thick christmas garland

You’re a wrestler you say?  A crossfitter?  A yoga expert?  Yeah, good for you.  You must be so proud. Pftt.  Amateur.   I am none of those things, but I’m still more of an athlete than you.

I excel in the sport of Christmas decorating.

I train just as hard as you, carb load not only before the big game, but during and after it, *plus* win or lose I’m covered head to toe in gold sparkles for the entire month of December. I’m like a walking gold medal.  If you propped me on a pole I’d look like Brandi the Christmas stripper, only I’d have cookie crumbs in my bra instead of money.  I’m awesome.

Look, I know at this point you’re feeling a bit intimidated by my obvious superior athletic abilities, but don’t be.   We all put on our team jerseys one arm at time. It’s just that your jersey is some stupid, super-boring one that reduces you to a number while mine happens to be a pair of tree sap covered pajamas with 4.5 pounds of artificial garland and mystery dirt stuck to them.  So again, awesome.

There are subtle differences between my sport and yours of course.  Yours has you replenishing with Gatorade and eating power bars.  Mine has me replenishing with rum and eggnog and tripping over power bars then giving them the finger, *just* before I fall into a Tupperware bin full of antique glass balls.  I also give them the finger.

I started the race a little bit late this year because I had to finish putting in the built in bookcases in the dining room. So it turns out this Christmas post is also the reveal of all of the bookcases in my dining room. It isn’t a representation of how the dining room will look all the time, just during stripper Christmas.

I also realized that this is the first time you’ll see what’s become of my foyer since removing all of the bookcases.  This is a very exciting post indeed.

In fact, it’s like Christmas.


A black Christmas.


This year it’s out with all white and in with big hits of black.




It’s also a bit of a turnaround for me in terms of shoving some of the simple, minimalistic, decorations to the side in favour of big, fat, cookie eating decorations.  I have retired the anaemic garland I’ve loved so much over the past few years and I’m embracing my inner Dynasty.


christmas candles

Which is not to say that everything is over the top.  Everything over the top is too much, just like eating an entire Costco sized chicken pot pie is too much. Sometimes.    My coffee table decoration is just one of the cheese boards I made with a few candles on it.


christmas corner

All of the garland in the house though?  Yeah, every bit of it is totally over the top with a capital Carrington.

Ready to see the new foyer?



There are so many things in this picture that I feel compelled to tell you about.

The tree.        For the first time in my life I bought a surprise tree.  One of those things wrapped in netting and twine, smashed up so tight you have no idea what’s actually inside.  It was like a tree wearing Spanx.  I was excited and terrified to cut it loose for fear of what might come boinging out at me.

As luck would have it the surprise tree was perfect.  Too perfect in fact. I had to take a pair of shears to screw it up a bit.

The tablecloths         Those are not tablecloths over my foyer table.  The bottom, natural coloured one is my linen duvet cover and the black one on top is my black linen pinafore.  I’m very cold at night and very dirty while cooking, but my foyer looks good.

The Chandelier       You might remember my $100 Kijiji chandelier.  Once I got it together I discovered it’s missing a lot of crystals and one of the arms causes the bulb (and my dimmer) to blow out.  Sooooo watch for a DIY on how to do a little electrical repair on chandeliers the first week of January on the blog.



christmas tree chandelier

I still haven’t figured out an option for window treatments but I won’t be able to do the thing I most wanted which was interior wood shutters.  There just isn’t room for them to open on enough windows.  So I’ve half decided to go with simple roman blinds, just like the ones in my kitchen.

You won’t find any photos of my kitchen at Christmas in this post incidentally because it looks exactly like it did last year, so just take a look at my Christmas House Tour 2015 if you want to see what it looks like at this very moment.

black reindeer

I brought the black into this room with the black metal candelabra at the end of the buffet and 3 black reindeer.  Black decorations were hard to find this year but I’m guessing by next year they’ll be way easier to come by.

Simple, rustic and white have been in for so long that there’s bound to be a backlash soon by way of people clamouring for the opposite of white and simple.  Black and brash.


christmas buddha

And Buddha.


christmas swag

Enter Dynasty era garland number 4.  It’s 3 or 4 garlands twisted together with pinecones, gold beads and black and white ornaments added to it.  It. Is. Over. The. Top.

Are you ready for the dining room and the completed bookcase project that caused me to run naked and screaming through the streets?  (that’s rhetorical if you happen to be one of my neighbours)



I love it.  It’s like a hug.  From hundreds of books.



Enter the black dining room accents.  Black ornaments tucked in the garland which is sitting on a black burlap runner.



Margaret is the beautiful black backdrop to it all.



