with matching pillows…oh and that gothic dead lady in the corner staring at us with her cold dead eyes).
  2. The bear might be a bit aggressive. I had a wreath there but it looked just so expected, but it was warm. I tried to shake it up and do something sculptural. I still like it, but is it THE PERFECT THING? Nah. Maybe a massive lit crucifix to really ring in the season…

Now for the entry:

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Shop the Look: Faux Cypress Garland | Fairy Lights | Black Side Table

I don’t think I’ve shown you this vintage piece before but I LOVE IT. I bought it from MidCenturyLA and it’s a gorgeous rosewood that houses all the sunglasses, unopened mail, pocket GARBAGE and strangely I put my hair extensions in there which thrills Brian every time he opens it. It’s odd the places one shoves things when suffering a “clutter body” attack.

I draped faux garland up the stairs and added fairy lights. So easy.

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Shop the Look: Christmas Village Countdown Calendar | Joy Art

How cute is this advent calendar???? Its little drawers come out and while it’s a bit out of reach for the kids, you bet we bring it down every morning. I actually love how this turned out (thus wanting to bring in a bit more red into the living room). This always happens. Three years ago, I kept it conservative, looked at the photos and added another layer, then last year I went all out and two weeks in had to remove a lot of stuff because I couldn’t handle the clutter. It’s a hard balance especially for someone who is a mom who can’t handle a lot of extra stuff to put away, and a stylist who LOVES STUFF and color and pattern.

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Shop the Look: Tree | Sleigh (similar) | Wreath | Letters to Santa Mailbox | Doormat

The front door is so playful and fun, and makes me happy every time I come home. The wreath is the same one I have in the kitchen windows with a flickering faux candle that I love.

And here we are: the only thing that matters. Really, ever.

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I really, really really like them and so far between decorating FOUR trees (they have one in their room with a ton of playful ornaments and loads of color) and making a million ornaments (the DIY post coming this afternoon at 11 PT), we’ve had a wonderful holiday already.

All the links to most of what we have (that’s available for sale) are sprinkled throughout under the photo where you first see things, but we also rounded it all up plus more of my favorites below. Feel free to ask questions in the comments, and weigh in on the bear/balls debate.

Target Holiday Decor Ornaments

1. Wooden Ornaments Set of 3 | 2. Winter Blush Gnome Ornament Gray Hat | 3. 4pc Jingle Bells Christmas Ornament Set Red | 4. Nutcracker Christmas Ornament | 5. Wool Skiing Cat Christmas Ornament | 6. Round Tree Skirt Sour Cream Embroidered with Tassels | 7. Unicorn Cloche Glass Christmas Ornament | 8. Lit Up House Ceramic Ornament | 9. Truck Christmas Ornament Red | 10. 12ft Wood Bead Garland White | 11. Sloth Ornament | 12. Holiday Stocking Blue Plaid | 13. LED Dewdrop Lighted Star | 14. Golf Cart Glass Christmas Ornament | 15. Nativity Scene Christmas Ornament | 16. Hanging Twig Christmas Tree Figurine | 17. 10ct Glass Assorted Christmas Ornaments | 18. Glitter Starburst Christmas Ornament | 19. 4ct Wooden House Candle Noel Christmas Stocking Holders | 20. Fair Isle Pattern Christmas Stocking Navy | 21. Fabric Santa White | 22. Santa Mailbox Christmas Ornament | 23. Cream & Black Mini 40mm Glass Ornaments 9ct | 24. 20″x8″ Tassel Christmas Stocking Cream | 25. Boiled Wool Polar Bear Christmas Ornament | 26. Tree Farm Nursery Barn Christmas Ornament | 27. Fabric Deer Red

