Christmas House Tour 2013

Remember, wayyyyyy back to a week ago when I lied to you but didn’t know I was lying to you because at the time I was actually telling the truth?

Well, I’d like to explain that lie.

I told you that I would be paring down my Christmas this year. I thought at the time I typed those words they were true. In fact they WERE true.

Until 2 days later when Brett, an editor from Canadian Living magazine emailed me to ask if I was going big with my Christmas decorating this year.

Um. Sort of. I guess. Not really. I suppose I could. Crap.  Me no speaka di english.

7  really bad iPhone photos and a couple of emails later it was confirmed.  Canadian Living was coming to shoot my house for their Christmas issue to be published next December.

And they were coming in 4 days.

So as it turns out, this wasn’t the year that Christmas got pared down.

Instead, in fact, this turned out to be the year Christmas got jacked up.  I decorated until I had scars.

This is not a lie …  I found sparkles in my … well never mind.  But they shouldn’t have been there.

Behold Art of Doing Stuff readers, the Christmas House Tour 2013.


Dining Room Christmas Hall
White Christmas Tree
Christmas Buffet
Christmas Doe
Dining Room Christmas
Living Room

A military guard might seem like an unlikely Christmas ornament, but these little metal soldiers were my father’s when he was a little boy. They have enormous sentimental value. Plus it’s a good reminder that not everyone is sitting by the fire this holiday season.
Coffee Table
Christmas Tree
Cat Christmas


I’ll remind you all next year when the article comes out if you promise to remind me that NEXT YEAR is going to be the year of the pared down Christmas.  A year of rest, solitude and where every body part, and organ will be declared a sparkle-free zone.


  1. You did an amazing job. I think you work even better under a deadline.

  2. Susan says:

    Ha! You can pare down the same amount I pare down….not!! Beautiful, by the way!

  3. Marti says:

    Looks great. The tree is spectacular and I love-love-LOVE the burlap bunting. Congrats. Go float the excess sparkles down the tub drain.

  4. Nicole says:

    Spectacular! (I liked the cloched lights and tree near the Picasso, too.) A wooden plane my dad made for my son make its way into much of my decorating for the same sentimental reason. Congrats on the Christmas photo spread!

  5. Amie Mason says:

    Two Christmas Trees!!! Holy crap, I can barely handle one! Nice work Kazza!

  6. KiwiKat says:

    So will Brett turn up to help you take it all down again, after putting you on the spot to get it all up? Huh? Yeah, that’s what I thought….maybe you need to go on holiday over Christmas. Come visit us in New Zealand. It’s the middle of summer, but we always have a spare seat at our table and because it’s summer and holidays, we’re all laid back and relaxed. Betty could come too. And the rest of your family (although I’d have to put out a call to get extra accommodation at that point)…
    🙂 You know you want to, right?

  7. Sandy says:

    Your home is stunning Karen, I actually love the military guard too. Every bit of it made me smile. Merry Christmas and thank you for all of your hard work. I can’t wait until next Christmas to see your pared-down decorations.

  8. karol says:

    Very, very nice, Karen. Your big tree is beautiful, I love the glass (I assume) icicles on it.

  9. Jean Thomson says:

    Fabuloso! Love all of it!

  10. ruth says:

    It looks calm and soothing and lovely. Nice to see the kitties too. 🙂

  11. Sue T. says:

    Karen, it all looks lovely as usual …and it’s nice to see pic’s of your kitties again !
    I’m sure in the next few weeks you’ll enjoy the fruits of your labor. I’ve always loved in the evening having only the candles lit and the Christmas lights on, laying on the sofa listening to soft jazz/holiday music. If I can watch it snowing at the same time it’s like heaven! Enjoy it.

  12. Grammy says:

    Stunning. All of it. But your father’s toy soldiers is the most touching Christmas display I’ve ever seen.

    Your camera work is very nice — especially the shot of the living room with the tree reflected in the mirror. Thanks for it all.

    Will the “glitter in special places” make it into the magazine? Say it ain’t so.

  13. Allison says:

    Your home is gorgeous Karen! It is so beautifully decorated for Christmas. Congratulations on your magazine feature! I love that you have your father’s little soldiers from when he was a young boy. Sentimental touches are always so nice to have during the holidays. Your kitties are so sweet!

  14. Becky says:

    I love the box of ornaments. I just recently was informed that my mother in laws collection of handblown antique glass ornaments are coming home… where we have a four year old person, a cat, and a very large dog in a very small house.
    Its a recipe for disaster, but if I put them in a display box, they are a little more protected than hanging on the tree.

