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. Randi says:

    I am having 20 family members (from 65 to 1-1/2) for Christmas Eve Dinner and have been glued to your emails for all the neat decorating ideas you have — I won’t have room for a tree this year, so, from this post and my unreal attachment to my family tree and it’s branches…. I give you – Our Branch from the Family Tree! (Yet to have ornaments and Christmas Cards hung from it, but I hope you get the idea… šŸ™‚ Only problem so far is how are we going to “dance around the tree” as my Norwegian heritage dictates?? LOL

    • Karen says:

      You emailed me about this didn’t you! I don’t think I had time to reply. šŸ™ Good thing because I would have told you it was too long, but it looks great. šŸ™‚ ~ karen!

  2. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Just beautiful Karen!…I love your home…you have made it such a cozy place…

  3. shoshana leeder says:

    Most of the orthodox use oil. In our neighborhood, we’re the only menorah. There are a few on some other blocks. Our block is low key on outdoor decorations but it’s all rather lovely.

  4. Kim says:

    Love love love all your Christmassy decor!! I was inspired by your magazine rack display to empty my blanket ladder immediately and use it to display my vintage ornaments! Thank you for your column – you keep me laughing!

  5. DubiousPleasure says:

    Hi Karen
    You gave us a wonderful luxe-looking but cozy holiday tour.
    Did you fashion the wreaths from garland? Artificial garland? If so, can you share your source?
    Thanks for sharing your home with us.

    • Karen says:

      Those small wreaths in the kitchen are actually fake ones that I got at Ikea a few years ago. They don’t carry them anymore which is too bad because they’re GREAT! ~ karen

      • DubiousPleasure says:

        Ah. Got it. Does that include the greens/wreath on the front hall table? It looks so unique, in a cool way (not hiptser).

      • jackie says:

        they do look great on those cabinets! and the whole house looks great! way to go, karen! what i can’t understand is why there is a white glowing edge around the wreath on the left. WHY? WHY? haha. is it photoshopped? why would you photoshop a wreath? and why has my brain noticed this? I CAN’T NOT SEE IT! i have noticed photoshopping/tweaking in other images of yours, in places where it makes sense, but this… i don’t get it! please enlighten? what is going on? haha. halp! did you have to photoshop it because it was partially busted, and you couldn’t fix it, and ikea doesn’t sell them anymore so you couldn’t get a replacement? am i thinking about this too much? yes. yes i am.

        • Karen says:

          Yes, you really are, lol. I”m not sure. It could have been that I was “dodging” the wreath in photoshop because it was too shadowy and some of the dodge got on the cabinets. Mainly just to make you crazy. šŸ˜‰ ~ karen!

        • Jackie says:

          ahhhh! nowwww it makes sense. the perpetual “black dog on white snow” issue — every photographer’s challenge. only this was dark wreath, white cabinet. I GET IT NOW! my brain is released! thank you for sharing. tonight i will be able to sleep easily again. hahaha. also: i admire your commitment to having really top-notch photos on your site! you’d even go so far as to dodge a wreath. (insert victorious emoji here)

  6. Heather says:

    Absolutely PERFECT šŸ‘Œ

  7. Kris says:

    You did such a great job! Can you tell me where the white pears came from? (a bit of a pear obsession – my tree is mostly handblown pears wih some apples/pinecones thrown in – oh, I guess a bit of a pinecone inspiration, too).

    Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  8. Amy Watson says:

    Karen I love everything you do (almost) I love your antique mid century MOD decor, I really do, but when are you gonna finally say goodbye to those pink curtains????? Can we make that your new year’s resolution ?? This is my favorite Christmas if your house this far, and I have been around for a few. ā¤ā¤

    • Karen says:

      LOL. I know!!! I just haven’t had time. šŸ™ šŸ™ ps. They don’t look pink like that in real life. But they’re still gross. ~ karen!

  9. whitequeen96 says:

    I have some Korean friends that boil their chestnuts “until you can push a chopstick through them.” I think they cut a little cross in them first so the “skin/shell” curls up. They’re actually pretty good that way!

  10. Julie says:

    I love those bookshelves! The black in the gifts is just amazing.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Julie. Yeah, the black works great in the white bookshelves. I almost switched to white this year but stuck with the black. ~ karen!

  11. Rina says:

    Hello Karen : Beautiful house tour. Much nicer that the other big house tour that is very popular in this area. The ornaments in the house are yours and a part of who you are, and not just stuff brought in to make the house look good. Here for the weekend gone the next day.
    Have you had Chestnuts roasted with butter,salt and rosemary? ymmm
    A quick question I noticed on the table with the runner of pine cones there were some very light colored ones. Did you buy them that way or are they bleached?
    I tried to bleach them as they suggested on pintrest but nothing happened.
    Any DIY ideas on that.

    Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Rina! Thanks very much. As for the pine cones, no I haven’t bleached them, that’s just the way they are. There are also gold pine cones in the runner, maybe that’s what you’re seeing? As for lightening them, I’m not sure what you could do other than some kind of white wash. :/ ~ karen!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Rina. I’ve been asked several times to be on that very house tour, but always say no. I’ve tried chestnuts with butter but I’m still not into them, lol. We all know I’ve give them another shot next year though. ~ karen!

  12. Kate says:

    I love antlers, too! I love how your antlers are different from mine: mine are all white-tail deer (Iā€™m on the Va/WV/MD border) and you have some… moose? Elk? Regional differences, yo.

  13. Anna says:

    Beautiful…all of it, as expected!!! Question…do you spritz the live greenery w/water throughout the holiday or just let it go???
    Thanks Karen for all the inspiration!

  14. Jody says:

    Your annual Christmas house tour is my favourite. I love that you change it up every year. Is the pepper mill in the kitchen the one you made? Love it!

  15. Jacquie Gariano says:

    I just love it. Christmas everywhere. What a warm, cozy feeling. Happy Holidays.

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