Target Holiday Decor Pillows & Throws

1. Joy Toss Pillow Red Hearth & Hand with Magnolia | 2. Faux Mohair Buffalo Check Throw Blanket | 3. Mongolian Faux Fur Throw Pillow | 4. Tree Embroidered Toss Pillow | 5. fa la la Printed Velvet Oversize Lumbar Pillow | 6. Woodland Carved Wood Accent Table Black | 7. Houndstooth Throw Pillow Red | 8. Texture Faux Fur Throw Blanket | 9. 18″x30″ Home for the Holidays Doormat | 10. Hearth & Hand with Magnolia Throw Pillow | 11. Quilted Velvet Lumbar Throw Pillow | 12. Cable Knit Chenille Throw

Target Holiday Decor Tabletop Decor

1. Ceramic House Decorative Figurines | 2. 15″x12″ Countdown Christmas Village | 3. Letters to Santa Mailbox Green | 4. Large Lit Standing Metal Christmas Star | 5. Small Fresh Cut Trees Wagon | 6. Large Ceramic House with Gold Roof | 7. 30ct Christmas LED Lights Battery Operated | 8. Large Mercury Glass Christmas Tree | 9. Phillips 50ct Battery Operated Christmas Premium LED Dewdrop Fairy Lights | 10. 9oz Stoneware Candle Balsam Fir | 11. Large Gold Glitter Christmas Tree | 12. 8×10 Wall Decor Joy

Target Holiday Decor Wreathes Garland

1. 72″ Faux Cypress Garland | 2. Lit LED Wire Christmas Wreath JOY | 3. Metal Lantern Pillar Candle Holder Black | 4. 4ft Pre-Lit Artificial Christmas Tree Potted Balsam Fir | 5. Galvanized Farm House Lit Decorative Figurine | 6. Large Flocked Bottle Brush Tree | 7. Christmas Wreath Gold | 8. 72″ Faux White Pine Garland with Berry | 9. Small Lit Birch Wrap Tree Decorative Christmas Figurine | 10. Bushy Flocked Tree in Galvanized Tin | 11. 20″ Boxwood Artificial Christmas Wreath with Gold Bells | 12. 10.5″x3.9″ Bottle Brush Christmas Tree with Wood Base | 13. Small Ceramic Christmas Tree | 14. 2pk 3ft Pre-Lit Artificial Christmas Tree | 15. 28″ Christmas Flocked Balsam Fir Artificial Wreath | 16. 26″ Rope Christmas Tree Collar | 17. 26″ Prelit LED Faux Candle Mixed Greenery Wreath | 18. 5″x2.7″ 8pk Bottle Brush Christmas Tree Set | 19. 4pc White Bottle Brush Trees Decorative Figurines | 20. 16.5″x4.7″ Bottle Brush Sisal Christmas Tree | 21. Large Ceramic Christmas Tree Decorative Figurine

***photography by Sara Ligorria-Tramp

  1. I love the painting of the lady. My relatives have a painting of a similarly stern-looking ancestor, Aunt Jane, in their dining room … and … occasionally Aunt Jane gets decked out for special occasions (with the help of strategically placed fishing line and accessories). If you’re feeling whimsical, it might be fun to try. 😉

    1. This is the cutest idea!!! Thanks, Brie!

  2. The painting hung on the book shelves looks FAB! It’s like it was made for that room and that spot. This whole room looks warm and cozy and fun. I also like that you switched the sofa to the other side of the room, too. It looks good that way.

    And I am Team Bear! I think it would make me laugh every time I walked in the room, and Christmas is supposed to make you smile (in between all of those moments where it’s making you tear your hair out).

    1. By the way . I also really relate to the family ornaments you mention in this post. I have a lovely collection of handmade ornaments from my mother-in-law and this year I didn’t hang up any of them. Just wanted a change of pace. But now I kinda miss them on my tree — enough that I’ve already decided I’m getting a second tree next year for all of those great family heirlooms.

      Lesson here: If you don’t want your home to look like a boring Instagram trend, make your holiday decor personal.

  3. I love everything. Christmas should be personal and fun. Perfectly styled overdone rooms look just like that — overdone and cold, even when the wanted look is warm and cozy. Well done and I LOVE the lady.

