My house is a 1,000 square foot, 178 year old Ontario cottage.  The ceilings are low, the thermostat is always on high and the grandest thing about it is nothing.  Yet I still decorate it as though I’m living in both the upstairs and downstairs of Downton Abbey.  One part scullery maid, one part old grande dame.  Oh Downton. I do miss you.

I have crystal chandeliers, life sized portraits, and scrabbled together wood pieces on the brink of disintegration.  It really is like the art department from Downton Abbey came by one day and dumped half of Mrs. Patmore’s and half of Lady Mary’s things into my house then shook it up like a snowglobe.

There’s no hiding who you truly are when it comes to Christmas decorating.  And I’m classic Christmas all day long.  Take a look at your Christmas tree.  Go ahead.  Do it right now.

That Christmas tree is YOU with pine needles.  It probably reflects how you like to dress, your general mood and who you truly are.  That’s right.  You are your Christmas tree.    This of course does not hold true if you happen to hate your Christmas tree.

I may have a fondness for Mid Century Modern, and sleek, contemporary pieces but if you shoved me in a hole for the rest of my life and said you could only decorate that hole in the ground with one style, it would be in the style of Downton Abbey snowglobe.  Which I suppose means that I should start looking for a gold leafed pine box for use in the future.

This year for my Christmas decorating, to really enhance the Downton Abbey feel, I highlighted my old riding gear  (a la Lady Mary), added some greenery and a few olden days touches and called it a day.  I didn’t use HALF of my normal Christmas stuff yet it feels more cozy and Christmassy than ever.

Happy Christmas. Enjoy the tour.

You learned about the DIY Christmas tree candles and the Dried Orange Slices a couple of weeks ago.  Together they create an instant classic Christmas tree.  I also shoved a few oranges slices into a wreath on my front hall table.


Along with my riding stuff I also put out some of my silver plate.  Nothing says Downton Abbey like silver serving pieces.  Just ask Carson.


I even changed the art over my buffet to the right of my couch to be more Downton friendly. Also the colours work perfectly for Christmas.

Other things that make this work?  Nuts and oranges laid out ready for scarfing down.  And not nuts from a jar.  Nuts that you need to use a nutcracker with.

Dried orange slices also went onto the garland around the fireplace and wherever I could put an evergreen branch or garland I did.

How did I have so many branches?  3 weeks before Christmas I had an evergreen that was growing too close to the house cut down.  Before all the branches went into the chipper I flung myself at the giant piece of machinery and dragged a bunch of them out of the jaws of death.  Or maybe I just said, Hey, leave me a few branches, to the guys who cut it down.  I’m kind of foggy on which scenario actually happened due to an overactive imagination brought on by being part Irish.

This is the one corner that feels more modern than I’d like it to but sometimes you have to work with what you have.  I hung a few of the vintage ornaments I’ve been collecting over the past decade or so on my magazine rack.

If you like the look you can make the exact same magazine rack in a couple of hours.  Here’s the tutorial.


Yeah. Antlers. They get me every time.


Upstairs (the garland, mirrors and stirrups) meets downstairs (antique cheese box).


This white tree is another one of those compromises.  But I won’t give it up.  It’s the one thing that’s exactly the same in my house at Christmas no matter what. White tree decorated with pinecones of all kinds.



There’s the antique, life sized oil painting and scrabbled together bit of wood saddle stand.


Keeping things authentic, the table runner is just pine cones and only pine cones all lined up in about a 10″ wide path down the centre of the table with a few oranges stuck in.


The greenery is a branch from the tree I saved. It is just about  to be cut into tiny pieces and hung from the bows on the Black Bookcase Presents.  The tutorial to making those bookcase filler presents is here.




Here’s an interesting note.  That mason jar is spilling out Italian chestnuts.  Chestnuts roasted on an open fire are gross.  They’re horrible.  Don’t be fooled by the song.  They’re like hot, sweet, chick peas, all mealy and weird.  EVERY year I think it’ll be different.  EVERY year I roast chestnuts and think the outcome will be different.  It is not.  Ever.

More tree branches await a good hacking and placement in the house.


