Cozy Up Your Christmas Decor With Vintage and Antique Finds

Have yourself a vintage little Christmas this year with our suggestions for antique holiday items that'll give your seasonal decor a big boost of heart-warming family history and a collected-over-time charm.

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Photo By: H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Photo By: Cassidy Garcia; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Photo By: H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Photo By: H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Photo By: Brittney Gazaway; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Photo By: Cassidy Garcia; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Sweet & Sentimental

Wondering how to give your holiday decorations a look that's personal and oh-so-pretty? Antiques and vintage finds are the key — especially when displaying treasured hand-me-downs or thrifted scores that remind you of childhood celebrations. So, scour the attic, basement and garage (or your local thrift store) for holiday decor with a history. Read on for our tips for creatively displaying a few of our favorite Christmas collectibles.

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Christmas Villages & Putz Houses

Putz houses were originally nativities that were put under a Christmas tree but Christmas villages have evolved way beyond that purpose over the years. When shopping, look for houses that are of a similar style and scale to keep your village's overall look cohesive. Arrange them on buffets, dressers, hutches, mantels or honor their original purpose and place them under the tree.

Wagons & Carts

A small wooden goat cart or a little red wagon makes a unique and mobile base for a real or artificial Christmas tree. Look for bargains at flea markets and yard sales that can be used indoors during Christmas, then moved out to the porch or garden in the spring. A wagon or cart can also be sidled up to the tree as a place to arrange presents on Christmas morning.

Special Occasion Serveware

Make special occasions even more memorable by breaking out the 'good' dishes. An instant heirloom, this celadon green serveware’s timeless design is based on a vintage artichoke dish that was first produced in the late 1800s. Just as fashionable today as it was then, this is one piece that’s sure to impress your guests.

Sleigh Bells

Antique sleigh bells have become hotly collected recently but to make your seasonal decor sing (pun intended), incorporate bells of all kinds. Their shine and festive ring make them a natural holiday accessory. Tuck them into greenery arrangements, use them as ornaments, or hang them on a doorknob to announce the arrival of family and friends. Many modern reproductions exist but to find vintage or antique versions, search local antique stores or reputable online auction sites.

Pretty Porcelain

Prized for its pure white color and ability to mold with intricate details (like Santa's tiny fingers), most vintage figurines are made of porcelain, rather than the heavier and coarser earthenware. While porcelain itself is surprisingly sturdy, small details can easily be broken off over time. To protect your cherished pieces, place them where they're unlikely to be knocked off by kids or pets.

Vintage & Reproduction Feather Trees

Genuine feather trees made out of goose feathers are still available for purchase but can be expensive. Fortunately, reproductions can be found in natural pine colors along with more whimsical whites, pinks and blues. These trees look perfect simply decorated with some clip-on candles and are ideal for small spaces.

Antique & Vintage Toys

Toys and Christmas are a natural pairing. Bring out old dollhouses, train sets, ride-on toys and rocking horses to fill in gaps under the tree until new presents arrive on Christmas morning. Decorating with vintage toys is especially sentimental when you use well-loved toys owned by family members.

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Vintage Skis

Antique wooden skis, ski poles and snowshoes are all screaming to be used as holiday decor. Hang them on the wall or lean them against a piece of furniture to showcase their rich, time-worn patina. The best part is that they can easily transition into winter decor once the tree comes down.

Nutcrackers

We naturally think of the brightly painted wooden soldier and Santa varieties of nutcrackers, but this season is also a good time to bring out vintage and antique nutcrackers that are a little less showy. Sit one in a bowl of unshelled nuts to invite guests to have a healthy seasonal snack.

Dishes

There are so many beautiful patterns of Christmas dishes to choose from that there's bound to be one that works with your color palette and style. The sets can either be used throughout the holiday season, brought out for special meals or simply displayed in a hutch as seasonal decor. Look for patterns that are food- and dishwasher-safe, so they're both functional and decorative.

Retro Candleholders

Nothing boosts your dining table's style cred like antique and vintage Christmas collectibles, especially when they're family hand-me-downs that add a sentimental touch. But, don't worry if you didn't inherit your grandmother's funky starburst candleholders. Many Christmas collectibles can be found for a steal at estate sales, flea markets, church bazaars and garage sales.

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Stoneware Crocks

Antique ironstone crocks, originally used to house everyday food items like salted meats, pickles and butter in the days before refrigeration, make a beautiful base for live evergreen or faux trees. Learn how to take care of these century-old collectibles, below.

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Flocked Animals

Often referred to as Kunstlerschutz, vintage German flocked animals are a sweet addition to holiday vignettes. Also frequently known by the name of their most famous maker, Wagner Handwork, the handmade flocked creatures from the '40s, '50s and '60s can be hard to find in good condition. Originally created as kids' toys, the tiny animals were often played with, resulting in broken legs or rubbed-off areas of flocking but, even with some damage, their charm is undeniable. Find the real deal on online auction sites or keep your eyes peeled for modern reproductions. like these cuties.

Weathered Buckets

Buckets are another great antique find that makes a charming container for a fresh Christmas tree or seasonal potted plant. They can also be filled with goodies and given as a hostess gift. Look for buckets that are sturdy, in good condition and can be cleaned. Tip: Before adding a live plant, be sure to add a plastic pot liner if the bucket isn't watertight.

