Holiday decor: Retro motifs bring home sparkle, style
Midcentury and 1970s-’80s motifs are strong players on the home decor stage, and that includes holiday decor too. These retro styles have a different kind of energy than traditional, nostalgic, holiday decor does.
No deep and evocative snowy forests here; no minimalist yet rustic urban farmhouses or hygge-inducing fairy lights.
Instead, you’ll find more of a sparkly, giddy vibe. This look is all about the holiday party; Santa’s riding a rocket instead of a sleigh, and the family tree might be tinsel instead of pine.
There are reproductions of vintage ornaments — lots of geometric, teardrop and onion shapes — as well as stars, sputniks, dancing elves and even the occasional dancing Christmas tree.
In the ’70s-inspired collections, there are trees, figures and ornaments encrusted with mirrored mosaics, like disco balls.
The Lil Umbrella studio in Concord, California, has wrapping paper printed with retro ornaments in a very midcentury palette of aqua, red, white and gold. The studio’s owner, Susie Ostrowski, wanted to create holiday wrap that’s whimsical and fun.
“I love retro-inspired illustration because it’s such a great way to do that with style and personality, and it brings out a little feeling of nostalgia, too,” she says. (www.etsy.com/shop/TheLilUmbrella )
Artist Robin Soltis and her husband, Alvin, run Scotch & Cream, a Los Angeles studio they bill as “all things modern, beautiful, nostalgic, familiar and comforting.”
“We’re both in love with midcentury modern style,” she says, “so we create most of our products with that aesthetic in mind.”
Soltis laser-cuts ornaments out of solid wood so they’ve got an interesting tactile quality.
“Our wood ornaments are a fun throwback to the vintage baubles from midcentury Christmastime,” she says. “We hand-stain each piece of wood a dark warm shade that reminds us of the quality materials that were used to make furniture during that period.”
There are four different designs, and they can be hung as decorations or used as gift tags. (www.etsy.com/shop/ScotchandCream )
Graphic designer Landon Pelt of Dallas does cartoon-style illustrations of ’60s-era holiday scenes.
“I’ve been a midcentury modern cartoon enthusiast since my childhood in Southern California,” says Pelt. “So when I started drawing, I naturally discovered a 1960s minimalist undertone combined with Palm Springs-style architecture in my artwork.”
The scenes depict kicky, Jetsons-era holiday soirees in cool midcentury abodes. Pelt says he leaves out facial features on his cartoon revelers “so that no matter what you look like, you can see yourself attending the chic cocktail parties thrown by my kitschy little friends.”
Illustrations can be ordered on throw pillows, canvas or poster prints. (www.strangelittleonion.com )
If you’re interested in some of the history behind this style of holiday decor, have a look at Sarah Archer’s book, “Midcentury Christmas” (Countryman Press, 2016). It offers up vintage ads, articles and background on midcentury designers, as well as some of the era’s popular imagery.
At the Swiss design firm Vitra, you can find midcentury designer Alexander Girard’s holiday ornaments — playful shapes like a mouse, sun and heart crafted in gold metal. (www.vitra.com )
Or make an eye-catching display with Grandin Road’s 12-inch gold starburst ornaments; they come in a set of three. (www.grandinroad.com )
CB2 has several nice options for a retro holiday theme: There are trees and figures festooned with mirrored mosaics, as well as disco ball ornaments. A wreath made of white and gold metal dots makes a frothy, festive accessory for the mantel or front door. Create an atomic constellation using sputnik-shaped gold and silver ornaments made from glass. Or opt for a 3-D mobile effect with a set of gold-toned wire ornaments in retro shapes. (www.cb2.com )