  4. I absolutely love this! This might be my favorite of your Christmas decor over the years. I love all the layers, personalization, and bits of OG Emily quirk. It’s definitely cozy. Love what you did in the credenza corner and the painting on the bookshelf. I am also team bear 👍. Everything is beautifully done!

  5. Love looking at your beautiful home and family.

    With your handmade ornaments, don’t forget to have one for you to keep and one for the kids to take when they venture off to start their own family collections.

  6. Looking great! I LOVE that you pulled back on the living room shelves, and while I like the art tacked on the shelf, I think you will ultimately be happy if you knock out the top shelf on both sides so you can lean art. Also agree that a few more pops of red would be so festive! Nicely done, per usual!!

    1. I agree – the room looks GORGEOUS & while that art tacked on the bookshelf is ok – I think it would definitely look better leaning…. LOVE LOVE LOVE the art to the floor with the chair – you have style.

    2. Just get a smaller painting for that spot. Please don’t touch the shelves…..PLEASEEEEEEEEEEE

  7. Art wall to the floor looks amazing. Doesn’t even need that chair!! You are just a more ‘mid-century’ than ‘trad’ lady for interiors (a compliment) and it shows when the house represents that. Lady painting is awesome.

  8. There’s a tradition in my children’s father’s family, that honors ornaments’ power as souvenirs/memory keepers. You can’t play if your ornaments match and it’s harder to play if your ornaments don’t have stories and don’t return year after year: turn down the lights, gather around the tree and play “I’m thinking of an ornament…..” Someone will ask, “Is it wood, glass” etc, until you finally get to “is it mom’s copper soup pot from the year of the soup?” My sentimental older son – grown, married, with a tree of his own – and I can play over the phone; we know the ornaments well enough, and we know each other’s favorites.

    Your tree is beautiful!

    1. This is so cute!!! Going to try it!

    2. I LOVE THIS! I’m going to force so much nostalgia on my family and I cannot wait.

    3. Oh boy, this is sweet as heck. We aren’t an heirloom ornament family, but you may have just convinced me.

    4. Oh my. that makes me feel so happy. THANK YOU. playing that forever and ever and ever. xx

  9. What a wonderful post; your humor and cozy decor cheered my rainy morning.

    Two questions (for Emily, or anybody who’s used these things): How did you hang the painting on your bookshelf? What do you put into your advent calendar drawers for the kids? (I have a similar piece — from Target — but *nothing* fits. Last year I squeezed in a few Shopkins.)

    Yes, go ahead and buy yourself an ornament for every year you missed. I think I will do the same, as replacements (my daughter took lots of my old ornaments for her family’s tree the year they bought a house).

    Yes, a tapered and pleated shade would be perfect for the floor lamp.

    Looking forward to the “sister wife” post later today!

  10. We have an antiqued brass wolf head wearing eyeglasses perched over our fireplace, so I’m obviously Team Bear! And I’ve yet to find the perfect original oil portrait, so I have a giclee print of Girl With A Pearl Earring instead. So yes to creepy stern lady. Maybe add some snowflake earrings to liven her up for some festive fun?? Love your decor…feels both curated, yet personal.

    1. Off to google “antique brass wolf head.”

  11. The room looks so cozy and fun and personal. It feels like real life and not a set. I love the gallery wall! I love the picture hanging on the shelf! I love your gothic credenza! Your new entry sideboard!!!! Gorgeous. Brava, it’s all beautiful.

  12. That bear is perfect over the fireplace. I love the irregular shape and dimension it brings. And the greens give it a festive flair. If you want to sprinkle more red around the room, how about donning the bear with a Santa hat??
    Two other standouts in this post for me are the gallery wall with low-hanging art to the right of the fireplace and the gorgeous vintage storage piece in the entry. Wowza! Beautiful!

  13. Such great photos! These photos of the room give a real lay-of-the-land view of your cozy home and show how the rooms connect. I love that!

