To understand the deep affinity I have for my black Christmas wrapping this year, I have to tell you about my history with the colour black.  Growing up I wasn’t allowed to wear black.  Not even into highschool was I allowed to wear black.  Had I been a bit more ambitious with exploring employment opportunities at the age of 12 I could have made my own money to buy my own black clothing.  But as it turns out, my ambitions for work pretty much started and stopped at running upstairs from the rumpus room to get my Uncle Leo a fresh beer for $1.  And he only visited once or twice a year so …

I have no idea why my mother refused to let me wear black but I suspect it was the result of when she herself spent a lot of time in black in the nunnery her parents sent her to. Betty was what they called “high spirited” as a teenage girl.  Her parents were what they called “trying to scare the shit out of her”.

Then one day, out of the blue, I was allowed to wear black.  It was to a grade 10 dance.  And it was remarkable.  I had found my colour.  It was tough and powerful and chic. It was the perfect colour.  And I didn’t take it off for about 15 years.  It felt like me.  Black felt strong and decisive and oh yeah, every single thing I owned matched with every other single thing I owned.  So black was also a huge time saver.

I can’t remember when it was I stopped wearing black all the time but it probably happened slowly over time.  I’d add in some red here and some white there and before you knew it I was wearing pink and turquoise and coral.  Not purple. Never purple.  I’m not a complete asshole.

But whenever I put on all black now I get that exact same feeling of HEY. I’m cool!  I saw the Ramones play live and I can crush a walnut in my fist and, and … I can excise an abscess on my cat’s neck if I have to!   Your idea of cool might be different than mine.

So this year for some reason I’ve been feeling a little bolder.  A little less light and ethereal.  I’ve been feeling the best bits of black.  And it’s a great feeling to have going into the new year.

I love this year’s black present wrapping.  It’s cool.  By pretty much anyone’s standards.


Buy vintage black velvet ribbon


Buy black gift wrapping paper.


The paper is plain black wrapping paper and the ribbon is wide black velvet ribbon and wide black satin ribbon.  The huge gold flowers are Christmas tree ornaments.



But my favourite part of these presents is the tags.



I bought small gold frames (the photos in them are 2″x2″) and printed vintage pictures of everyone to put on their gifts instead of writing their names.



Some of the people I give gifts to aren’t old enough to have vintage photos so I put all the photos through a bit of Photoshopping to give them all the same vintage colour and feel.  A bit of blur, a bit of graininess, a loss of most of the colour.



hal black-gifts-under-tree


Take that Snow White.

 No more brown paper packages tied up with strings.

No more twigs or twine and cute rustic things.

It’s black and it’s bold and it’s gold all over.

Chokin’ on bling like a fat Range Rover.



It’s Christmas I say, and a New Year soon

You will be strong and tough and reach for the moon

The passion you had when you were still young,

It’s not gone, it’s still there, the song can be sung,

Don’t wither away and pull down the sash,

This year,

Find yourself,

find your black,

find your inner badass.

**Congratulations to Thandi. You’re the winner of Friday’s Bread Lover’s Giveaway package. I’ll email you the details.”


  1. Kirsten says:

    Oh those presents look so luxurious. Any chance we can get a bow tying with wide ribbon tutorial? Every time I’ve tried they come out all smooshy (totally a word). There must be a trick I just don’t know.

    • Karen says:

      Funny, I was actually going to do a whole online course on how to do 10 or so different kinds of bows last year but didn’t get time to organize it. :/ ~ karen!

  2. Jani says:

    I too love the color black. When asked “what is your favorite color”? And my answer back “Black”. Was told by many that black was not a color… my second choice was red. Paired together black and red look stunning. Add in the white hair even more stunning!! I laughed out loud when you mentioned your Uncle Leo. I too had an Uncle Leo and when he visited I would run and hide under my bed. You can read between the lines on that one!!!

  3. Sandy Z says:

    Everything looks amazing. Maybe next year…

  4. Stephanie Hobson says:

    Oh wow, I love the gift tags! What a great idea!

  5. Heather from British Columbia says:

    I love the basic black, no reason to go to boxing day sales to get crappy paper for next Christmas. I want to know when you start working on this? Like the magazines, in July. I am going to have to start now, looking for photos, frames, ribbon and paper. Starting in January 2017 but by the time Christmas comes I will have forgotten where I put everything. Your tree and gifts look beautiful and chic.
    After reading the comments and seeing the photos there will be a run on black paper and ribbon.

