2016 Christmas Home Tour: Return of the Dinos

Big thanks to Carrie from Lovely, Etc. for hosting A Very Merry Christmas Home Tour again this year; this is my third year participating, so I’m starting to feel like a veteran. Be sure to stick around to the end to find out how to enter to win $600 (!) to put toward your holiday shopping and to find the links to visit all the other great tours from this week.


But no amount of feeling like a veteran can keep me from also feeling overwhelmed about Christmas decorating come mid November or so. This has been our busiest fall in recent memory: Dave is working on his master’s (for 8 more days! Then I can finally shut up about it!), the kids are doing a Christmas play and have been very busy with rehearsals for months and now have performances three times a weekend for the next few weeks, and we had Dave’s parents visiting for Thanksgiving up until two days before my post needed to go up.

So I took all of that into account and then thought to myself, “so how about THREE Christmas trees this year?!”

Sometimes I am not so smart.

Somewhere round about Wednesday, as I was frantically trying to pull together about six rooms worth of Christmas decor in two hours, I had an astonishing epiphany (for Christmas!): I can just post about the stuff I actually have time to get done!

Crazy, right?

So you’re only seeing two of the three trees today. And you’re not seeing a dining room with a beautiful holiday table setting. But! I still managed to take approximately 47 million photos of what I did get done, so let’s get started (incidentally, I took all 47 million of the photos twice, because the first time I took them was the first rainy day we’ve had here for 43 days, so I took them all again when I woke up to sun the next morning).

The dresser in our foyer is the spot that gets made over most consistently with the changing seasons and holidays.

Christmas sheet music vignette

This year I framed some vintage Christmas sheet music to go along with things I already had on hand. The elves are one of my favorite Christmas things; I’m always very excited to see them again every year. Then there’s a little brass mouse trio, and some volumes from a set of Dickens’ books I got from my grandparents.

christmas elves and brass mice vintage ornaments in milk glass

Next door to the foyer is our library, where we find the first tree. I’d wanted a white tree for years, and I finally found one at the thrift store last year. When I got it out this year, I noticed it was looking a little….tired, and some of the lights weren’t working so that we had to add a strand to supplement. But once I put all the ornaments on and turn on the lights, the flaws get camouflaged very nicely.  Keen eyed observers will discover that my glittery dinosaurs have found a new home this year on this tree.

white christmas tree with blue ornaments

white christmas tree

I didn’t do much else in this room, because, let’s face it: nothing can compete with a pretty white tree with glittery dinosaurs all over it…but I did put our collection of Rudolph figures on the sheet music storage boxes:


Fiesta and Rory were hanging out together on the couch, and the lights from the tree were reflecting in the glass doors above them, so I decided they were Christmassy enough to be in the tour:


I had a little fun with our open copper shelves in the kitchen this year (I never got around to making them Christmassy last year, and I always felt like it was a big wasted opportunity):

copper shelves decorated for Christmas

I didn’t buy many new things this year (except for a new Christmas tree for our sunroom at the thrift store–that’s the one that you’re not going to see today), but I couldn’t resist a few things from the Target Dollar Spot. (Aside: it doesn’t seem to be called that anymore, does it? Is it something harder to remember like “Bullseye’s playground” or….something? Anyway. You know what I mean. The place where everything used to be a dollar, but now some of it is $3 or even $5.) Here we have that red truck with a Christmas tree in the back and that adorable green cake stand with the wooden base. You’ll see those cone trees made from vintage wrapping paper scattered around the house; I have a million of them that I made a few years ago, and I try to use some every year for something or other. Those reindeer salt and pepper shakers are also from Target, but from a couple of years ago. It’s possible I’ve accumulated too many adorable salt and pepper shaker sets of late. It’s also possible that there’s no such thing as too many.

copper shelves with Christmas decorations in kitchen black and gold reindeer salt and pepper shakers red truck and green cake stand from Target

And here’s a glimpse of the hot cocoa station that causes us to drink way too much hot cocoa in December. You can read about the tray upcycle here.

hot cocoa station

And finally, moving on to the den. The den is one of the reasons I was feeling so overwhelmed about Christmas decorating this year. I was determined that we would have our new corner shelves finished in time for Christmas (and for this post), and we worked on them right up to the last minute. I felt like a terrible host because our den was virtually unnavigable for days, with assorted unfinished shelves in the middle of the room in various states of getting painted.

I got the polycrylic on, let it dry overnight, and then the next day I needed to style the shelves and take pictures. And, to be honest, I was totally overwhelmed with how much shelf there was to fill up. When I have a little time, I’m going to be more intentional about what goes on here–so NEXT YEAR’S shelves will be a site to behold–but for now there was a lot of tossing books and Christmas stuff on here and just leaving it where it landed. I’m exaggerating, but not by that much.