    Not a whole bunch of photos taken from one end of the room, focussed on the fireplace. These photos show the energy of the spaces and how the room works … kind of how you live there, rather than a stage set.
    So. So. Good. 🙂

    It’s edging towards midnight in Western Australia and I don’t have time to find other photos and check, but….weren’t your windows painted black before??? Or perhaps I’m delirious due to how late it is after a full day of housecleaning and gardening (yep, I know. Crazy person here) in prep for decorating!! :))

    Thank you for sharing your home and your obsession with personal ornaments. They make all the difference. I inherited the family heirloom ornaments and I can tell you, just looking at my Great Grandparents’ ornaments brings a glusten to my eyes! You’re on the right track, Emily!

  14. My twins are 33 now, grown and out there living it up, and I STILL buy them an ornament every year that has some kind of tie to what that year was all about for them. This year, my daughter is pregnant with the first grandchild ( due in June woohoo!) so she and her hubby are getting the stork from Anthropologie, and my son is off to Japan and will be doing the Mario Kart tour of Tokyo-so of course a Mario is coming his way. It’s a great way to buy souvenirs when you travel, too-it’s nothing that has to be displayed all year but it can provoke amazing memories.

    1. Whoa, I am a 33-year-old twin whose sister is pregnant and I am going to Japan next year! Small world!

  15. Also…nice to see your quirky confidence in doing the bear and the lady painting. These…make the room true EHD!

  16. Loved reading this “brain dump” style post AND now I can’t un-see those “testicle ornaments”. BUT…I love the dramatic lady and that whole dramatic vignette, and that chair in the corner with the low hung art is PERFECT! I also agree, this was something I struggled with this year (sentimental ornaments) my kids are 21 and 22 and so Christmas, well, changes. Anyhow, I’m struggling with the whole nostalgic Christmas vs. the “Pinterest” everyone decked out in neutral Christmas. You nailed it, per usual. You CAN have it both ways in one. It’s a twofer! Thank you for the inspiration and wow, I think the kiddos have grown even since I last saw them a few months ago…

  17. I love this post! I feel like maybe your time limitations were to our benefit – no time to over think or over edit. Your playful sense of humor totally comes through, and it’s so relatable!

    I also really appreciate that your focus is on family. I don’t have / want kids, but the main takeaway from this is that personal can be pretty. You don’t have to start with a new concept every year and buy a million ornaments in a specific color range. Christmas is the theme, and that’s enough!

    I also love the creepy lady and the demon bear, but I wouldn’t sneeze at a giant crucifix! 🙂

  18. This looks great! I think if you decide to add a pop of red, that is also fun and won’t kill the kill vibe you’re going for. The couch is the only place that I’m not feeling Christmas. It’s hard though because if you add red there, it reads too nautical. Maybe something gold? Either way, love the look. The foyer of your house with the red door and that credenza looks stunning!!!
    Where do you buy your wrapping paper from? I have a wrapping paper obsession and each year spend so much time deciding and picking out coordinating paper that goes with my home, but then at the end, I always have to go out and buy those giant rolls that are big enough to wrap the kids gifts and it kills the whole thing 😉 But of course, none of that really matter. Thanks for sharing!

  19. I loooove all the regular updates you’ve done like the amazing mid century modern piece in the entryway, keeping the shelves but toning them down, etc. Your front door styling is perfect and that advent village so sweet! I think it takes a while to get a home where you like it and it feels like you are hitting your stride!

    I love the sentimental tree. My mom sewed ornaments similar to the one you have and I love seeing them every year and also have been collecting an ornament from all my travels beginning in my twenties (I’m 48)!

    Merry holidays!

  20. I love it! I love the sentiment behind it and the understated-ness. It seems more doable for all of us non-stylists who want a lovely but personal home. The only thing I’m missing is the stockings! Could you hang them on or near the fireplace (or credenza or bookshelves)? And I vote no bear 😂

  21. The Gothic dead lady STAYS!

  22. Love it. The Christmas stuff and the other room changes as well. I REALLY appreciate you using what you had instead of buying new. You have the ability to set a powerful example and we have enough other influencers encouraging rampant consumerism. Love the simplified bookcases and the new piece in the entry is STUNNING. I’m thinking for a personal ornament there is probably some fabulously talented artist on Etsy who would make a ornament of your book (and soon your 2nd book too).

