This Home Is Filled with Vintage-Inspired Christmas Decorating Ideas

Vintage Christmas Decorations: Mix Metallics with Evergreens
Photo: Photo by Laurey W. Glenn

Christmas is Genia Gilchrist's favorite time of year. The former owner of Nashville store Gilchrist & Gilchrist finds creative ways to incorporate vintage items with fresh greenery, sparkly ornaments, and special decorations. She accomplishes an effortless, old-world Christmas look by turning her everyday finds into holiday decor, decorating vintage pieces collected throughout the year with unique holiday touches. Take a tour of Genia's vintage-inspired Christmas home, and you'll be sure to gather vintage Christmas décor inspiration, tips, and tricks along the way.

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Mix Vintage Finds and Fresh Greenery for Simple, Southern Holiday Decor

Vintage Christmas Decorations: Genia Gilchrist
Photo by Laurey W. Glenn

Genia's holiday spirit starts right at the front entry, decked out in unadorned greenery for a simple, natural look. She fully commits to her heirloom holiday decor once you step inside, with no room left untouched. (Even small spaces in her home are decorated with a few bottlebrush Christmas trees.) Genia has made a tradition of adding new, yet antique-feeling pieces to her vintage Christmas decorations, picking out a festive Santa to add to her heirloom collection every year with her daughter. She shares her simple tips for adding special touches to old and new holiday icons.

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Welcome Guests With Festive Porch Planters

Vintage Christmas Decorations: Festive Porch Planters
Photo by Laurey W. Glenn

Plant small spruce trees in white urns and embellish them with magnolia clippings. Placing an urn on either side of the porch creates a welcoming and well-defined space with a seasonal touch. Draw visitors to the door with a boxwood wreath framed by a garland of spruce, cedar, and more boxwood.

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For Full Effect, More is Better

Vintage Christmas Decorations: Christmas Trees
Photo by Laurey W. Glenn

When it comes to lighting her nine-foot Colorado spruce Christmas tree, Genia applies the philosophy that "more is better." She adds depth to the tree by stringing every inch with white lights and embellishes the illuminated tree with metallic silver, gold, and white mercury-glass balls, and other vintage ornaments in whites and creams.

Southern Icon: Keepsake Ornaments
We Southerners treasure tradition, and the holidays are a great time to pull out passed-down heirlooms for display. Trimming the tree becomes a family event when ornaments remind you of special people and past Christmases shared together.

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Sneak in Sentimental Pieces

Vintage Christmas Decorations: Tree Skirts
Photo by Laurey W. Glenn

Genia skirts tradition when dressing up her tree's base. Her vintage petticoat-turned-tree skirt was a gift from a dear friend, and she wanted to incorporate it into her home decor. She easily took the skirt apart at the seam and laid it around the base of the tree for a feminine, personal touch.

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Turn Vintage Finds Into Seasonal Standouts

Vintage Christmas Decorations: Window Frames
Photo by Laurey W. Glenn

'Tis the season to play up great finds like this vintage window frame and table. Genia dresses up the frame with a boxwood wreath, a group of bottlebrush trees, and a few fresh magnolia leaves. She accents the Christmas spirit by grouping shiny mercury-glass pieces.

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Mix Metallics with Fresh Evergreens

Vintage Christmas Decorations: Mix Metallics with Evergreens
Photo by Laurey W. Glenn

In Genia's family room, ordinary items receive special holiday accents. Even a simple clamshell feels festive when filled with shiny gold and silver ornaments and a large sprig of magnolia. Replace sprigs every one to two weeks to keep the decorations fresh.

Southern Icon: Magnolia Leaves
Take clippings from your own trees, or purchase a few from a nursery to layer throughout garlands, centerpieces, wreaths, and more. Magnolia leaves add a Southern touch and give holiday greenery a full, fresh look.

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Indulge All Your Senses

Vintage Christmas Decorations: Cookie Jars
Photo by Laurey W. Glenn

To make sure everyone's tastes are satisfied, Genia fills a jar in the family room with delicious Christmas cookies. Putting the cookies in a clear glass jar allows the treats to take center stage. Tuck few sprigs of seeded eucalyptus into the display to complete the holiday look.

Test Kitchen Favorite: Check out our best Slice-and-Bake Cookies for a delicious treat to fill your cookie jar. More than 10 variations give you plenty of options. Store-bought cookies look great on display, but we can't pass up the aroma of freshly baked goodies.

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Wreaths of Three Unify a Space

Vintage Christmas Decorations: Holiday Wreaths
Photo by Laurey W. Glenn

Much of the holiday preparation takes place in the kitchen, so Genia creates a cozy atmosphere for visitors by hanging a boxwood wreath on each window. Placing decorations in groups of three creates unity in any space.