And then of course there are the black presents, inspired by basketball coach Amos.

I hope you enjoyed your Christmas tour through my house this year, I’m glad you could make it. I’m even more glad that you’re only imaginary here because then I don’t have to make small talk and you don’t have to worry about breaking anything.

It’s been an exciting post hasn’t it?  So exciting you might feel inclined to tip me.  You don’t need to. But if you insist,  I shall keep my bra open and ready for you to stuff with cookies.

love Brandi, the Christmas stripper.


  1. Trackeyb says:

    This looks very chic and cozy at the same time. Nice work.

    How do you get electricity to your lamps near the back of your sofa? Magic and wizardry are not valid answers!

  2. shoshana leeder says:

    Beautiful! Almost makes me wish I celebrated Christmas. It’s Chanuka around here and only so much you can do with menorahs & draidels. And very few people will give a house tour featuring Chanuka. Enjoy the season.

    • Karen says:

      Funny story Shoshana. I went on a “Christmas House Tour” several years ago and the best most beautiful house on the tour belonged to two Jewish sisters. There was no decorating at all, lol. It was just a beautifully decorated house. Happy Chanuka/Hanukkah~ k!

  3. Jody says:

    What is black and white and festive all over? Brandi’s house! Great job.

    I’m inspired to beef up the decorating I’ve done so far. We are n the middle of a
    total bathroom reno. I have a new toilet and vanity and other bit an bobs in the living room right now. I may go all out and put a bright red poinsettia in the toilet. Milk and cookies in the new sink for Santa. Garland wrapped around the new shower head.

  4. Sabina says:

    LOVE – Sung operatically of course!!!

  5. sheryl Powell says:

    Hope you’re right about black being “in” soon. I’m getting ready to paint my tall vaulted living room ceiling black. Fingers crossed

  6. Elaine says:

    PS: loved your expression: “like getting a hug from hundreds of books”!

  7. Elaine says:

    Wow! I don’t know where to start … it is all so lovely. I love the still-natural linked with the glam of the black, I love the “restrained” hand you’ve used in decorating, Karen. You always seem to nail it just right! The garlands are stunning; again “natural” with “glam”! I thought there was something wrong with me as I have always disliked tree toppers – they always are too gaudy or way oversized and cheap looking. The centerpiece of the cheeseboard, candles and oranges is just begging for an artist to paint a still-life. Thank you for the inspiring tour!

  8. Lainey says:

    Absolutely lovely! The bookshelves are stunning!You may not be aware of this, but the poinsettia’s in your floor are poisonous to cats…

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lainey! Thanks, I actually meant to make a comment about that. Pointsettias actually aren’t toxic to cats! I mean if they ate an entire pointsetta they’d probably get a sore stomach but their toxicity is something that’s been hyped up and blown out of proportion over the years for some reason. Lilies are way more of a danger to cats. ~ karen!

  9. Kelly says:

    Is that a birch tree in the corner of the living room? If yes, where does one acquire a birch tree trunk?

  10. Mary W says:

    Love the library dining that you have created! I have to say that there is a picture near your fireplace with an elegant woman siting at the doctors office waiting for a breast exam. Looks like Mastitis to me. LOL But my favorite part? the Santa using the urinal. What a hoot! Yes Virginia, he does exist.

  11. Linda in Illinois says:

    Jameson !! I kind of lost track of everything else but the glass and snowball size ice cube after I saw the bottle.. lol.. no really the décor is beautiful as always. I like the garland much better this year, more bold and thick like the bold black, it works so beautifully.

  12. jainegayer says:

    Absolutely beautiful, Brandi I mean Karen! I love BIG garlands and if you are going to have garlands they should be over the top like yours. You are a great Christmas decorating athlete!

    I am a lardass so I put some Christmas balls on the mantel and later today if it warms up some, I am going to creep through the woods (backyard) to my neighbor’s pine tree and cut some of those branches off and plunk them in a vase. Done.

  13. maggie van sickle says:

    It is stunning Karen great job as usual. Love the fact that Margaret made it into the decor cause my name is Margaret and love the decorative Jameson bottle one of my favourite or maybe my favourite beverage. Yes!!!!!!!

    • Karen says:

      It’s really good isn’t it Maggie! I had no idea, I’d never had it before I was gifted this bottle. Love it. ~ karen!

  14. brenda says:

    Well Brandi – hic – I laughed when I read the bit about making the breadboard but not the candles – a little slap-dasher, haha! Loving Margaret and the bookcases, of course, and all the garlands and the accents of black and the gold branch tree and the Buddha and the mirror and the duvet/apron table cover and the lack of kitchen this year (I’m imagining Christmas chicken laying eggnog factory goings on in there) … oh yes and the white poinsettias. Hopefully you can sit back and enjoy all your efforts now – REALLY ENJOY IT ALL – you so deserve it.