  23. My (genius) mom began giving us a ‘scrapbook’ ornament every year when my sister and I were in middle school, so that we would have meaningful collections of ornaments our first year with a tree of our own. Accordingly, I am a LUNATIC about my ornaments. My husband has to humor me as I tell him what each one means, every year, as if it were new information. I’m a nostalgia monster and I refuse to apologize.

    Start secretly saving a set of ornaments for the kids NOW, and they get the best graduation present ever! Or they will be mystifying non-nostalgists like my alien husband and not care at all but you can feel smug as the best mom ever.

  24. Love the less crowded shelves, art hung on bookshelf and “credenza” corner — so much better with less! You CAN “retroactive” ornaments!! I’ve been collecting ornaments from travels, sentimental (grandmother’s homemade tatted and crocheted, kids’ homemade) and documenting annual events since I was in high school — through marriage, kids, first house, etc.. They are specially packaged in tins and would absolutely be one of the things I grab going out the door in a fire.

    Traveling the coast of Oregon on vacation, my now-husband stopped at a scenic place where we waded out to beautiful outcroppings and he proposed. It was an odd time of day and we were just passing through — didn’t get my ornament! I lamented several times that was one of my no-ornament regrets. He surprised me one year with an ornament shipped from one of the town’s little stores — retroactive and perfect. Also one year our daughter was helping trim the tree and picked an ornament we brought back from an anniversary trip to St. Thomas two months prior. Dropped and shattered. That poor ornament never saw it’s day hanging on our tree. I called the lady in St. Thomas who remembered personalizing it for us and she mailed a replacement free of charge. ‘Just a couple of our many, many ornament stories. Hanging those ornaments every year and reliving a life of memories is one of my most cherished things to do.

    As one reader mentioned, I have a tin for each child that I’ve stocked with special ornaments related to their annual events ready for them when they strike out on their own. I hope it will be a very special Christmas gift to each of them one year and they carry on the tradition. It’s never too late to start — your kids are still very young and you have many adventures and special times ahead. Do it!!

  25. Everything looks so pretty but I wish I could zoom in while looking on my phone 🙁

  26. I think it’s the best your shelves have every looked!

  27. I love the touch of “creepy” gothic back there!! Everything looks very EHD yet very holiday and I would be super happy to celebrate and be cozy in this room. Awesome job.

  28. Love this version of your living room and hope you keep the sofa after the holidays are over! Nice job, this was fun to read!

  29. This is amazing I love how everything turned out!

    Paige
    http://thehappyflammily.com

  30. This is my favorite way you’ve ever laid out your living room. I love the floor to ceiling art instead of the credenza. I love the more curated bookshelves and the art hung on the front of the left one. It looks less busy but still full of life and personality.

  31. Wow, this might be my favorite look of your living room ever! I love it. And I’m glad you are embracing personalized trees. My mom has always had an amazing ornament collection and so I knew early on that I wanted a collection like hers. Ornaments are my go-to souvenir whenever I travel. I love having a one of a kind tree that reminds me of all the fun things I’ve done or the friends I’ve made (love getting ornaments as a gift!).

  32. 1. You don’t know how refreshing it is to hear “have personal, homemade momentos on your Christmas tree” from a design professional! If you just read magazines, you would think ppl are supposed to throw out everything old and buy all new ornaments every year. (Victorian! Scandinavian! Modern and colorful!)
    2. Love this: “Holiday decor isn’t permanent. Do weird stuff, people.“
    3. Still laughing at “testicle ornaments.”
    Merry Christmas!

  33. Wait, is the tree real??

  34. I like the painting hung in front of the bookcases. I have three hung that way on my bookshelves. But I have a lot of books and a lot of bookshelves!

