Friday, December 6, 2019

Victorian farmhouse Christmas

I love Christmas. I love everything about it from the most important aspect - celebrating the birth of Christ, right on down to the cultural traditions and customs, from trimming the tree and hanging stockings by the fire to singing Christmas carols and the first taste of my mother's fruitcake. My memories of Christmas are absolute magic and the stuff dreams are made of, not because we had lots of gifts, but because of the wonderful family times, church services, and brown paper bags filled with an orange, an apple and a few candy canes. 

The older I get, the more I want to keep that old-fashioned magic alive so I went back in time for a late Victorian-style Christmas.

I love perusing pinterest for vintage Christmas photos, and to be honest anything from the 1880s until about 1979, captures my attention. I particularly love the open, imperfect trees strung with tinsel, colored bulbs and icicles that were fixtures in pretty much every American living room until the early 1980s when clear lights began to gain favor, and icicles and tinsel faded away into the past, replaced by clear lights and themed trees.

Since I built the mantel out of wood from great granddaddy Porter's house here, I wanted something that could have been in a parlor anywhere from 1896 to the 1940s. 

Prior to the 1880s, Christmas trees had been lit with candles, which was popularized by Queen Victoria in 1846. Obviously, this caused more than a few fires.

With the coming of the electric age, Thomas Edison invented string lights around 1880, but it was the vice president of Edison’s Electric Light Company, Edward H. Johnson, who hung the lights on a Christmas tree during the Christmas of 1882. It earned him the title, "Father of the electric Christmas tree."

And here we are after more than 130 years of upgrades with so many different options available, but I really wanted something with an older feel.

I used the Nobilis fir I bought from Grandin Road about four years ago when I did the shoot for Romantic Homes Magazine. I love the openness and real look of this tree.

I used clear as well as colored bulb lights and added some battery-powered candles as well.

While my inspiration was Victorian, there are some elements from the early 20th Century as would be in a home collected over time.

I have used Shiny Brite and Jewell Brite ornaments from my childhood, great grandmother's glass beads as well as a few from my mother's collection and great grandmother's angel for the top.

I made folded fans from wrapping paper for my grandmother's tree here in the 1980s after seeing them on the trees at Biltmore House. (My college early music ensemble and concert choir performed there annually at Christmas.) These were still in a box in my grandmother's attic a few years ago.

My favorite thing to put under the tree is the doll my grandfather sent home from Paris to my mother when he was there in World War II. She only comes out long enough for photos, then back to a safe place for keeping.

I had dreamed of a mantel for years and knew when I built this one with wood from the old house, it would be perfect for Christmas.

The 1906 - 1920s era Perfection Kerosene heater by Standard Oil, is also original to the property. Even though it is in pristine condition complete with an unused wick, I'm not planning to light it up. It is lit with a battery-powered candle.

I made the stockings on the mantel from scraps of upholstery fabric just as my grandmother would have done. 

On the mantel, I decided to use a painting by a relative in the 1920s. I love the dark, moody, woodland feel, and the age also seemed so appropriate for my mantel.

Books that belonged to my great grandmother and grandfather share the mantel with a yule log my dad made and a vintage nativity I found in my grandmother's Christmas box.

I hung ribbons and vintage french chandelier crystals from my antique Victorian oil lamp brackets, and placed candles in glass containers. I actually have oil lamps coming to fit these brackets so I'm excited to have those in place.

The mantel is draped in deluxe port orford garland from Lynch Creek Farms. I bought one 18' length and was able to drape the mantel and the armoire in this room. They lasted almost two weeks, but I did not spritz them with water as is recommended. 

On the other side of the living room, I added fresh greens from the property over my inherited Chinese ancestor prints.

Family photos, my grandfather's French book from his time at Trinity (Duke) College in 1922, an 1800s oil lamp, great grandmother's 1940s radio and the bell granddaddy used when he taught in a one-room school here are displayed on great grandfather's drop leaf table. 

A friend of mine makes these amazing candles in vintage containers at Illuminations Vintage.

The Duncan Phyfe sofa sits between two inherited channel-back chairs, and I couldn't be happier with this facebook marketplace purchase last fall.

I draped great grandmother's table with a vintage sari I made curtains from a couple years ago. The green and red just seemed perfect for Christmas.

I am really enjoying the old-fashioned feel of this room and how it honors my family heritage here. Honestly, there's just something about Christmas, and the entire holiday season, that makes me want to relive and remember times past, and everything in this room helps me do that😊

As much as we make Christmas about family and friends, though, it's really about the birth of Christ. Let's face it, not everyone has family, or good friends, but *anyone* can have Jesus. And sometimes the way they find Him is through us and how we reflect who He is. 

I will be back Monday with a Home Tour featuring my kitchen, dining and music rooms so be sure to come back by😊

I'll be joining:


  1. OMG!!!!!
    So amazingly beautiful!! I LOVE everything about it!! Gorgeous!!!!!

  2. So beautiful and SOOoooooooooo much work.

  3. your home is soooo beautiful and looks so festive and full of life!

  4. Just absolutely stunning & festive
    Anita! Lots of love goes into decorating with so much heart & soul & you can certainly see it!!

  5. I love that your home is your heart and soul, with memories and artifacts of multiple generations of family in every room. One question though - how do you possibly keep it all clean?

    1. Thank you! Well, I'm not sure what you mean, but I clean like everyone else I guess. I don't have cluttery type knick knacks, but a few chosen accessories like books, photos and candles on table surfaces. I vacum and dust.

  6. You are so lucky your family kept everything. I am so old I remember when tinsel was made from aluminum foil.
    Very nice Anita.

  7. Sorry, not tinsel but icicles made out of aluminum foil. We picked them off a real tree to save for the next year.

  8. After seeing so much of the trend to neutral colors and painted furniture, it is a real joy to see yours with the rich colors and wood tones. I love it!

  9. It is beautiful Anita! So rich and welcoming and warm! I love that you treasure old things! The doll is precious!

  10. Simply gorgeous, I'm enjoying the handmade tree also! Hugs you did a lovely scene mixing your antiques in with all the lights and fabrics!

  11. Simply gorgeous, I'm enjoying the handmade tree also! Hugs you did a lovely scene mixing your antiques in with all the lights and fabrics!

  12. Anita, you did it again! The sofa you just got recently is perfect with everything! Love the Victorian tree & the handmade ornaments on the other tree! So warm and homey ! Colors are rich and welcoming! It all come together so beautifully! He ( Jesus) is the reason for the season, and that is what makes all of it so Grand ! merry Christmas sister!

  13. Your home is so beautiful! I can't stop drooling over these pictures! Happy new year!