    • Karen says:

      I’m taking 2 weeks off at the end of the year Brenda and I’m not doing a thing. I haven’t stopped doing/building stuff since the spring and I’m gonna use that time to recharge. :) ~ karen!

  15. Julianne says:

    Bookshelves in the dining room. OMG, Brandi, you are my idol. :-)

  16. Jenifer says:

    I think I mostly want your floors…I have floor envy. I do love Margaret’s style this holiday season!

    Great job!

  17. Monique says:

    This is why I find magazines’s all here and better.
    Happy holidays Karen..beautifull done!

    • Karen says:

      Feel free to mention that fact to every company you know Monique, lol. Some of the more stuck in their ways ones, still think advertising in magazines is better than advertising on blogs. ~ karen!

    • Jan in Waterdown says:

      I don’t even buy and seldom look in magazines anymore. The rooms were always soooo perfect and overdone to the point where one couldn’t swing a cat. If one were even inclined to do so. There was a Canadian decor mag that may not be around anymore but it was just too snooty and precious. I like Karen’s stuff and style. It’s real yet classy, doable and fun!

  18. Kari in Dallas says:

    Well done! So cozy yet glamorous. Love everything!

  19. trish oriordan says:

    Tell us about the lighting you added to the bookcases please. That garland makes me feel ashamed!

    • Karen says:

      The lights were a bit of a struggle Trish. I got them at Ikea but had to really modify them to make them work because they aren’t actually bookcase lighting. I’ll be detailing it a lot more in a post in January when I break down exactly how I constructed the bookcases. I didn’t have time for that post this year because I had to get the Christmas decorations up so quickly. ~ karen!

  20. Black and red are my favourite colours so I’m loving the fact that plaid, which I also love, and buffalo plaid are in this year. For the first time in my life my style is in style! Looked everywhere for black decorations, ribbon, etc., or plain white, specifically white burlap ribbon, so I could combine the two. Very hard to find this year but believe by next year the dollar store will have it covered.

  21. A guy says:

    Nicely done.

    Thanks for the visual pictures, Karen, and thanks for the mental pictures, Brandi.

    Merry Christmas.

  22. Marilyn says:

    Drooling over the chandelier.

  23. Jane S says:

    I love house tours, and this was the best because I didn’t have to get out of bed to enjoy it. Your house is lovely. Thank you and Merry Christmas.

  24. Ev Wilcox says:

    Very nice, Karen, and thanks for the tour! Garlands are especially pretty, and the black accents here and there are wonderful. Your home is really something and I hope you enjoy it. Once again, kudos for the bookcases-so well done.

  25. Jacquie says:

    Great job Karen and it’s good to see Margaret again.

  26. Jenny W says:

    The Mirror!!!! Oh how I love that Mirror with the garland <3
    Question – On top of the green dresser in the living room there seems to be a "floating gold tree" -magic?
    The Black is an inspiration. It must be a Canadian thing, cause I added it to some of my rooms this year to :)

    • Karen says:

      Not floating Jenny. :) Just a bad picture, lol. It’s a modern gold twig tree that’s sitting on the dresser. ~ karen!

    • Deb J. says:

      I’m with you on the floating tree. But on closer inspection realized the tree is on the dresser and the ‘base’ is actually the shade of the brass lamp. On optical illusion.
      The house looks awesome Karen! I especially like Margaret & her garland. And the black is beautiful. I considered a black & white Christmas this year but went Scandinavian gnomes instead – the outside ones went in one day & were buried in snow the next. So now they’re more domes than gnomes. Oh well.

    • Mary W says:

      I saw the same thing and once I saw that the tree was on the dresser I had to figure out what the gold thing was hanging off the edge – then figured that out. It was fun trying to see it correctly and imagine Karen left it in the photo just to fool us. Or maybe she was too tired to take another round of pictures. Love trying to find “where’s waldo” in her pics.

  27. Louise says:

    You mentioned you want interior wooden shutters but there isn’t enough room for them. I had the same problem, so I got shutters (at a thrift store) that only come up halfway. I still get privacy, but don’t lose much light, especially as I can open and close them easily enough. I spray painted them white and they look so cute behind my lace curtains!
    Just an idea . . .

  28. Vickie says:

    ….those bookcases….sigh….no more words

  29. Catherine says:

    The bookcases were absolutely worth the sweat, tears, stripping etc, they look wonderful. I love Buddha rocking his garland – he knows he is fabulous.