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Hand-Me-Down Quilts

Some heirloom quilts are too fragile or tattered to use as bedding, but they're too precious to throw away. Repurpose one into a charming, cottage-style Christmas tree skirt by using the largest intact portion of the quilt. Our step-by-step instructions, below, show you how.

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Christmas Pyramid

These German Christmas pyramids have become more accessible through import stores in recent years and are a beautiful, easy centerpiece to bring out for the holidays. Just tuck some greenery and candles around them and you're done. If buying vintage, make sure all the windmills are intact and carefully inspect each small character for breaks, missing pieces or sloppy repairs.

Metal Matchstick Holders

Both practical and pretty, these compact containers were designed with a small hole near the top so they could easily be tacked to a fireplace surround or the adjacent wall to keep long wooden matches handy. You can still use them for this same purpose today or follow our lead and loop ribbon through the nail hole to turn the metal cone into a faux greenery-filled chair swag.

Pedestals & Cake Stands

Of course, pedestals and cake stands can be used any time of the year, but the best holiday decor can be used throughout the year. Think beyond cakes and bundts and use these decorative serving pieces to add height to a centerpiece or buffet arrangement. Place an advent wreath on top or a small nativity scene. Surround the pedestal with greenery, pinecones, seasonal fruit or nuts and candles.

Baskets

While baskets aren't conventional holiday decor, they can be extremely handy when creating displays. Look for baskets that can be used to hold Christmas trees, rolls of pretty wrapping paper, poinsettias, or even hung on the front door as a wreath.

Moravian Stars

Moravian stars have been a popular part of holiday decor, particularly for people of German descent, since the mid 1830s. Ranging from six points to over a hundred, the typically 16 to 26 pointed stars are often seen as illuminated paper or glass lanterns. Many smaller papier-mâché ornament versions exist, often covered in German glass glitter. Paired with fresh-cut evergreens, seeded eucalyptus, aromatic eucalyptus, pomegranates and a trio of old and new glass topiaries, this century-old star really shines.

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Candle Clips & Holders

Bring back the nostalgic look of pre-string-light Christmas decor by adding some vintage clip-on candle holders to your tree. Light real candles on Christmas Eve (for a short time, never unattended) or fit modern battery-operated candles into the vintage holders. These candle clips can also be incorporated into tabletop greenery arrangements.

Light Reflectors

The awesome thing about vintage metal light reflectors is that most of them will fit over new lights. They add a vintage look with safer, modern wiring. The reflectors are best installed over larger C9 lights — whether clear, frosted, ceramic or colored.

Santas

Jolly Old St. Nick can be found represented in a variety of decorative mediums from ceramic to felt to fabric to papier mâché. With so many options, the key is to be selective when starting or adding to a collection. Only buy pieces you really love and that work well with your collection as a whole.

Mittens, Hats & Scarves

Vintage and antique hats, mittens and scarves, especially those that are handmade and/or hand-me-downs, are a beautiful addition to holiday vignettes. Use a scarf as a table runner or wrap it loosely around the base of a small tree as a stand-in for a tree skirt. Mittens can be used to hold gift cards or as mini stockings for candy or advent gifts. Hats can be hung on hooks in an entryway as part of a wintry display.

Brass Trays

Brass is one of those rare materials that gets better with age as the metal's surface takes on a rich, warm patina with time and use. So, don't worry about cleaning it, just put that old brass tray to work to add a festive golden gleam to holiday bar carts.

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Garden Totes

Bring the outdoors in and the summer to winter by mixing garden elements into your holiday decorating. A vintage garden tote makes a perfect place to arrange fresh greenery clippings and candles as a coffee table centerpiece. The empty rows of flowerpots can also be filled with small bottlebrush trees, pinecones or even foil-wrapped chocolates or candy canes.

Or, Tool Totes

Use a vintage wooden tote or caddy to hold a collection of smaller gifts. Wrap the small gifts in coordinating paper, and tuck each into a cubby, making a fun display that can be used for organizing once the gifts are unwrapped.

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Stockings

Vintage Christmas stockings, particularly the handmade variety, are also great collectibles. Hang them on staircase banisters, hooks in the mudroom, or even on each interior door of the house as a make-shift wreath. Fill them with a treat for the room’s occupant each morning as the countdown to Christmas begins. Mini stockings can be numbered and used for advent gifts, gift card holders or strung together as a whimsical garland.

Antique Bread Boards

Kitchen workhorses, like timeworn cutting boards, bread boards and chopping blocks have transitioned from being purely functional and hidden away out of sight when not in use to character-rich pieces that are kept constantly on display. When decorating your kitchen this year, work them into the decor by using them to serve up seasonal sweets or to create a rustic backdrop to a colorful wreath. Learn how to make your own clementine wreath to gift or display, below.

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Lanterns

Candle-filled lanterns are an undeniably beautiful way to brighten up any area, either indoors or out, for the holidays. To eliminate any fire hazard, sub battery-operated candles for flickering flames.

Vintage Sleds

Some antique sleds are pieces of art with their handpainted detail, gracefully curved runners or woven seats. Hang them on the wall, use them as a stand for a tabletop tree or even use them as a centerpiece on a large table. They also make easy, unique porch decor.

Handmade Ornaments

Vintage and antique Christmas ornaments are highly collectible and pretty widely available at antique stores and online marketplaces. Keep an eye out for ornaments that were handmade instead of mass-produced to create a unique collection. Some popular homemade ornament styles are those made from natural elements like pinecones and nuts, papier mâché, beads, yarn, fabric scraps or are adorned with German glass glitter.

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