Culture Street


Deck the Halls with Simplicity

On December 10, 2013

By Tania McCartney

This year has been an intense one in the McCartney household--least of all due to an overwhelmingly busy book year. Of course, it's been a joy but it's also been a time when the need for streamlining, decluttering and simplicity has changed me. It's like I've suddenly become desperate for less. This has been a good thing.

It all began with the advent calendars.

I usually have two (sometimes three) for the kids each year--and I always make something new. This year I made three different kinds of advent (divine downloadable artwork from etsy) and then relinquished two, which I'll be passing onto friends. It took me three days to decide which ones to relinquish (I love them all so much) but I did it. And it felt great.

I have a severe and debilitating addiction to paper, so what better complement to paper advent boxes than Kikki-K's latest decorative range--super simply bunting and a paper wreath that's as easy to construct as 1, 2, 3.

My other nod to paper is the paper 'tree' made of pop-up cards by superlative papercrafter, Robert Sabuda. These Christmas alphabet cards come in a tin and are utterly collectable--I've had them for around three years and have never been able to part with even one of them. What better way to celebrate and enjoy them than tacking them to the wall where any passing festive soul can take a peep inside?

This year we installed some shallow IKEA shelves in the living room. I'm not a tschotskes kind of person and the shelves have been invariably stacked with small books, but I do love a Christmas bauble, and have quite the obsession with miniature trees and storybook cottages. So the shelving was the perfect spot for my growing collection. I'm now on the hunt for miniature/vintage tinsel trees and mercury glass ornaments.

We're not practising Christians but I do believe in the spiritual sense of Christmas--of good will to all men (something that really should be practised year-round)--so we always include a nativity scene (above). I found this one some years ago in Beijing, hand-carved from wood.

I also love the wooden tree (behind the horse), its retro facade reminiscent of Margaret Wise Brown's Little Golden Books. I also imagine this is what Enid Blyton's tree would have looked like.

Another thing I have love for is light-up kitsch. I found this caravan (below) in a Beijing flower market and it's one of my most treasured Christmas decorations, complete with incandescent snowman, and Tudor-style cross-hatching on the windows.



I've also gone minimal in the living/kitchen area--with the majority of festive glitz being icicle lights and wreaths. I also have some fabulous honeycomb paper trees (from Lark) that I'll put on the dining table closer to Christmas.

In the lounge room, I added the popsicle stick creations we made last year, and draped some new lights I found at a $2 shop last year, as well. These lights have a subtle glow that just fills the room with that magical feel, and I love the draped effect.

On the mirror, I've dangled a mercury glass ornament I found in Bangkok earlier this year--and I want more. More more more. It's tough to find quality, authentic items.

As for the tree, I was really surprised when the kids lamented my desire to use our feather tree again this year. I bought this through an ebay seller in the US about four years ago and I'm still obsessed with it. I'd love an authentic goose-feather tree (this one is fabricated by the branches are still soft) one day but until then, I simply adore its simplicity.

We put this tree up last year as we were away for five weeks, but this year I wanted a repeat performance--it's just so sweet and easy and whimsical. Maybe next year I'll be in the mood for an 8 foot spruce again, but until then, I'm more than happy with this perfect pompomed poppet.

I made these pompom wreaths from invisible thread and packets of miniature pompoms from Spotlight. You could also use fine fishing line. Make sure you sew back through each pompom when you add it to the line, otherwise, they'll just slip around and won't stay in place.

I also added some faux glass icicles and glass and hand-painted toadstools that I found at a Beijing Christmas factory way back when. The toadstools clip directly onto the branches--another reason why I love the feather tree.

These gorgeous be-glittered deer are from a $2 shop, and they look right at home next to my collection of miniature trees.

This (below) would have to be my favourite Christmas vista this year. These glittery wreaths have been up all year long (from Target)--I love them too much to spend 330 days without them. Inspired by their silveryness and the silver frames of my three favourite Beijing artworks, I added simple tinsel trees ($2 each from Typo, post-Christmas last year) and my collection of shimmery snow globes.

I also added some more ceramic village houses and an orchid I managed to re-bloom (my first, ever! oh, the thrill!). Perched on top of the orchid is a hand-painted glass wren with a feathery tail--one of many I bought at that Beijing Christmas factory.

Around two years ago, I hand-made a heap of wreaths. This one (below) was made from the pages of an old, miniature book--and when I unearthed it, the tips of each cone had been crushed. Amazing that it still looks so beautiful.

One of my favourites is this pompom wreath (below) that's now featuring in the main wall of our living room.

I'm really loving the clean, uncluttered feel of our house this Christmas season. For me, this year is all about appreciating the tiniest of things, but in a big way. We are doing less, amassing less, and enjoying fuller hearts because of it. When you clear away the clutter, you can see so much more clearly--and enjoy the smallest things all the better. Things take on more meaning--and isn't that what Christmas is all about?


First published on Tania McCartney's blog

Tania is an experienced magazine writer, editor, sub-editor, author and amateur photographer. She has written hundreds of feature articles, news articles and reviews, both hardcopy and online. Tania has most recently written for HerCanberra, Maeve magazine and Australian Women Online.

She is the founder of Kids Book Review.Her latest book Caroline Chisholm has just been released.


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