Style Secret: Add a pop of color and heighten the anticipation of Christmas morning by stacking a few wrapped presents in unconventional spaces, away from the tree.

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Tie It Together With One Color

Vintage Christmas Decorations: Ribbons
Photo by Laurey W. Glenn

Each year, Genia picks a signature accent color and buys different types and textures of ribbons in that color. She combines all of the ribbons for bows on window wreaths in the dining room and kitchen. The textures play off one another without appearing too matchy.

Style Secret: Unify your holiday theme by using the same type of ribbon as that used on wreaths when wrapping presents. Your combination will look effortless, and you'll save time on purchasing materials for presents.

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Clear Glass Serves as a Subtle Backdrop

Vintage Christmas Decorations: Santa Mugs
Photo by Laurey W. Glenn

Clear glass stands allow you to stack decorations without distracting from the display. In her kitchen, Genia uses footed dessert stands to hold her favorite hot chocolate Santa mugs. Marshmallows stand at the ready for when family members want to partake.

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Don't Forget the Small Spaces

Vintage Christmas Decorations: Bottlebrush Christmas Trees
Photo by Laurey W. Glenn

Add holiday hints to rooms that don't usually get the full gamut of Christmas decorations. A few bottlebrush trees of various sizes give a seasonal touch when grouped on small shelves in the kitchen. Or, use those spaces to display an eclectic grouping of mini Christmas trees.

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Group Heirlooms for Impact

Vintage Christmas Decorations: Santa Collections
Photo by Laurey W. Glenn

Every year, Genia finds a new festive Santa for her collection―a family tradition started when her daughter, Shenia, was born. Instead of spreading small trinkets around the house, group them together on a table or sideboard for impact. They'll create a seasonal accent, and the stories of the individual pieces will serve as great conversation starters.

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Hang Fragrant Garlands in Unexpected Places

Vintage Christmas Decorations: Garlands
Photo by Laurey W. Glenn

Garlands and greenery shouldn't be confined to front doors and banisters. No piece is forgotten in Genia's home, as even the furniture gets a festive dressing. She frames an armoire, shelves, and other furniture with fragrant spruce, cedar, and boxwood garlands for instant holiday appeal.

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Embellish What You Already Have

Vintage Christmas Decorations: Mantels
Photo by Laurey W. Glenn

This time of year, Genia incorporates vintage bottlebrush trees and reindeer into her year-round mercury-glass display on the mantel. She tucks in sprigs of greenery and seeded eucalyptus for a few hints of holiday color and scent.

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Set the Mood with Mercury Glass

Vintage Christmas Decorations: Mercury Glass Ornaments
Photo by Laurey W. Glenn

A silver tray serves as the base for a perfect pairing of candles and mercury-glass ornaments. Set these trays just about anywhere―Genia displays hers on an oversize ottoman―and allow the candlelight to reflect in the mercury glass for a touch of warmth and romance.

Care Tip: Submerging mercury glass in water may cause unwanted peeling. Wipe pieces with a damp rag to keep the sparkle without stripping off the mercury.

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Tips for Buying Mercury Glass

Vintage Christmas Decorations: Mercury Glass Vases
Photo by Laurey W. Glenn

Mercury glass looks great year-round, but its shimmer and sheen make it perfect for the holidays. Follow Genia's tips to ensure you're getting the best products in your price range:

  • Start with reproductions. They tend to cost much less than older mercury glass and allow you to quickly accumulate several pieces for your collection. Mix in unique vintage finds as you can afford them.
  • Find an honest antiques dealer. Don't be afraid to ask plenty of questions before you buy. See if the dealer is selling reproductions of other items, and skip mercury glass that contains decals, logos, or trademarks. Instead of buying online, go somewhere that allows you to get a feel for the product and environment before making your purchase.
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More Tips for Buying Mercury Glass

Vintage Christmas Decorations: Mercury Glass
Photo by Laurey W. Glenn
  • Consider the wear, tear, and tarnish. If it's an authentic piece at a good price, embrace its worn patina―true evidence that no two pieces are alike. Some reproductions are also made to appear worn, so don't assume all tarnished pieces are authentic antiques.
  • Weigh your options. Mercury glass reproductions can weigh up to four times more than the real thing. Although this method isn't foolproof―some reproductions feel hollow throughout―it will often help you differentiate between the two.
  • Buy in the off-season. Genia displays her mercury glass year-round and loves mixing it with other holiday decorations, especially at Easter. Also known as "poor man's silver," mercury glass takes on many roles and maintains elegance throughout the year.
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