  15. Cathy says:

    Well done, Karen! Congrats for being chosen and giving us a sneek peek. How ever did you get the felines to pose…a bit of catnip in the kibble perhaps?

  16. Rondina says:

    My favorite parts are the soldiers/trees and antler displays. I really like the box of ornaments under the glass table. I’ll probably copy that one. The tree is beautiful. If you are anything like me, the tree took an equal amount of time as everything else.

    I don’t think you pulled out all the stops. This is tasteful. Like it should be on the Tone on Tone blog. I mean, look at what you have done, then compare it to one of those HGTV “celebrity” Christmas shows. OMG. Gaudy, gaudy, gaudy. To me, they pull out all the stops and it looks like someone threw up Christmas.

    What I see are TWO CATS. I don’t remember these cats. I don’t remember you talking about these cats. No outdoor pictures. And we haven’t seen the coop in quite a while. Or the chickens. The coop decorations were especially beautiful and I suspect you got the porch ready also. I’m curious as to what is going on up there.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Rondina! Yup cats. TWO cats. 🙂 The Siamese is Cleo and the bigger one is Ernie. I found Ernie on the porch in the middle of winter several years ago. I’ve talked about the cats before … a lot in fact, lol. They did take a bit of a back seat once the chickens arrived though! Outdoor shots coming up on Thursday. ~ karen!

  17. Jane says:

    Congratulations on your article in next year’s December edition of Canadian Living Magazine! How exciting! Your home is lovely and certainly deserves the spotlight! Of course, I guess you should get some of the credit. After all your home didn’t get this way without your love and dedication. As for this post, I love your white tree. It is absolutely stunning! Thank you for mentioning our service men during the holiday season. They are so deserving of our love and holiday wishes. The pictures of your kitty are adorable! I’m so glad you included them.
    I hope you have a joyous holiday season and a very Merry Christmas!

  18. Kathy says:

    Karen– You are SO adorable that it pains me. I want to reach across the miles and give you a big hug. You are such a treasure, I just can’t even explain. After reading the first several paragraphs of this post, I thought, “ok…nice–pretty pared down, but nice.” But then came the big reveal which led to all the following emotions and exaltations–! Oh MY! Wow. …. woh!…….Wowie wow wow! Awwwww, cute…. Gasp… awwww……adorable……. Wow….. Oh my God!….. and then–being the mother of a darling daughter myself— I could not help but think….What t.* … is wrong with the expletive Fella???????…… This girl is a National Treasure! I don’t know why I went there, but I did.

    You take my breath away….make me laugh…..make me smile…..make me cry……make me want to be a better person and mother– like your dear drunken mother……. I just don’t even know. Good grief. Merry Christmas, Karen.

  19. Julia says:

    My favourite bit? The box of baubles under the glass topped table… Effortless, but beautiful.

  20. Wendy says:

    Love the soldiers and all the unexpected components. Absolutely lovely!

  21. Laura Bee says:

    Love it! Although for a second ~ I thought the pinecones were wasp nests! (It was late & I went to bed right after…)
    When are you going to share the outdoor shots?

  22. Maureen Locke says:

    Absolutely gorgeous Karen. Every single bit of it. You have such a knack with decorating, something I always wish I had. I am the queen of clutter with not a wall or surface that doesn’t have something on it. However, this year for Christmas, all I have up is the tree. I’m too tired to decorate and it just means putting away “stuff” and hauling out more “stuff”. The tree is my favourite part and as long as I have that, I’m happy. 🙂

  23. JennyW says:

    Simply put – perfection (insert sigh here).

  24. jainegayer says:

    It’s beautiful, Karen!
    The mantel is my favorite but the christmas balls in the box under the table are a close second.
    Thank you for all the great ideas.
    Well done!

  25. Farquist says:


  26. Carol says:

    Sooo beautiful. You are amazing. Love the cats and the boots by the tree. They make it look like home.

  27. Tigersmom says:

    Nicely done.

    I totally failed at paring down this Christmas, even with my sprained ankle. Something about seeing ornaments and decorations that I didn’t put on one of the trees sparks my creativity and I must find a way to use them somehow.

    And what is it about cats and tree skirts? My favorite cat, may he rest in peace, was convinced that the Christmas tree was just an incredibly ornate water bowl with a built-in napping blanket made just for him. There is something very sweet about anything napping under the tree whether it be a cat, dog or that Idris Adobo guy (in your case) or whatever his name is.

    I love your sentimental reminder about our various military members, as well.

