You don’t need a large home to go vintage. Blogger Janey Ellis of Atomic Redhead and her husband Patrick Arlt are all about the retro Christmas vibe. Stepping into their apartment in Orange, California, you’d think you took a time machine back to the 50s. “My dad was into classic midcentury hot rods, so we would go to car shows, listen to the oldies station and watch old TV shows,” she says. “Growing up, I saw the imagery so often that it became appealing.” With aluminum trees, retro signs and Heywood-Wakefield furnishings, this home provides the ultimate midcentury holiday experience.
The key to any successful Christmas theme is the home’s non-seasonal foundation. As Janey’s furniture is all by Heywood-Wakefield, a midcentury theme was a must. “My parents were in the antiques business, so I’ve always loved vintage,” she says. With her midcentury dining room table and chairs, coffee table, credenzas and bedroom vanity, the stage was set for a ‘50s wonderland; all she had to do was add her personal touch.
Aside from its retro vibe, Janey’s collections are what makes this house unique. “I started collecting in high school, so for the past 13 years,” she says. Her father inspired most of her early collections with his enthusiasm for the season.
“My dad is obsessed with these Santa Clauses with their velveteen suits and rubber bodies,” Janey says. “They were really popular in the 40s and 50s and became a staple of my childhood.” After taking a couple from her dad’s collection, she began to collect her own, placing them on tulip chairs, couches and shelves as a reminder of her childhood. But that’s not the only thing she and her dad share during the holidays.
“My dad and I made an agreement that we would buy any and all aluminum trees that we found at $65 and under,” Janey says. “We owned 24 at the height of our collection. I kept [the tradition] going, but lowered the price to $40, because I have so many.” Whether big or small, colored or neutral, these trees are in almost every room of Janey’s home—decorated with space-themed ornaments.
When it comes to vintage items, sometimes it’s necessary to get creative to make it work for your desired purpose, and reinventing these pieces allowed Janey to better display her Christmas collections. She found a Heywood-Wakefield vanity at an estate sale that was missing a shelf, but that disuade her. “Without the second shelf, it fit my records,” she says. The old Bonanza Christmas album is one of her favorites, as she grew up listening to non-traditional Christmas music with her family.
After searching for years, Janey also found a rare Heywood-Wakefield room divider. She removed the shelves and turned the bottom half into a credenza. “In the 50s and 60s, they didn’t have entertainment centers like we do,” she says, “so finding a midcentury piece to hold your TV is difficult.” The bottom half now holds her TV as well as various Christmas décor pieces, and the shelving unit holds her velveteen reindeer collection.
It took several years and numerous antiques-store trips to procure the collection Janey has today. Though she has her favorite places to go, she suggests not being picky right before Christmas. “There are some antiques stores I don’t go to as often, but in November, I will go to any and every antiques store,” she says. “You never know what’s going to crop up during the holiday season.”
For more home tours, repurposing tips and easy and fun holiday DIYs, check out our sister magazine’s annual special, Vintage Holiday. We’ll help you bring a midcentury appeal to your Christmas home in no time.