  6. Jasmine says:

    Really, that’s so beautiful! It makes me want to rip all the turquoise stuff off my white tree and put black on it. Thanks for that. But! I do have a black wreath on my front door, so I will have to just keep going outside to look at it. I’ll be cold, but it will help me feel better. Where do you get your black ribbon? The only ribbon I’ve seen that gorgeous is waaaay too much money to wrap sumptuously around a present. Or do you take it back as soon as they unwrap the gift and stuff it in your bra?

  7. dede says:

    I like the *gold ones, too.

  8. dede says:

    L. O. V. E. the glod frame photo tags! Merry Christmas, Karen.

  9. Linda in Illinois says:

    I love black and white, my Christmas tree this year is mesh black and white with black ornaments, my bedroom is black and white, my curtains are black and white lace. It is a color that is bold, chic, and beautiful..

  10. Bambi Mayer says:

    The gifts are gorgeous!!! Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s–you deserve it after surviving the bookcase-making and pulling it all off in addition to the beautiful decorating!

    Congrats to you, Thandi!

  11. Tracy Martinez says:

    The black and gold are absolutely stunning especially against the white tree. So elegant. Your poem is awesome as well!
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  12. Joanne says:

    I was also not allowed to wear black until I reached the ripe old age of 18.
    The explanation I was given was it was a color for mature women, and not to be worn by girls.

  13. Stephanie says:

    Stunning as always Karen. Merry Christmas and happy new year!

  14. Eileen says:

    ok, maybe it’s just purple-wearing me (not orange, I’m a “winter”), but how on earth do you keep all that sumptuous blackness safe from gold glitter dandruff????
    It does look sooo stunning.
    I’m “wrapping” in brown paper grocery bags and old newspaper this year, with recycled ribbon and if that runs out, garden twine. And the recipients should be lucky I’m doing that much. So there.

  15. Mindy says:

    I agree with the masses. The photos are my favorite part.

  16. Ellen in Illinois says:

    …….. Well I’m wearing all black today because I’m in mourning…didn’t win the prize. Boohoo! I do love your black wrapping paper. Classy. But you can’t help that cause that comes naturally to you!

  17. Sara Jenkins says:

    That poem!

  18. Marca says:

    Love the look (and your blog)! I know this is a dumb question, but how did you print your small pictures? Did you cut them down? Shrink them with software?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Marca! I scan them if I need to, upload them to my computer then do all the resizing/editing with Photoshop. I increase the pixels to 300 so the images are as clear as possible then shrink the image to 2″ x 2″ in this case. ~ karen!

  19. Linda G says:

    Lovely black on black, Karen. There were several wrapping paper options at mainstream stores this year (Target, for example) that included black this year. I like solid black and buffalo check, but it seemed strange to wrap gifts for little kids in that paper. I opted for penguins.

  20. Julie says:

    Those tags, tho’! Stealing for next year. So awesome!

  21. Marti says:

    Not to be crass and commercial at this time of year, but um… have you thought about providing your readers with a lovely partner link on, because some of us want to know where to buy black gift wrap and of course, provide a teeny-tiny benefit to our favorite cray-cray blogger who annually turns into a holiday design maven just in time to make us all drool.

    • Karen says:

      Maybe you should be my manager, lol. Good thinkin’ links are up in the post now on black paper and black ribbon. ~ karen!

  22. Monique says:

    I do put photos on my gifts..but I have to say the little frames make it even cuter..prettier.I have several because when we had comppany I used to put the frames with the guests photos as the place cards..never entertain outside family now so I know what I will do next yr.I really enjoy when you share your gift wrappings.Thank you.

  23. jainegayer says:

    Those are the BEST wrapped presents EVER!!

  24. Marilyn says:

    Wow. I love this…family pictures will always win me over, i’m a sucker for them..such amazing memories to be had and the looks on their faces , the styles of clothes , I have them everywhere in my home. Those gift tags tugged at my heart.and I definitely see Estelle in that first one…I know it’s not her but she’s in that face , that DNA , you can’t hide it ..great job Karen .

  25. Ei Conklin says:

    It’s all just gorgeous. Now please tell me you’ve already gotten in a supply of black toilet paper too. You do, right ? It would be so perfect . If not, Amazon has it .. Renova 3 Ply Soft Colour Toilet Loo Bathroom Tissue Paper Rolls 6 Pack (BLACK)

  26. Brenda says:

    Haha – sherry in Alaska – I just online ordered the best purple top to go with a great pair of black with a purple lace pattern pair of pants and can’t wait to own my bad ass(hole)ness now!

