Designers say that both deserve their place on your table, mantel, and Christmas tree at home.

By Caroline Biggs
November 09, 2020
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floral table settings for Christmas
Credit: Thomas Loof

'Tis the season for decking your halls out in holiday décor, and few items are more spirited than family heirlooms. "Family heirlooms are more unique, personal, and nostalgic than traditional holiday decorations," interior designer Isabel Ladd says. "They bring forth past memories of loved ones and special times." However, figuring out how to combine both old and new heirlooms in the same décor scheme can be tricky. "I usually invite my vintage pieces to take the lead, using those colors as a jumping off point," says Emily Spanos of Emily June Designs. "I then supplement with additional new items that modernize the look with fresh sprigs of pine over the fireplace, or colorful velvet ribbons tied to my tree."

Looking for more advice about how to blend family holiday heirlooms with new ones when decorating your home this year? We asked a few interior designers to share their insight, and this is what they had to say.

Thoughtfully layer in heirloom ornaments on a Christmas tree.

When mixing old and new heirloom ornaments on a Christmas tree, Ladd says picking a consistent color palette is key. "Start with ornaments in similar colors, such as gold, champagne, and silver, that read as neutral," she says. "With the foundation in place, start to layer in the special family heirlooms mixed with some new ornaments you have collected. I like to use color as a thread to tie everything all together while using clear white lights for cool, crisp twinkle and light."

Show off heirloom ornaments in a cloche.

If your heirloom ornaments are too fragile to hang on the family tree, John McClain suggests mixing both new and old ones in glass cloches to create a design-savvy holiday scene. "Choose cloches in varying heights, turn the glass portion upside down, gingerly place the ornaments inside of the glass until almost full," he advises. "Then, add the bottom to the cloche, a small piece of clear tape on the back to connect the glass to the base, and hold your hands on each as you slowly turn it right-side up. Voilà! You just elevated heirloom ornaments into a display piece in less than five minutes."

Use holiday heirlooms as a table centerpiece.

If you're searching for a stylish way to show off an assortment of heirloom ornaments, Spanos says to consider integrating them into your holiday tablescape. "Simply fill a bowl with a mix of heirloom ornaments as a centerpiece for your dinner table," she says. "Guests often take notice of them there more than they would if they were hanging on the tree."

Design a mantlescape with holiday heirlooms.

Your fireplace mantel is brimming with holiday design opportunity—it just takes the right mix of heirlooms. "Keep the foundation simple by using evergreen, pine, or magnolia leaves," Ladd advises. "Then, layer in heirloom ornaments or pieces. The key is to stick with just a few colors, like evergreen, gold, and white, to allow your heirlooms to shine without looking out of place."

Color block with holiday heirlooms.

If you're lucky enough to have a collection of holiday-themed heirloom pottery or fine china from different time periods, McClain suggests grouping them by color on a shelf, mantle, or tabletop. "You will be amazed at how powerful various non-related objects can be just by grouping them with similar colors," he explains. "Make sure you vary the heights, shapes and sizes, this keeps the eye wandering and things more interesting."

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