    If you want to leave your decorations up until after the spring garden is planted so you can rest, that’s ok, too.

  28. Twyla Harkey says:

    Just gorgeous!!! Merry Christmas

  29. Jody says:

    Fantastic! Where do you get the clear Lucite blocks. I love those?

  30. Awesome job. We’ve all gotten that call before. Except mine was from my daughter Friday night. We are coming tomorrow to do Christmas. Eh? Shopping,wrapping, cleaning,tree up,decorating,groceries and cooking all in one day. No time for lists, just get ‘er done. It went so well they came back for brunch on Sunday and decorated the tree.
    Merry Christmas.

  31. Kelly says:

    love the tree with just the white lights. guess what i’m going to do later today after a quick trip to Home Depot (my plan to hang a few red bulbs on my norfolk pine and call it a day having been nixed by my husband, who has no hand in decorating the tree)

  32. Lynn Rollins says:

    LOVE to see the soldiers, LOVE sentimental! What’s Christmas without sentimental? They’re the best part of the whole kit and kaboodle! I swore I wasn’t decorating either this year and I’ve decorated my regular house AND my vacation house…. the clean up part is the problem…. the decorating part is fun and fulfilling and sentimental! OOPS! I lied to, the 2nd thing that caught my eye was the fuzzy throw on the dining bench, I’ll be sitting there if Brett will hold me from behind, my old hurting back needs support, but that invites me. Merry! Hope your hoo ha is glitterless by now, unless you wanted to attract a …. eek. sorry! edit

  33. Leslie Zuroski says:

    Beautiful job Karen! Now, sit down and eat some chips.

  34. paula says:

    Karen, it all looks so lovely, what a fantastic home you have. I too loved the soldiers and their meaning. My husband is a police officer and in the early days of our marriage and young family he had to work every other Christmas. It made it hard to have start a tradition since each year was a bit different. I had started to buy a Christmas ornament for the two kids each year beginning with their first Christmas. We would give it to them on Christmas Eve as sometimes our daughter would cry that her Dad had to go to work and it would help to soften the blow. This is now something we do every Christmas Eve, the children unwrap their Christmas ornament and we include who else is at our table that night with their ornament. I find an ornament that represents something they have done that year or has some sort of meaning to them. This year our daughter is away working in the US over Christmas though we will see her at New Years. This tradition has helped connect and tie our little family as we have gone through the years. When my children eventually have their own trees, they will have a lifetime of ornaments to take to add and hopefully continue that tradition with their families.

    Thank you for sharing your home, it truly is beautiful. paula xx

  35. Bobbi says:

    Makes me want to curl up on your sofa with the warm blankie and sip the cup of whatever is sitting on your stump-table. Stunning, yet calming. A++. Well done.

  36. Cindy says:

    Gorgeous! Will you come do mine?

  37. Sarah In Illinois says:

    Who can have their house ready for a magazine photo shoot in 4 days!?!?

    If you weren’t my idol before, you sure are now!

  38. Sandy says:


  39. Tracie says:

    Absolutely breathtaking Karen! I love the armed guard, a humbling reminder……you are a classy broad, my dear, Merry Christmas! Next year will be a most deserved pared down Christmas. You could have a pajama Christmas dinner like my sister had last year. It was the absolute best, most relaxing Christmas dinner ever!! And I’m getting myself a gorgeous white tree for my dining room too, what a great inspiration you are….xo

  40. marilyn says:

    looks amazing usual..and congrats!

  41. JF says:

    GOR-geous, Karen

    and I love how your All-Out manages to be Big and yet also Classy — lovely from start to finish!

  42. I feel like such a slacker! Everything is magical. I really love the crate of shiny ornaments under the coffee table and the soldiers on guard with the little gold trees. Nicely done that!

  43. Ev says:

    Very nice! Your style is really refreshing-spare, clean, lots of white lights. The tree is great ( I am partial to the icicles-My crafty 91 yr old mother-in-law showed me how to make them out of beads). I hope Canadian Living uses the pic with the cat. Thanks Karen. Watch out for the sparkles!

  44. Tres says:

    Your house looks beautiful and quite festive. I’m glad to hear you are looking beautiful and festive as well! A little sparkle *everywhere* is only appropriate this time of the year.
    Have a Merry Christmas!

  45. Danni says:

    Absolutely amazing! I will have just as nice a house.. When my children are gone. Who am I kidding ill be napping a lot lol.
    Love the glass table btw.

  46. Auntiepatch says:

    Make sure they get the cats in SOME of their pictures!