  30. Louise says:

    These are great pictures and your place turned out beautifully! I LOVE the over-the-top garlands, I love what you did to Margaret, and your dining room is fabulous! Your Christmas tree in the foyer is perfect (and yes, I want to know about the box, too).

    One question; in the photo of the giant mirror in your foyer, the one that shows the boots, do I see a louvered door with a gold reindeer head being used as a door handle? Very pretty, unique, but seems ouchy. And where does that magical door go to? (Inquiring minds want to know.)

    • Karen says:

      Hi Louise! The magical door heads to an enchanted forest. It is indeed a louvered door, very small, with a reindeer head hanging off of the latch handle. No ouchy. :) ~ karen!

      • Louise says:

        Yes, but where does it really go? The fact that you did not answer this makes me think along the lines of BlueBeard. Is this where you keep coats, a hot water heater, or your victims?

  31. Kat says:

    The book cases are perfect! Fantastic job! The whole house looks great! Now here is my question. I am a bit of a tree topper junkie. I love the old vintage ones the best. Where are your tree toppers. Both trees have no tree toppers Karen. They look naked to someone who idolizes tree toppers. It is always the first thing I look at when I look at a decorated tree. I kinda lose it a bit when I see a perfect tree with no topper. OK I will stop now.

    • Karen says:

      Well, funny story but … I don’t particularly like tree toppers, lol. Just don’t. The odd year I’ll put a classic star on top but not this year. Avert your eyes, lol. :) ~ karen!

  32. Lois Baron says:

    Love everything, esp. the garland! Please tell me about the box you stuck your live tree in. Is there dirt in there to hold the tree up? It doesn’t look big enough to be hiding a regular tree stand. My tree is currently leaning because the trunk didn’t get cut straight so it tilted while we were winding lights on it. (Be proud of me because I did not yell at my husband who said he would–but did not–recut the trunk.) True confession: I am coveting your box . . . and the garland . . . and lots of other things, but not the sap involved. I hate sticky. If I’d realized how much sticky was involved in parenthood, I might have skipped the kids. But I digress. The bookcases look AMAZING.

    • Jenifer says:

      LOL! I hear ya on the sticky! Some days it can feel like living in a frat house…or what I imagine living in a frat house would feel like!

    • Karen says:

      Hey Lois! The box is an antique butter box. It is indeed holding a christmas tree stand, but I’ve had to modify it by removing the legs so it could fit in there. I also have the tree held with fishing line to the window behind it. If your kids get too sticky just think of them as cinnamon buns. ~ karen!

      • Robert says:

        So you love them momentarily and then hate them for ruining your figure? That sounds about right!
        Karen, is all the black in your decorations matte except for the satin ribbons in the bookcase’s presents and that single ornament? Or is my screen deceiving me?

  33. JulieD says:

    Lookin good- absolutely gorgeous job on the Christmas decorations!
    And I’m loving the white painted trim with the wood doors – looking forward to seeing the new window treatments. The dining room looks so great . Well done!!

  34. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Love it all lady…The bookcases are something I dream about…

  35. Stephanie Hobson says:

    Ok, now I can quit worrying about Margaret. :)

    • Karen says:

      Yep. :) Margaret is the one thing I would never, EVER get rid of. Ever. ~ karen!

    • Grammy says:

      I’m glad you have been worrying, too, Stephanie. It makes me not feel so pervy. I didn’t think Karen would ever get rid of Margaret, but I was afraid she’d take her out of the dining room and Margaret would just never feel right about that. She looks so serene gazing upon all the beautiful built-in bookshelves. It’s just perfect, and I’ll be able to sleep again.

      Note to Karen: As usual, your Christmas house is stunning (notice how many people used that adjective this time?) and I LOVE the over-the-top garland. Painting your trim white was the best thing, and every single other thing looks better without the natural wood taking up mental space. The linen roman shades will be exactly right. And thank you for keeping Margaret in her proper place of honor.

  36. Suel Anglin says:

    Once again, you have inspired me to get going! But here in the mountains of Western North Carolina, I’ll be looking to incorporate some Douglas Fir, Mountain Laurel and Galax. That is if I can find any left in my woods. Happy Christmas up there!

    P.S. how are the chickens?

  37. Melissa says:

    You are the best Brandi. Wouldn’t have expected anything less than perfection.
    Happy, Happy Christmas!