    This year I’m all about black florals … I think I bought as much as I can handle now. YES – yay black … and yes guild those lilies, too.

    And yes Thandie congratulations – you are the envy of us all! Enjoy! YayYou!

  27. Deborah Skluzak says:

    Those packages are definitely badass. They are gorgeous. The picture frame instead of a tag is inspired.

  28. Karen says:

    1989. Taking 2 hours to get ready to go out to be seen at The Silver Crown on Richmond. Was I seen? Hell no. I was dressed in black from head to pointy Queen Street toe shoe in a club darker then Hollister! But I was in black. Loved it then. Love it now.

  29. Maureen Locke says:

    Love the black and gold, but I’m not elegant in any way so that wouldn’t fit in my hash tag of a house. I also wear purple….. and orange ( love orange ) and I know I’m not an asshole so there. :p Congrats to Thandi on winning those awesome gifts. Maybe I’ll treat myself for Christmas and just order them for myself. We’ll see.
    Five more days of work and then it’s here. We had a lovely blanket of snow down for Christmas and then the rain came yesterday and took it all away. Looks like it’s going to be another green Christmas. Typical NS weather.
    Thanks Karen for that frozen yogurt tampon video which brought me to you. I’ve loved every moment ever since…. well except being called an asshole maybe.

    • Karen says:

      Don’t fret, no matter how big of an asshole you are, there’s always a bigger one. Like say, someone who wears houndstooth. ~ karen!

      • ronda says:

        houndstooth??? there’s nothing better! well, maybe black on black … Christmas wrapping, pants, shirt … its ALL good!

  30. Grammy says:

    Sometimes I just think I don’t know you at all. First you put together the most breathtakingly beautiful array of Christmas gift wrapping and then you say there is something wrong about wearing purple. So, which is it? What side of that coin are you on? Because, Missy, wearing the occasional something purple would not make you an asshole. Wearing orange would make you an asshole.

    But, congratulations to Thandi, who won the terrific breadmaking trio of items. It’s a wonderful thing to make your own bread. It makes all right in the world, at least for the time you are doing it.

  31. Jill says:

    Love it !

    I laughed out loud
    My mother always told me I was “too young for black”
    Must have been the mothering cry of the 1970s.
    I remember so well my first pair of black pants ….. woo hoo

    • Jan says:

      My Mother told me that too. Last time when I was mid-50s, she was over 80. I just have to laugh. Now I see babies in black and I think it is fabulous.

      This might be the best poem I’ve seen all year. Thanks for that.

      • Stephbo says:

        That’s what heardI growing up too! I didn’t own anything in black until my senior year of high school, when I had my own money and got brave enough to buy it myself.

  32. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Those are the classiest packages I have ever. seen…no jokes….the tags are brilliant! Congrats to Thandi…

  33. Raymonde says:

    Simply gorgeous!!!

  34. Elaine says:

    I’m loving the sophistication, Karen! I feel as if I’m 20 again; back living in Toronto and going to dances at the Casa Loma wearing a favourite black sheath dress and black suede slingbacks … oh dear, back to earth! That’s what your gift wrapping has reminded me of! lol! Like others, I’d hate to open your beautiful present! The frame idea is just so PERFECT!! I bet all your readers will be dashing off to buy mini frames now!

  35. Sherry in Alaska says:

    Ouch! After all this time I just found out I’m an asshole! Because I wear purple? I mean not all the time but sometimes I wear purple. Ouch. And I’ve been following you all this time? And now I’m huddled in the closet hugging my blankie and sniveling because someone (you) thinks I’m an asshole. Really I’m not an asshole. Honest. I’m actually a pretty nice person.
    Otherwise – the frame idea is GREAT! And the black and gold is lush. Deluxe!

    • Karen says:

      Pfttt. What do you know. You’re an asshole. ;) Wait, are you talking full on purple that you wear or more of an eggplant? ~ karen!

    • Penny says:

      *First of all, sorry this reply is sooooooo late, I understand if Karen never reads it, let alone you, Sherry, sure you’ve got better things to do but y’know sometimes ya gotta vent, or you’re setting up for an ulcer…..*

      Assholes (‘arseholes’ over here) of the world unite!
      Much as I love Karen, and I do, I have to disagree with her on this point. I respectfully draw your attention to ‘Warning’, a poem by Jenny Joseph;
      When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
      With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
      And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
      And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
      I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
      And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
      And run my stick along the public railings
      And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
      I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
      And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
      And learn to spit.

