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Decorating
Decorating with Christmas Antiques
Antiques dealer Nicole McCay shares her secrets for achieving vintage charm with Christmas antiques.
With traditions and nostalgia taking center stage this time of year, it’s not hard to see why the holidays bring renewed love for the old. Southern California- based antiques dealer Nicole McCay takes her collections of vintage treasures and accents them with Christmas touches every year. She loves filling her home with festive cheer and... Keep Scrolling
Written by REBEKAH WAHLBERG
Photography by BRET GUM
Styling by JICKIE TORRES & KAREN WILHELMSEN


With traditions and nostalgia taking center stage this time of year, it’s not hard to see why the holidays bring renewed love for the old. Southern California- based antiques dealer Nicole McCay takes her collections of vintage treasures and accents them with Christmas touches every year. She loves filling her home with festive cheer and Christmas antiques. Here’s how she gets the perfect blend of natural, vintage and holiday décor to get her family in the Christmas spirit.

Vintage Christmas cottage display in front of charmingly decorated bottle brush trees.
GLITTERY FUN. Vintage sparkle and decorated bottle brush trees make a magical vignette.

GO NATURAL

Manmade holiday decorations are all well and good, but there’s something extra special about bringing in the accents Mother Nature has to offer for the holidays. “I create the perfect holiday look for me by mixing in natural elements with my vintage goodies,” Nicole says. Accents such as evergreen garlands, boxwood wreaths, holly sprigs, pinecones and, of course, a real Christmas tree bring the outdoors in for the season.

“I create the perfect holiday look for me by mixing in natural elements with my vintage goodies.”

Wooden table and chairs set up for a holiday feast complete with a red table runner and bright colored Christmas accents.
DASH OF GREENERY. Nicole spices up her kitchen nook with a fresh garland woven into the chandelier— she loves the way fresh greenery makes her home smell during the holidays. A cheery red table runner complements the natural vibe. The transferware and vintage silverware aren’t just for display; they are used on special occasions.

LAYERS ON LAYERS

Nicole displays her antiques in layers: stacked and staggered on tables, in cabinets, on shelves. She keeps the collections contained in carefully curated vignettes, grouping her treasures in places that keep her home from looking cluttered or museum-like. Nicole says another important element of decorating with antiques is being intentional about making her spaces feel approachable—that’s why many of her collections are out in the open, not behind glass or stored in a cupboard.

A vintage green entryway table adorned with a village of bottlebrush trees and putz houses next to an elegant candelabra.
WARM WELCOME FROM SANTA. The entryway displays a forest of colorful bottlebrush trees and a large Vaillancourt Santa Claus—a splurge purchase of Nicole’s. A snow-covered town of cardboard putz houses and a painting of a Christmas tree complete the look. Down below, part of Nicole’s vintage suitcase collection is displayed with pride.
Vintage cabinet decorated with German Putz Sheep and Christmas postcards.
CURIOUS AND CURIOUSER. German Putz Sheep adorn this lovely vintage cabinet.

“I have many open-shelved areas where you can get up close and explore,” she says. The trick is to incorporate vintage Christmas without overwhelming what’s already there, so sprinkle some Christmas cheer with a sprig of holly here or a Santa Claus figurine there.

CHRISTMAS ANTIQUES COLLECTION

When shopping for holiday treasures, take your time. “For me, it’s all about going slow and checking every nook and cranny,” Nicole says. “I think we’re able to unearth more treasures that way.” She found a trio of antique German wax angels wrapped and buried in a box—something she might have missed if she weren’t so meticulous.

Light green walls surround a vintage white dining set with a hutch behind it.
HOLIDAY FEASTING. The formal dining room features a mix of real and faux garlands in the chandelier, as well as a centerpiece made from a bowl full of mercury-glass ornaments. The bright bulbs bring a pop of color to the natural, neutral palette. The pale green wall color allows the white-painted furnishings to really shine.

Also be friendly. Nicole stops to chat with every vendor she visits, and she’s made some long-time friends that way. Not to mention that the vendors she’s friends with will shop with her in mind and give her great deals.

Lastly you should be shopping year round for the holidays. “It’s getting harder to find Christmas antiques, so grab it when you see it!” Nicole says. You’ll get better deals, too, if you shop for the holidays when the décor is out of season.

WHAT TO COLLECT NOW

Nicole McCay shares her top tips for what’s trending…

A large and lovely decorated Christmas tree topped with a red bow and surrounded by vintage suitcases and wrapped gifts all next to a vintage sleigh.
ONE-HORSE OPEN SLEIGH. One of homeowner Nicole McCay’s favorite Christmas pieces—a vintage sleigh she found at a local yard sale for only $75—finds its home next to her Christmas tree, along with part of her vintage suitcase collection. On the tree, ornaments collected over the years enhance the room’s nostalgic appeal. An antique birdcage by the window is dressed with a simple wreath.

• Japanese Santa Claus figurines: Rosy-cheeked and bright-eyed, these papier-mâché dolls bring Christmas cheer wherever they go. “They make me smile with their quirky faces and little hands clutching their pipe-cleaner trees,” antiquer Nicole McCay says.

• German putz sheep: These little decorative sheep with wooly bodies and stick-thin legs are full of Old World personality.

• German wax angels: Treasured by collectors and families alike, rare décor made from wax is often handed down as an heirloom through generations. But there are also modern imitations. If the wax stays creamy and opaque in the light, it’s a real antique; modern wax ornaments will turn translucent.

• Antique ornaments: From gorgeous and intricate glass-blown bulbs to simple pipe-cleaner creations, Christmas tree ornaments are never out of style.

• Vintage bottlebrush trees: A classic in the pipe-cleaner family, bottlebrush trees are a darling addition to Midcentury Modern-inspired style.

Want more simply beautiful ideas? Check out this post on a Historical Christmas Beauty.

Of course, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest to get your daily dose of cottage inspiration! 

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