  47. Nancy Blue Moon says: are good girl..I really like the little deer on the acrylic cute..and your Dad’s soldiers have great meaning to many people..past and present..Those are wonderful pictures of Cleo and Ernie..they are beautiful kitties..I hope they don’t un-decorate the tree for you like some kitties around here

  48. Melissa in North Carolina says:

    Love it! Leave it to you to pull something this BIG off and with such great results. Thank you for sharing all the special details. I love that your style is not stuffy or overdone. It’s truly beautiful and would feel right at home in your home. Do you provide lint rollers for sparkle removal?

  49. Ella says:

    It’s all so beautiful, Karen. The tiny soldiers are my fave. Beautiful.

  50. Marion says:

    Looks beautiful! It doesn’t seem overdone and unlivable as a lot of magazine homes look like.

    I, also, love the tiny soldiers!!! Very whimsical. And thank you for reminding everybody that not all families get to enjoy Christmas together. My brother is currently serving in the U.S. Army and will be in Afghanistan for Christmas (again) this year.

  51. Deborah Griffin says:

    Karen, absolutely fabulous! I LOVE your taste! You and I would decorate the same way if I went through the same amount of trouble! BTW, where did you get the little gold twig tree on your credenza? Did you make it? If so, how? LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!!!!

  52. Your home is awesome, Karen! Like many other commenters, I adore your little soldiers and what they represent. My father served in the military for 26 years and now one of my sons serves. We are thrilled that he will be with us this Christmas but never take that for granted.

    Hope your Holidays are filled with many blessings!

    xoxo from New Brunswick

  53. Linda S. in NE says:

    Truly Classy, Karen. Truly Classy!!

  54. Jodie Coher says:

    Beautiful! Of course. I especially love the dining room table.
    By the way, are all of your walls really, truly white? I need to paint my house and I’m amazed at how cozy your home appears with white walls!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jodie – Yup. The walls are really and truly white, lol. It’s Benjamin Moore’s Cloud White which is a warm white. But make no mistake, it’s definitely white, not ivory or cream or off white. The warmth from white rooms comes from the textures and everything else you add to it. White makes a nice backdrop for everything you put in front of it.

  55. Your home is just stunning!!! You are the glitter queen and I am becoming the glitter princess. I just discovered the stuff and I am hooked.

  56. Jennifer says:

    Understated, comfortable elegance. That’s the first thought that came into my head. Beautiful!

  57. Shauna says:

    A lot of great inspiration here. The least of which is the inspiration to clean up the house so I can make it look pretty for Christmas.

  58. Carole McGinnis says:

    You did an amazing job – I love the box of balls under the coffee table, the garlands, your fireplace, the trees, well…just about everything. Well done! Now you can sit back and enjoy the beauty of it all.

  59. Sue says:

    You are such a talented woman! Your home is lovely and your decorations are so lovely!! I especially love the little toy soldiers. Great job!!

  60. Lovely! I love the touches of teal, the burlap and pine cones, and those antique soldiers. Great mix of old and new stylization!

  61. Jen says:

    Wow! I love the swags on the beam! It gave me an idea for my arch.

    Well, if I can survive my final project part, final quiz, final exam, an art show, a new position, and holiday lights that need to be re-hung, that is so going on the to do list!

  62. Agnes says:

    I really like the driftwood (?) thing holding the blue ornaments on your mantle. I swear I recognize it from an old post you did, maybe to hold eggs?…can’t remember what you called it though.

  63. Barbie says:

    It’s lovely Karen! How was the shoot? I’m late in reading this.

  64. Irene says:

    Oh heck. Your house is so airy and light that now I don’t want to walk into my lounge and look. 🙁
    My house is WAY overstuffed with furniture and STUFF, because when my mom died we ended up with all her things.
    Some I kept for sentiment, some I kept and tossed MY stuff because it’s better quality and the rest my husband refused to let me get rid of. Feeling soooo cramped!
    Gorgeous job on the decorating by a gorgeous lady for a gorgeous home!
    Such frantic work on your part has created such a serenity vibe; I hope some of that serenity seeps into you. Just chill now girl!
    Enjoy it. 🙂

    • Karen says:

      Irene – Tell your husband he’s no the decorator in the family (unless he is) and get rid of stuff. I got rid of ALL my stuff 5 or 6 years ago and it changed my life. I now know where EVERYTHING is, and I never have that house falling in on me, claustrophobic feeling. Do it! ~ karen

      • Irene says:

        My poor husband. There is absolutely NO sign of him living here. 🙂
        It started with me tossing his Iron Maiden posters (which I sort of regret now), to moving his tools, motorbike and car parts and other stuff right out of the house. Yes. The house. This is a man who, if he lived here without me, would have a stripped motorbike on the dining room table.
        Soooo, I will tolerate the excess but comfortable lounge suite and other such stuff, consoling myself that my kid will probably move out in the next few years and then she can move some of it out with her.
        Or I’ll rob someone for the funds to enlarge my house.
        Either will work for me.
        I did see your ‘toss everything’ post. Your ‘before’ was cosy if in a cluttered grannified way. Your ‘after’ BREATHES! 😀

    • Sally A. says:


      I am in the EXACT same boat! Except the furniture in question belonged to HIS mom…how can I ask him to get rid of it? I feel evil! But there’s barely any room to move in our living room!

      • Jennifer says:

        Irene and Sally, Karen is right! Just do it (to borrow a Nike ad)! You aren’t getting rid of your family or memories, just the furniture they bought to use in their spaces. If it’s not useful to you, let it be useful to someone else! (We’re not talking priceless antiques here, are we?) I just gave my grandmother’s sofa bed away to the Salvation Army and my living room has room to move now. Gramma would have agreed!

        • Irene says:

          Jennifer, not quite antiques but getting there. 🙂
          Loads of 60-ish year old Imbuia, which I HATED while I was growing up, in my mother’s depressing biege, off white and brown house.
          It actually looks pretty cool now, in the same house, now mine, which is a riot of colour! The dark wood glows against my red lounge walls. I got a bit clever too, and asked my husband to turn her triple door ball and claw wardrobe into the TV/entertainment unit. People do a double take when they walk into the lounge and see a wardrobe, but I dig it; it works really well at hiding the giant-ass TV no one ever watches except for the odd movie on DVD.
          I have given away tons of stuff, but hey, life sometimes keeps throwing more at you. Maybe BECAUSE we keep giving stuff away. 😀

      • Irene says:

        Sally, I know, right?! One of the couches even ended up in my son’s bedroom! You must KNOW how many times I have moved stuff around in an attempt to find that ellusive ‘space’. Don’t even get me started on the BOOKS! I’ve given away what feels like thousands, stored loads more in crates in the ceiling (not even an attic, just a ceiling), and STILL don’t have enough shelving. 😀

  65. Sally A. says:

    It’s all beautiful! I especially love your tree!

  66. NikiDee says:

    J’adore the soldiers! Congratulations on the photo shoot ~ but its no surprise, you have an amazing ability. I didn’t see the “fairy” glas light thing-a-ma-bob that you recently created (those lights are now on my Amazon wish list – ummm thanks

    • Karen says:

      Heh. Sorry ’bout that. Look on the bright side. I could have convinced you to buy the $400 speaker lights! The cloche is on the sofa table in the living room. ~ karen!

  67. Cussot says:

    Your dining room table looks absolutely beautiful!

  68. Dana R says:

    How about a pared down January instead? I love your house. I could totally live there.

  69. Karen says:

    Hi Karen – I’ve been checking out your website periodically over the past year and I’m finding my visits becoming more frequent. You’re so talented and witty! And I love your decorating style so much so that I think you should decorate as a sideline! Great job! I’ll continue to visit and want to wish you the happiest and most peaceful of holidays. Merry Christmas too (even though it’s not politically correct to say that.)

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Karen, lol. That’s O.K. I’m fine with Merry Christmas and say it myself when I know the person celebrates Christmas. There’s nothing wrong with that. Hope you keep coming by more and more often. ~ karen!

  70. Jasper says:

    Karen I love your house.. You did a very nice job… Is that a picture of your grandmother in the dining room?
    She is very pretty..
    I just love your Blog, I look for it every day in my email.
    Thank You

    • Karen says:

      Hi jasper! No, that’s not even a relative, :). It’s a portrait of a Scottish woman I bought at an antique auction many years ago. Her name is Margaret. ~ karen!

  71. You can tell from this alone you dont have children. Its beautiful sophisticated, elegant and what i desire in my own home. No one has taken the lower third of the ornaments off your tree and eaten them. you have a beautiful basket of shiney brights within grabbing distance. UGH. a big part of me cant wait until they are older and I can do what I really want….

    Is your greenery fake or is some of it real?

  72. Sebrah says:

    How much for your house? I want it.
    Just for me, no kids or husband or dog to spoil it. I might let my cat and chickens move in.
    Leave the Christmas stuff and I’ll throw in a bonus.

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