      You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
      And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
      Or only bread and pickle for a week
      And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

      But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
      And pay our rent and not swear in the street
      And set a good example for the children.
      We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

      But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
      So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
      When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

      I think you will recognise some of the behaviour as the content of previous TAODS posts….
      *mic drop*

  36. TucsonPatty says:

    Wonderful fun and beautiful chic! Classic and classy both, even! Merry
    Christmas Karen! Love the vintage photos idea.

  37. Wisconsin Gal says:

    The photo tags are my favorite part and a wonderful foil for the bold paper. Kudos!

  38. Melissa says:

    Congratulations to Thandie, you lucky girl!

    The black…oh the black! Sleek, sophisticated and very sexy! Love. It.

    Genius and extremely sweet idea of the picture frame tags. So. Stealing.

  39. Sylvia says:

    If there was a contest for best blogger Christmas decor…YOU WOULD BE THE ABSOLUTE WINNER!
    I love your book shelves and the tree is gorgeous, but the black packages with those darling photo tags take everything over the top. You just watch…next year BLACK will be the new white ;-)
    You never cease to amaze AND entertain. Love your blog.
    Good wishes for a very Merry Christmas from Texas.

    p.s. Is there a contest for best blogger Christmas decor? I’ll vote for you.

    • Karen says:

      I, um, .. I don’t think that’s a contest Sylvia, but thank you! :) Merry Christmas to you and everyone else in Texas! ~ karen

  40. Peg says:

    Love it all!!!

  41. Julie Napier says:

    I used picture frames and childhood pictured as place cards for a dinner party. It was fun watching my guests find their place at the table!

  42. holly says:

    I love, love, love the black/gold luxe theme. I have been getting tired of the burlap/twig thing. I refuse and frankly hate “themes”. I like what I like. And I did like the country burlap feel, for a while. I also like luxe, burgandy and gold, retro, and I adore your white tree (I would never get tired of that). If I had a house big enough, I would have a retro tree with the big bulbs and bubblers, a luxe tree, a traditional tree with all the colors…oh I wish. I think you hit it on the head with this gorgeous luxe theme. And next year it could be anything else. That’s what I love about decorating…so fun! Also, the frames are so wonderful and personal.

    The poem from Thandi is so timely..I have been dealing with a person with severe behavioral issues who is destroying me. Not a husband or boyfriend – that would be easy to get rid of. My child.

    Merry Christmas to you, Karen, and thank you for all of your very hard work and your wonderful sense of humor. Merry Christmas to your family and all of your followers, as well.

  43. Mark says:

    So impressive Karen! Fantastic job. I am sure that people will be thrilled with the vintage, and vintage-look, photos (I know I would be).

  44. Cred says:

    Can I ask where you bought the small frames?

  45. Jamieson says:

    The tags are sheer brilliance, chum!

  46. Lindy says:

    Fab. Fab. Fab. I love the black. Especially with the ribbons. Best decorations under any tree I’ve seen y et. Brava. And this from a woman who only wears black trousers. (Well, jeans for farm work, but you get the idea.) When I latch onto a favourite (wide leg cropped Cos ones right now) I have to buy three pairs. So that will be me sorted in the fashion stakes for the next three to four years. What a feeling of bliss. It all started when I found a pair of black fisherman’s trousers my mother bought in China in 1959. Man, I wore those trousers every day until they disintegrated. And the long search for the perfect pair began. Nothing beats that Katherine Hepburn feel of a perfect pair of black trousers. They make you strut. And that Christmas tree gift cornucopia sure is struttin.

    • Karen says:

      I think I have a pair of those pants (white) from thailand. The fishing pants. :) ~ karen!

    • elaine says:

      My luggage was “misplaced” for about the first three days of my Thailand trip, and I bought several pairs of the fisherman’s pants and actually felt quite cute in them. Must have been the alcohol!

  47. Robert says:

    Now you made me want to wrap something up in black velvet with a big paper and satin bow and all the stores are closed right now! Are you happy Karen!?

  48. Paula says:

    I love your ideas! The gifts look too beautiful to unwrap :)

  49. Wendy Walker says:

    Love the black and gold, very chic! But I absolutely LOVE the pictures gift tags. My gifts were sent of months ago but I’m sure going to copy that for next year!

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