There’s something so magical about an old home, full of character and lovingly cared for, especially when it’s been decked out with holiday decorations. Need proof? Look no further than Chloe Chiuminatto‘s gorgeous 1905 condo (those built-ins though). Chiuminatto and her husband have transformed their new home for the holiday season, with not one, but two picture-perfect Christmas trees, tons of soft lights, and plenty of traditional red and green accents. The finished look is nothing short of stunning.
Read on for advice on how to decorate a small space, the best tips for building a Christmas decor collection, and how to start a new kind of holiday tradition while still holding onto the old tried and trues.
Name: Chloe Chiuminatto | @electedpotato
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Sq. Ft: 2,100
When do you start decorating for the holidays?
Pretty early — we always start decorating the weekend after my birthday, which is November 5th.
Tell us about your holiday decorating process.
This year was a brand-new process, since we just bought our first home in September. In our previous apartments, everything was pretty routine after the first year or two. Because of the new space, it did take some time tying everything together. For instance, this was our first year with two trees; the flocked tree in our parlor was given to us by my dad who is in the process of downsizing. Separating out the ornaments we already owned between the two trees was the first thing I did, while my husband actually assembled the trees and hung lights. Once the trees are up, I figure out all the rest of the decorations and make of list of anything we need to buy new to fill in.
How do you budget when it comes to decorating seasonally? (Things can get expensive for such a short time of the year!).
My husband and I both have a hard time sticking to a budget when it comes to Christmas decorations. It’s a weak spot for us and there’s plenty of impulse purchasing that occurs, but usually we are just filling in little places or finding things we really love. My mom gave me and my sisters ornaments every year growing up and had a lot of decorations sitting around unused that we were able to take. If there are things I really want, I’ll drop hints for my sisters as birthday gift ideas. That’s how we got our stocking holders this year (from Anthropologie), since this was our first year with an actual mantle. And antique stores and Black Friday deals are always a great way to stay in a healthy price range.
Where do you shop for holiday decor?
I try to balance between small local shops and bigger chains like Target, World Market, Crate and Barrel, and Anthropologie. I love to pick up ornaments when we travel too.
Do you have any holiday traditions that are special to you?
We make a family recipe for coffee cake that has been passed down for generations. It’s monkey-bread-style, and each ball of dough has a maraschino cherry inside, is rolled in butter and finally coated in cinnamon sugar. We make a kind of assembly line as a family to put the cakes together and it’s always a fun project. Many things have changed over the years, but this is still a tradition we keep each year in some fashion.
Do you have any tips for readers who may live in smaller apartments (and who are on a budget) who might not be able to decorate to their heart’s desire?
Since this is the first time I’ve had such a large space, I’m well-accustomed to decorating smaller ones. I used to look up snowflake patterns and cut out my own beautiful snowflakes and tape them up on the walls and windows. It sounds silly, but it was really lovely. And you can find really well-priced twinkly lights and garlands at Target, or even at Walgreens. Adding those above door frames or windows can add a lot. And for a fresh pop of color, poinsettias are at basically every grocery store during the holiday season.
What was your childhood home decorated like at the holidays, compared to your own as an adult? Did you take any influence from your childhood when putting your own together?
My childhood home had two trees — the kids’ tree and the “nice” tree. The kids’ tree was covered in figurine ornaments, Disney, muppets, etc. with colored lights. The nice tree was the real one we would go to cut down as a family. It had all the Lenox and Waterford ornaments my parents collected over the years and white lights. We also had these cutesy stockings with little animals that sang songs. I have an eclectic taste and collection of ornaments because of our childhood home, but I try to tie things together a bit more cohesively. There was a lot about our decorations that were made to appeal to children, which isn’t how my house is decorated now.
How has decorating for the holidays evolved over the years for you?
I work harder now to buy quality items that will last and be more timeless rather than accumulating cheap fixes or items that are only trendy for a while. There’s a lot about Christmas that can be very materialistic and wasteful. I think over whether I’ll find a use for what I’m buying for years to come.
Have you slowly been collecting your holiday decor over the years, or did you purchase it all at once?
Definitely the former!
Do you have a favorite ornament on your tree?
I have a favorite set of ornaments, but I can’t narrow it down to just one. My mom gave me the Lenox series of nutcracker ornaments for over 10 years before she passed away and I always looked forward to them. It turns out she had them set up to automatically ship every year, so it’s like she’s still buying them for me even now. They feel like magic to me.
What’s your favorite piece of holiday decor that you own?
I’m finding it impossible to choose! But for the sake of answering, I’ll say the flocked garland my husband found in my parents’ basement a few years back. I didn’t remember it ever being up at our childhood home, so they must have had it sitting in that box for ages. He revived it and gets excited about putting it up every year.
Overall, what’s your favorite thing about celebrating in your home?
My main aim with decorating is to create a cozy and comforting space. When we entertain guests during the holiday season, I love to see their faces light up when they see the Christmas trees and the rest of the decorations. But most of all, I really love seeing my loved ones get comfy here and settle in for some good conversation or a Christmas movie.
What does your Christmas morning look like?
It’s never exactly the same now that my sisters both live in different states, but Christmas morning always starts with some of our family recipe coffee cake, tea, and coffee. Then we take turns opening presents and really take our time. Eventually we make a big breakfast together. It’s a lovely laid-back morning; there’s no rush and nowhere else to be.
Do you have any holiday traditions you haven’t started yet, but are planning to?
We’ve decided this year we will begin celebrating Christmas in early January when we can all be together as a family with my sisters, brothers-in-law, and nephew. It’s the easiest way to do it for everyone and I don’t mind at all since it makes the Christmas season a bit longer.
Chloe Chiuminatto is The Everygirl…
Hot chocolate or hot cider? Cider
Favorite Christmas song? “Sleigh Ride”
Favorite Christmas movie? Muppet Christmas Carol
Favorite Starbucks holiday drink? Can’t remember the last time I made it into a Starbucks, but our local coffee shop has a “make it spicy” version of their chai latte that I love with oat milk.
The best gift you’ve ever given? When I was in college and on a tight budget, I hand-painted little snow scenes on ornaments for my loved ones. It felt a lot more personal than just shopping deals on Black Friday and I love seeing them up on their trees to this day.
The great debate: when do you start listening to Christmas music? Honestly, sometimes as early as October. But not in earnest until we start decorating in November.
What’s at the top of your Christmas list this year? I haven’t really made one this year, but I did drop a very large hint to my husband when I was making three pies for Thanksgiving that I really would love a French-style rolling pin.