My house obviously isn’t 100% authentic Downton Abbey.  Not even close actually.  But when you walk in the door and the fire is roaring and those gross chestnuts are filling the house with their deceivingly delicious smell, you have know you’re in a warm, cozy place, where doing things by hand is important. Where life is simple and hard at the same time.  Where you’ll be served cookies on a silver tray but won’t get a sideways glance if you spill crumbs all over the couch.  What do I care if you spill cookie crumbs?

One of the housemaids will clean it up before I even know it happened.


  1. Melissa says:

    I love everything! Even the white tree and that says a lot cause I’m kinda a purist when it comes to trees. Real, green, tall and covered in shiny stuff is the way to go in my books. Beautiful….. you nailed it! Merry Christmas!

  2. Lisa says:

    LOVE your decorating and the mix’n’match of old and new – the best way. My tree is a Zanzibar Gem – with rather old little wooden Christmas decorations plopped over the leaves. I used to decorate my deck (a lot), but now only pop them out when people drop over – the cockatoos like playing with the decorations way too much. Thank you for a fabulous year and here’s to some snow for your Christmas. Ditto re the chestnuts too. :-)

  3. SusanR says:

    Your home looks lovely again this year, in a different and even lovelier way. Very homey AND elegant!

  4. Jackie says:

    Love it! You do such great work – no matter what you are doing. We put up less than 1/2 of our stuff this year & we still have a house full – inside & out. I love Christmas but the work, not so much. It seems to be more of a chore, the older I get. Merry Christmas, girlfriend.

  5. Nicole says:

    I love the wreaths on the kitchen cabinets. I’m not sure why I never thought to do that, but I’m going to try to figure out a way to do it, even with my nasty melamine cabinet. Make it less nasty melamine! Plus, hanging them there means that cats can’t reach them easily! :)

  6. I think the most appropriate comment is the one that initially popped into my head….It’s all really quite lovely.

  7. Mia says:

    Everything is Christmasy and cozy, but the only thing not beautiful is the upstairs mirror garland with the beading overlay; it is perfection! It immediately grabbed my heart, so it must be my spirit animal of holiday decor. Thanks for all the work you put into that.

  8. Karen Hamilton says:

    The vintage picture of the cattle is one very similar to one my grandparents had in their house in Sarnia Ontario. Also, I instantly recognized your house from the Lee Valley newsletter I received recently. Instantly!

    • Nicole says:

      Oooo. She’s in the Lee Valley newsletter? I seem to have fallen off their mailing list again, but that’s awesome! Their catalogs always are so gorgeous.

  9. Lynn says:

    First thing I noticed was your riding boots on your server , an my first response was oh no 🤦‍♀️.
    The rest of your decorations are to die for. The sneaky little elf, the pear candles, your candle sticks on your table . Your display of vintage ornaments is fantastic as usually they get lost in a tree , yet you display them for all their glory. The truck hauling the trees is priceless. Karen your ability to use greenery is a true gift, It has said Christmas has arrived everyone is welcome.

  10. MaggieB says:

    Karen, my girlfriends and I are having our Christmas home Cinema evening this Friday. Last year our Italian friend bought her family recipe roasted chestnuts, they were so good!! I’ll ask her and put it up here, sometime when I’ve woken up from the food/wine stupor on Saturday.

  11. Tanya J says:

    *LOVE* everything you did. So much thought involved. You’re teaching me a tremendous amount about how to express personal style and not just “install” good design.

    Merry Christmas!

  12. Elaine says:

    You just made my heart happy … you’ve brought back so many memories!

    I was born in England and even though I love a “glam white, Winter Wonderland” look, I still love this Downton Abby style. I did a bit of a gasp (ha!) at the boots on the buffet BUT then started to smile at everything else! Your greenery above the artwork reminds me of when my Dad and I would go out in the fields behind our house (in a tiny village) to cut holly and greenery; he’d then drape generous pieces above the paintings and mirrors in throughout the house. When I saw that silver dish beside the plaid and (yes, even the boots), my smile REALLY widened!! This is all SO perfect … the horsey look, the (formal) silver up against the less formal, is absolute perfection! Have I used the word “perfect” too much?

    Oh, by the way, we roasted chestnuts every Christmas. I’d get them for free from the trees that grew beside the one-room schoolhouse which is still there today.

    I just spent the (previous) last hour scanning through a Christmas House Tour of various bloggers and I almost fell asleep … every single one was almost the VERY same! I love decor and couldn’t believe how bored I was! I figured that maybe it was due to my age (another birthday today!) but then I went to my Inbox and there you were!