So with those self-effacing disclaimers, let me go in the opposite direction now and say that I’m so in love with this room and so happy with how it’s coming together. I always had winter in general and Christmas specifically in mind as I was decorating it for the past hundred million years. I’ve always wanted it to be a cozy family space stuffed full of lots of things we love….kind of like a cave with a gallery wall in it. There are still a few things to do in here, and I’ll probably hold off on a full reveal with all the sources and all that for after Christmas…but I am presenting the finished corner shelf for the first time in this post. Bonus! Christmas tour post and corner shelf post in one!

I will now show you many photos. This is as close as I can get to a full room shot.

Hale navy den decorated for Christmas

Ah–there’s that second tree. This is the only real tree. A local nursery was having a sale where a collection of vaguely Charlie Brown-esque trees were only $35 for the 6-7′ ones, so we grabbed this one. And I think it’s nice even though it is, as they called it, a “promo tree.” Complete with a Scottie, since he wasn’t in the other picture (and since he wouldn’t move. I think there was a squirrel out there):

Christmas tree with Scottie

This is the tree where the kids can decorate however they want; there are colored lights, and every single ornament any kid ever made gets stuck up there. Note the abundance of ornaments all on one side of the tree exactly at Abe level.

But back to my shelves!

corner shelf with christmas decorations

There’s a lot going on here. I’m telling you; there was so much shelf!

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The old violin case filled with Christmas ornaments is my favorite. We bought the violin case for our Decomposing Composers Halloween theme, and I was really pleased to find a way to reuse it here (the little piano from Halloween also found a home on the shelves):

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The little houses are another find from the place formerly known as the Target dollar spot. I almost didn’t get them because they seemed like such a bargain ($3 each) that I was afraid EVERYONE would have them this year. And maybe everyone does; I’ve been so busy waiting until the last minute to get my tour finished that I’m way behind on looking at everyone else’s. I’ll find out this weekend! But I’ll be glad I got my houses either way:

Christmas village houses from Target

Here’s another angle! With a view of the library with the white tree. Light and dark; a study in contrasts.


I thought I was going to go all out on the mantel, since this is the first year since we painted it and thus the first year I’ve wanted to decorate it for Christmas at all. But I ended up keeping it simple, with just the kids stockings and a few little trees on one side and my vintage nativity scene on the other:

needlepoint stockings christmas mantel hale navy

That’s our stack of Christmas books that serves as an Advent calendar down there. There’s a post about it here in case you missed it.

Hale Navy Christmas living room

And there you have it! I’ll be back next week with the THIRD TREE. Until then, please spend some time checking out the tours and, of course, entering to win $600 cash!

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Boxy Colonial's 2016 Christmas Home Tour







2016 Christmas Home Tour: Return of the Dinos — 27 Comments

  1. oh gretchen i LOVE how those shelves look with the artwork and mantle! dreamy! and that white tree with the dinos… OMG!!!! all the heart eyes for it!

  2. Gretchen I really enjoyed reading this post and ogling the Christmas decor! Every time I visit I am reminded that you are a real, down to earth person with a family who lives in this house while also having eclectic and interesting style! I love the character, warmth and coziness of your home. The black on black family room with green corner shelves is awesome!

  3. The glittery dinos live! This makes me happy.
    I love the green shelves. Suddenly they look real, with all the stuff on them. Ornaments in baskets, ornaments in bowls, ornaments on trays, ornaments in stemmed glasses, I’ve done all those, but never in a violin case. Yay!
    And I love those well-matched brass reindeer. Better than hackney ponies.
    I’ve got lots more to say, but I won’t praise every details, just say the whole is wonderful.

    • Thanks so much!! I was pretty excited when it occurred to me to put ornaments in the violin case. I just put it down in the basement the other week, and I was feeling very sad for it all alone down there 🙂

  4. I love it all – of course I love the Dino tree! But I’m also a huge fan of the tree with colored lights in the den. I want a tree like this somewhere. I haven’t told Ryan yet but I want him to finish the basement so I can have a tree like this. Totally rational.

    I also had to laugh at your first few paragraphs. It could have been me. I totally gave up on posting everything I wanted to. But it will come. Slow and steady. And I totally took all our photos on a cloudy day and then it was sunny the next day and I was so mad. So solidarity sister.

  5. Nothing says Christmas like dinos. You just can’t go wrong there.
    I really love how homey and real everything looks–like real people live in your house who have real things.

  6. Love the tour! My son would flip out over the dinosaur tree! The new shelves look great and I am in love with the violin case with the ornaments. And of course, I felt the same way trying to pull together the million ideas I had for Christmas decorating at the last minute – I settled for actually doing like fie of them and filed the rest away for next year.

  7. So many things here that I’m crushing on! I absolutely love the old violin case with the ornaments in it! I just love your style. Completely off topic but what is the paint color of your family room? I love the black!

    • Thanks so much! The paint is actually navy, but the room’s so dark it can look black…it’s Benjamin Moore’s Hale Navy

  8. What a fun Christmas tour Gretchen! I love that you used dinosaurs on one of your trees, so creative. Hope your husband finished his masters and life is calming down for you guys! Have a very Merry Christmas!

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