    I don’t think the bear looks demonic at all. Just kinda realistic

    I guess the room doesn’t look that Christmassy to me. The fronds seem a bit limp and don’t necessarily look like the holidays to me.

  35. I really like the bear, the darker art, and your sentimental tree – they do add warmth and are just interesting to look at. We have a large 200-year old lion that looks down on our living room from our loft. He’s carved out of wood and was used in a parade in India. The wood is cracked and peeling and he has no color because he’s an old guy and we adore him. We named him Sheru and he’s currently wearing a crown of holly and berries. When guests first see him, they look so confused, like, “Why?!” And I love it!

  36. Yes you can buy ornaments for past years. Ebay is a great place to look for older ornaments with dates that you may want.

  37. I loved when you had the star on the mantle. I even went to buy one and then when I saw the actual size, couldn’t do it, our ceilings are low.
    I like the goth lady. I think what is throwing you off is her and then the dark painting you hung on the shelves. Maybe remove that for Christmas or find something lighter?
    We get our kids ornaments at the State Fair every year. There’s a vendor we go to every year and the kids pick an ornament that reflects their interests that year (soccer or baseball or when my son joined the Army or my daughter finally went in the water at the beach). The booth adds their name and year. Easy peasy. If you have a local craft fair or something, they might have some there too. Every year when we decorate, we talk about the memories. It’s pretty cool. Your room looks gorgeous as usual. Merry Christmas!

  38. I love, love the wooden hand chair by the book shelves, where can I purchase one?

  39. Whoa! Hair extensions? Forget the Christmas decor, what’s the scoop on these? Have I missed the post?

    PS: Love the painting hung on the bookcase!

  40. We love a sentimental tree and your is pretty and filled with memories ❤️ Luckily we both have a collection from childhood and our kids ornaments The real treasures are ornaments from our Grandparents. A little teary as we put them on the tree and we can recall exactly when we received each one 🥰
    Ok….the ornament balls cracked me up 🤣. I love the square wreath! Great pics of your family, and yes, that is what matters most!

  41. Wow! Your house always looks amazing, but this iteration is amazing and far and away my favorite.

  42. I’m one of 5 kids and every year my mom would give us a new ornament. Each child had a theme – teddy bears, angels, rocking horses, nutcrackers, etc. After we finished opening all of the presents, my mom would direct us to the tree and each kid would have to search for their new ornament for the year. As each kid has grown up and left my parents’ house, my mom has given us our box of ornaments. Now when we put up trees in our own houses, we already have a collection started (mixing the fond memories of Christmases past with new ones). And you can bet that even in our 20s and 30s, we still have to search for our new ornaments on the tree each year at my parents’ house!

  43. Every year my husband, kid and I each gift each other a new ornament, so we end up with 6 new ornaments every year with sentimental value. It is such fun to pull them to every year and rediscover them. Although we may need a larger tree next year to fit them all!

  44. I just love your beautifully decorated home. Your living room looks super cozy and pretty. I decorate one tree that is loaded with lots of ornaments that we’ve collected over the years. I am loving our tree and decorated with only some greenery and put just a few decorations out. I can’t take the clutter either. Lol. I did the same couple years ago and decorated “ too much“ and trudged back to the basement with stuff a few days later. Have a great holiday! 🎄

  45. Three things about this article that made me happy:
    1. “testicle ornaments” made me laugh out loud! thank you
    2. Your shelves look great now! (and the trees are lovely both the sentimental and otherwise… mine is sentimental with 30+ years of collected ornaments homemade and purchased to commemorate our life events.
    3. And that Rosewood cabinet is too gorgeous!

  46. Call me crazy but I think Christmas calls for a small dose of creepy. It’s tradition! The Christmas Carol has ghosts, the Nutcracker has mean mice and a creepy godfather, the song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” talks about scary ghost stories… the slight edge of creepy is everywhere! Honestly I think it makes things even more mystical and magical for kids having a tiny bit of edge, plus it adds some drama.

    Love what you’ve done!