    Just like when I was a kid, I “saved the best for the last” … and just finished reading about your unique decor. You have awakened me from my stupor! Thank you, Karen, and Merry Christmas!

  13. Sabina says:

    Your house is smaller than mine??? It has low ceilings??? How is this possible? Your decorating techniques are inspiringly deceptive!

    • Karen says:

      Just the front half of the house has low ceilings. As in just over 7′! The back (where the dining room is) is a little better with 8′ ceilings. ~ karen!

  14. Mondo says:

    that lamp in the 2nd pic is dope af.

  15. Jerry says:

    Looks great Karen. As you say, very cozy, and a great place to spend Christmas. Happy Holidays to you!

  16. Barb says:

    I love how warm and cozy your home looks without going totally overboard. Each photo had such unique touches, unusual combinations, but all do-able! And I was amused that your Elf was actually “on a shelf”! Thanks for sharing and giving all of us some great ideas. I like to change it up each year with some old and some new ways of arranging things, too.

  17. Liz says:

    So beautiful :) Your green tree feels very Orchard House from Little Women. Is the white house on your counter a cookie jar?

  18. Suzanne Herbruck says:

    My father was Belgiun. He did chestnuts in a cast iron pan on top of the stove, with butter and salt. Way better than just hot. Butter is always better.

    Merry Christmas! Love your decorations. We keep it very simple.

  19. Mary W says:

    Your home is perfect and I would never, ever get rid of that white tree. It makes your library/dining room feel just the way I would like to feel while celebrating Christmas with family and friends. Perfectly delightful, warm and cozy – just perfect. I love the old white truck and the other unique touches you have to let my eyes wander around and see lovely sights. Please come and rescue my livingroom with its 7’tall and 2′ wide tree. It has white lights and six dangely and neon colored things with a jingle bell hanging – oh, yeah and a star on top. I can’t find my ornaments since it has been years since I put up a tree. It does look like me. I normally wear baggy shorts, crocs, old stained and painted T-shirts and no make up. I cut my own hair which is exactly like the tree, chopped and oddly sparse in parts. BUT, I can sit in my easy chair at night with sparkle lights on and feel just wonderful and warm and cozy. I don’t really care as long as the lights work. My tree is exactly like me except for the dimensions – it is tall and skinny while I’m short and fat. Oh well, opposites attract and I’m happy with it and maybe will find my decorations before New Years. Merry Christmas sweet Karen, you are a blessing in ways you will never know!

  20. Thera says:

    You are your Christmas tree, interesting thought!
    My tree has an abundance of little white lights since I learned how to light a tree inside to out, has some burlap, black glitter balls and shiny and mat gold balls, vintage looking ornaments, mostly forest animals.
    Yeah thats me, a little dark glam that loves being out in the woods!

    I too miss Downtown and love your decorating!
    I think its time for a Downtown binge watch!

  21. shoshana leeder says:

    I really love it no too much not too spartan (or minimalist as those people like to say). Elegant would be my word. BTW, you should see our menorah, I think you’d be very impressed!!! It’s all right, I personlly am not into glitzy or tacky!

  22. Cathy Reeves says:

    vintage pickup truck is my fav–unconditional love

  23. Very lovely. The only thing missing is the word ‘Uber’ on the toy pickup truck. Other than that, it’s just perfect.

  24. Kathleen says:

    I spent part of my childhood in England and I LOVE roasted chestnuts! It’s really what you are used to and what you associate with holidays, don’t you think?

  25. Monique says:

    So pretty! You have such a great sense of style..combined with your ability to do anything and everything..=100%
    Loe the truck to bits:) And all the swags..

  26. Heidi says:

    Gorgeous Karen.
    I feel your essence of blending antiques and modern styles. My mother when she left this world left us a debt but in return some very beautiful eclectic pieces that I still treasure 35 years later wherever I go one of them is The exact same mirror (smaller ornate frame) you have in your photo. I have never seen anyone have another. So cool. Also I want that vintage truck toy. As a life size toy as well ! 😊🤗❤️

  27. Susan says:

    Love it, Karen, especially the orange slices. They are like little jewels. The exception – from someone who spent a large part of her life in a horse barn – are the helmet and boots. The helmet might be okay but the boots…no, no, no! Boots just DON’T belong on a mantle or shelf. Do’ya ever watch those CSI shows where the killer thinks he’s washed all the blood off of the murder weapon but the forensic scientists always find traces? Looking at those boots would spoil the Christmassy mood for me because I’d be sitting there thinking of manure, foot sweat, equine parvo myelitis, foot fungus…UGGHHH, I’m grossing myself out just sitting here looking at your boots! Your house is beautiful, you are very talented and haven’t fallen prey to the ridiculous fad of turning books around and I think you’re wonderful. But I don’t want to think about smelling your feet.