  38. Teri says:

    Hey Karen! I love your posts, admire your talent, and am currently feeling no guilt at all.
    Even though, Um, I have two Christmas cards hung above the fireplace. AAAAAANNNNNDDDD that is the sum total of my decorations.
    However, your “get done in November” Calendar was useful to me in other ways. I wrote a few lists. I started to pack (there is currently a wetsuit on my window seat, so perhaps I do have more decorations than I thought?).
    My 16 year old daughter was given enough prep time to make presents for the family and 16 teachers. (My 17 year old son is doing the OOPSIE dance right now, but whatever, one out of two ain’t bad). Did I mention that I wrote some lists?
    My family is going to Tofino for 5 days prior to Christmas. My Mom (almost 87) my eldest and my daughter-in-love, my two teens, my neice, and me. We are having a minimalist surfing Christmas and I am taking my Dad’s old aluminium 2 foot Christmas tree. $5 presents. a Turkey dinner one week early. the silly family games including quoits that my grandfather made more than 70 years ago.
    It means much less stress for me (as my Mom will have fewer reasons to criticise my untidy house), and a blessed guilt-free 5 days away from ‘it all’.
    Yes, I could have decorated, however then I would have to undecorate, and that enervates me. Instead, I will enjoy YOUR decorations, then go out and get pounded by the Pacific Ocean on a boogie board. ;-) Merry Christmas Karen and to all your lovely commenters… XX

    • Karen says:

      Have fun in Tofino Teri! If you go to Shelter for dinner tell the chef I sent you in for the brussels sprouts. ;) Also I dropped a rock I wanted to bring home after surfing in September. It was on one of the beaches in Tofino about 3 feet from the water and it was black. If you find it, send it to me. ~ karen!

  39. Jan says:

    Beautiful! Too many fabulous vignettes to pick a fav!

  40. Patti says:

    I am an avid fan but would have left those living room windows bare rather than have those curtains. Just take them down and leave the windows bare!

    • Karen says:

      Well I can’t Patti, lol. You’re right, the windows are beautiful but I live 5 feet from the street so at night there would be zero privacy. There needs to be some sort of window covering until I update to linen roman blinds. :) ~ karen!

  41. trish says:

    Wow.Wow and Wow!!!! You’ve sooooo nailed it girlfriend. black and brash — the awesomenest counterpoint for white and wood:) and its only the 13th or 14th or something. Karen for Emperor !!

  42. Su says:

    It’s beautiful and stunning. Brandi, you have outdone yourself! Take a bow sweets! Merry Christmas!

  43. Amy says:

    Absolutely beautiful! I’m still working on the cheese and bread boards but really love your inspiring posts. I especially like the Jameson in some photos, a neat shot of Irish whiskey can be very inspiring.

  44. Dana says:

    I love the big mirror in the foyer.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Dana. Now that I’ve painted all the trim in the foyer I love it too. With the bare wood it didn’t look nearly as good. ~ karen!

  45. TucsonPatty says:

    Bee-you-tea-full job, Karen!! Your over the top garland looks awesome over the top of Margaret! Heehee. All is stunning, and my paltry once live now brown wreath on my front door is sadly lacking. There is time, yet, though!

  46. Leslie Mittendorf says:

    This looks amazing- your built-ins came out wonderfully, make for such a cozy dining room. The garlands are awe-mazing.

    Thanks for sharing your journey and your destination!
    Happy Holidays-

  47. Gayle says:

    Over. The. Top. Christmas. I love It! I have to check out your kitchen yet, tho. Merry Christmas!

  48. maria says:

    I love your place! I want a white xmas tree – and your dining room one is perfect – where did u get it? I have looked at some at the big box stores and they look so fake.
    Thanks, Maria

    • Karen says:

      I *think* I got mine at Homesense Maria. The Canadian equivalent of Homegoods. But it was about 10 years ago I’m afraid. :/ ~ karen!

    • Alena says:

      Canadian Tire has white Christmas trees and I saw a really nice at Sheridan Nursery (more $$ but sometimes you get what you pay for). Bouclair has a white tree made from feathers but I found it disappointing. I bought one last year but I took it back. It was a) made in China and b) the feathers were falling out.

  49. Barb says:

    Unbelievably STUNNING Ms. Bertlesen! You never cease to amaze me. I’m going for the 80’s silver this year but will definitely be rethinking next year.

    • Karen says:

      Oh Barb, stop. So more the Knots Landing look for you? Or Flamingo Road? Go 80’s! It’s all the rage for Christmas this year apparently, lol. ~ karen!

  50. Julie says:

    I love the black. I think black adds so much depth into a room! Thanks for the tour. I’m going to figure out how to incorporate dust bunnies and the shedding hair of my daughters and me into some sort of personalized garland.

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