    1. I 100% agree and love your comment, Rubie! I’m smitten with the lady portrait and the way Emily styled the entire vignette around her. And the faux bear taxidermy is charming! Both feel so Edward Gorey: elegant, humorous, and creepy- a magical combo!

  47. I love it, Emily. It looks so cosy, warm and real. The bear is creepy – but I’m not opposed to the cabin vibe. Maybe a red check rug would tie it all together? Love seeing the blue couch and that awesome hand seat back in your house too.

    I’ve got a two-year-old and we made decorations together last year together. It’s the best my tree has ever looked. We’re doing it again this year and I can’t wait. I’m usually quite the grinch – but has reignited my spirit.

  48. I love it all. But the one thing I love the most, you didn’t mention in your post. That is the vintage blue rug in your entry. Is it truly vintage or might it be a reproduction that is still available? It’s gorgeous!

  49. I LOVE how you decorated your tree! I also loved the wood nutcracker at the piano, the nutcracker by the front door, the cute advent calendar, and the lit garland dripping everywhere. Beautiful!!

  50. This is just gorgeous, I think it’s my favourite of your Christmas decorationathons yet. And I love the personalised ornaments.

    As a slight aside – I know you still aren’t quite happy with your shelves. Have you thought of replacing the white shelves with wooden ones? They would give a bit of contrast that would anchor anything you put on them, and also make them a bit more robust-looking on either side of the fireplace.

  51. Longtime reader, first time commenter: I read the blog every day, and I always enjoy the writing (yours and that of your excellent, hand-picked staff). But this post was beyond great–so funny, fresh and engaging–and the ending was so unexpectedly perfect it brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.

  52. Love the sentimental ornaments, the new shelf styling, the coziness without being all red and green. Lady is cool- I have used a Christmas-card-sized similar portrait in a small frame for years. Bear kinda creepy but weird is not bad, right? Your kids are getting so big!

  53. Loved this post! Not holiday-decor related, but where did you find those fabulous hanging bell-like things in the second photo? They are an addition to my home I didn’t know I needed, but now have to have! haha.

  54. Love the room as is, but touches of red are very warm and cozy!

  55. The painting on the bookshelf (above the hand chair) is just divine. I can’t think about anything else in this post because I am obsessed with it!

  56. It looks lovely! Maybe you can just paint the bear head a softer color so he’s not so aggressive. He is a nice scale for that spot. I have a white plaster deer head and I always add a chunky knit scarf for the holidays. My kids love it. 🙂

  57. Yes! This is how my family has decorated since the 1970s. In fact, we have that exact same embroidered heart ornament (with my maiden name on the back), that my mom and I did decades ago. There were several others we did as well. I think this is the first blogger’s tree that actually resembles mine. The best part is every year when we decorate we all talk about the history of the ornaments. Lots of laughs, some tears, great memories!

  58. I love a good antique portrait, none of mine are paintings but I have some vintage photo portraits of people that aren’t even related to me. Our holiday decorating is rather simple but now follows the formula of tree (Brian would hate it because it’s super spare with a good 12″ between branches but we cut it in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest and that’s what grows there), garlands in the entry arch, dining room arch and on the mantle, holly in the fireplace and then a wreath on the door. Also, I don’t do the holiday decorating because if it were left up to me I’d never get to it. But my husband enjoys doing it, or at least he wants it done more than me, so I’m glad that he makes it happen every year.

    ps. I know you said there’s info written on the back of the portrait with a name and a year, but I’m really having trouble with the 1746 date based on her hairstyle and dress. 1846 I would totally buy. The sleek, wavy center parted hair, sloped and dropped shoulder seams on her dress and the high neck all read 1840s.

  59. We used to have a wonderful Christmas store in our town and I would take my boys every year to pick one ornament each with the understanding that they would get to take their ornaments with them when they were ready for their own tree. So fun to look back at their choices and remember the phases they were going through each year! In addition, we always buy an ornament as a souvenir on vacation, so when we hang them we can all reminisce about past trips.

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