    • NWilliams says:

      ” Your house is beautiful, you are very talented… and I think you’re wonderful. But I don’t want to think about smelling your feet.”

      Well that is certainly worth the price of admission. :D Thanks for the laugh.

  28. Kathy Renwald says:

    You can roast chestnuts in the oven.
    Your place looks beautiful!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Kathy. I need to do your transom fruit next year! I did some chestnuts in the oven the other day when a friend was over in the afternoon. We both shoved them in our mouths, choked them down and declared them weird. They were much easier to control cooking in the oven though. ~ karen!

      • Marjorie Kramer says:

        When I was a poor, newly married college student, my husband and I bought some chestnuts from a street vendor on Denver’s Larimer Square in December of 1976. I really felt the Dickens spirit, until we bit into them. Yuck. Never. Again. Still remember that flavor and texture all these years later.

  29. Barbara kemp says:

    I will be over with my book and a cup of tea for the afternoon. Beautiful!

  30. Rosemary Stearns says:

    Looks very elegant! I like how you draped the greenery on half the picture and mirror frames. The pics make your house look huge.

  31. Wendy says:

    I do very little Christmas decorating now, as opposed to the whole house in years past. I agree less is more. My favourite decor is natural….greens, pine cones, moss, this year hundreds of acorn caps. I left the nuts for the squirrels. Everyday when I walk my dog through the woods I find another treasure. The best part is it can all go back to the forest in January.

  32. Terri J. says:

    Love it.

  33. You hit the nail on the head Karen! As a fellow lover of Downton Abby you have captured the essence of that time of classy elegance with a twist of homey comfort. I love everything about it and of course my fav is the white tree. I have a thing for pine cones too. Thanks for the fun tour!

    Christmas blessings – Sherry @ Edie Maries Attic

  34. Carrie says:

    Your home looks gorgeous Karen!
    Loving the ornaments! I have 1 antique ornament from mine and my husbands parents tree that I put on ours, that they used when we were children. I can’t tell you how little I feel when I put them on. Its like stepping back in time!
    Now, about those nasty chestnuts. You do know the definition of insanity is doing something over and over and expecting a different result?? Lol lol lol😜 So, maybe leave those for decorating purposes only? (That is, if its OK with Mr. Carson!) 😁

    PS. I miss Downtown too and I caught site of your elf on the shelf.
    Is there anything you don’t sneak in there? Haha
    Merry Christmas to all!🎅🎅

  35. Ev Wilcox says:

    Wow, Karen-your home looks wonderful. I miss downton Abbey too! The old-looking white pickup truck is prob my favorite item. And I have two ornaments that are twins to yours, but I don’t put them on the tree anymore. And I sorta am my tree, as you said. Now that my adult children have their own trees, I can and do finally have a theme tree which suits me. It is simple with not a lot of color with soft white lights-quiet-not a riot of colors to wreck my eyes!
    I do hide a pickle though, and since our gathering will be here this year-it is a fun thing. Pickle presents already bought, just needing to be wrapped. All gifts assembled and ready to be wrapped-I am really rockin and rollin this year, thanks to your encouragement. Thank you for that-you have no idea how much more I am at peace this year. Once again, thanks for being you.

  36. Thandi says:

    Aaaaargh it’s so hot here I cannot even think of putting up decorations because I’ll get all sweaty again. I’m just going to lie in a cold bath until the sun goes down. Maybe then I can face putting up shiny things.

  37. MaggieB says:

    I love it all, Karen, mainly coz I’m an eclectic kind of gal, but mainly all of it is just so you, definitely not predictable, and always with an interesting twist or tweak from the previous year.
    And it will be a snug as bug home to eat, sleep, read, and who knows, 5 minutes where you might let yourself relax so you can enjoy the fruits and nuts of your hard work. Cheers! 🥂

  38. Tina says:

    I love the idea that we are our tree! My tree is little and plain with only ornaments that I’ve made or that mean something special to me, just simple. With one strand of STUNNING lights. Me? I’m plain and simple, t-shirts and jeans but always with BLING jewelry that is eye catching and unique.

  39. Judy DeLacy says:

    I love, love, love how the house turned. You certainly have a good eye when it comes to decorating. I’m drawn to “cozy” and “comfortable,” and you hit the nail on the head.

    Chestnuts. I love them. Growing up in New York City, there were street cart vendors selling roasted chestnuts during the winter months. At home, we roasted chestnuts as part of our Christmas tradition. The were delicious. All year, my sister and I looked forward to hot apple cider and chestnuts. :-) I also remember there being are large serving bowl of nuts. I think my Mom had collected six or eight fancy, ancient looking, nut crackers. For some reason, I always managed to pinch my fingers when cracking the walnuts.

    Karen, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

  40. Kate says:


  41. TucsonPatty says:

    Love your elegance with Margaret’s decorations. I also miss Downton Abbey. Love your white Christmas tree, I’m kind of a Santa nut, and just realized there are no Santas at your house! I quit decorating for Christmas inside the house about 14 years ago when we got two kitties and my daughter was afraid something would happen to them with the tree or decorations. Found out how easy it was to not do it anymore, and now I’m the crazy lady on the corner with her stinking Halloween decorations up because I can’t seem to get up the gumption to get them put away! Yikes. My plan is to do it tomorrow. (Hey, I’ve been saying that for quite a few days – weeks – now, haven’t I. In my defense, they were pretty awesome.) Great decorations, Karen!
    P.S. I’ve been sending emails to the FCC folks about Net Neutrality. Thanks for that information!

  42. Danni McLaughlin says:

    It looks absolutely beautiful. I hope now you can kick it until Christmas. XO from PDX

  43. MrsChrisSA says:

    That is truly magnificent. I kinda feel bad now that I decided not to decorate this year.
    My grandchildren now live in New Zealand and hubby, youngest daughter and I are going to visit my sister and her family for Christmas so I just thought sodd it!! Now….. I may just do a few decorative touches………………………

    The only thing that freaked me out a bit about your decor are the riding boots on the server – age old superstition about shoes on tables etc.

    It is really a work of art though!! Beautiful!!

  44. Biggi says:

    Is that the peppermill you turned? It’s 🙌

  45. Suel says:

    Karen, Merry Christmas from Western North Carolina! I love everything about your decor and your inspiration and skill. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m copying your photos for next year when I hope to have the time and the presence of mind to get busy.

    PS: I love Canada, you put gravy on fried potatoes.

  46. Marilyn Meagher says:

    I love those vintage ornaments

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Marilyn. I once got a HUGE box of them for $10 at Christie’s! (most of them didn’t have the top for hanging the hook off of but whatever. I improvised! ~ karen!

  47. BILLIE SCARA says:


  48. Katie Schneider says:

    Maybe a post could be about properly roasting chestnuts. I’ve only had them once, from a street vendor in Granada, Spain, and they were terrific…though maybe that was also because I was a college student studying abroad in Europe and it was *almost* the holidays.

    • Tina says:

      LOL, I bought fresh chestnuts at a market in Europe when I lived there and took them home to roast on the weekend. The next thing I knew, the kids were finding maggots on the kitchen floor! They were coming out of the chestnuts! I can’t bear to even look at them anymore.

      • Kate says:

        We have a chestnut tree at home, and butter, brown sugar and allspice go a LONG way towards delicious chestnuts (I mean, what isn’t better with a lump of butter?)

  49. Grammy says:

    Lovely. All of it. Margaret looks so “at home” amid all the decor.

    My favorite part: Your beautiful vintage ornaments on the magazine rack in that otherwise empty corner. It surprises me a little that I am so enamored of that, but I am.

  50. Patti says:

    Man I am so in love with everything about your Christmas look aside from the peachy colored draperies. Maybe get some rich vintage taffetas?

    • Karen says:

      Ha! I hate them too but I haven’t had a chance to replace them. In my defence they aren’t peachy. :) It’s a bit of an optical illusion that happens between light coming through them and the colour produced by the camera. ~ karen!

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