Monday, December 5, 2011

Haunted Victorianesque Christmas - Trees

When I first began this post, it seemed rather run-of-the-mill with ideas that can be
found in most decorating magazines on news stands this time of year. So I decided to
go back to basics. I realized that when you do Victorian decorating every year for
the holidays, you do not think much about what sets it apart.

One of the things that has always made a Victorian tree stand out is the appearance
of candle light as candles were traditionally used to illuminate the Victorian
evergreen. This practice, however, is frowned on these days, most understandably. If
one is fortunate, they can find string lights with small imitation
candles holding soft white or pale yellow lights that can be clipped to the branches
of modern Christmas trees. I would recommend sites such as Victorian Trading Co.,
which we all know is one of my favourites, yet, for budget reasons, I will keep it
simple. Multi-coloured lights are quite popular and most of us remember them fondly
from our days as miniature kinderspawn, but in as much as they are a great retro
throwback, they do not give the same warm feel of candlelight needed for our
Victorian tree. In lieu of clip-on candles, a few strings of white or pale yellow
lights on your tree give the same warm, twinkling effect, and if placed toward the
inside of the branches, closer to the trunk, will do wonders to backlight your
ornaments, rather than overpower and hide them. A few lights brought out to the end
of random branches, though, will bring out the sparkle and colours of ornaments hung
at the very end of the boughs. I have included a snapshot (at top) of my tree pre-ornaments so as to illustrate the power of plain white lights. Not only do they make the tree glow, but also bring out the colour of backdrops such as draperies (one of my favourite accents to a well-decorated tree.

When it comes to ornamentation, begin with the basics. Consider the colours you want
to go with. Victorian colours are not always pastel. That is a Spring thing. For
Christmas and Winter events, think deep, rich jewel tones such as garnet, burgundies,
deep Victorian reds, and a Goth favourite, purple. Also keep in mind the need for an
accent colour in a metallic. This can be silver, gold and even copper or bronze
colours, depending on the effect you are looking for. Gold and bronze will add more
warm tones, going great with the reds, even burgundy, while silver is a brilliant
accent to go with Winter colours like purple and most blues. I often go with larger
sphere ornaments in the base colour, using smaller ones in the metallics. At this
point, it is easy to get creative.

A small side note here. For the following examples I used a four foot tall "entryway"
tree that sits in a Grecian-style urn. The reason I mention this is to point out the
fact that your Victorian tree can be any size or width you choose. Queen Victoria's
beloved husband actually went so far as to hang trees from the ceiling at Balmoral
Castle adorned with candles in addition to those standing on tables and surrounded by
gifts. And when you are as maniacal as me, it is nice to have different sizes and
themes for different rooms. And now to share some of those themes.

I have included two photos using purple as the base colour, and silver as the accent.
Instead of ball or sphere ornaments in silver, I came across the best little silver
pine cones in glass. You will see in a bit where they actually wound up for the rest
of the season. Also note that in the first photo, rather than using tinsel (very
UNVictorian) or garland, the tree has been draped in black lace. Running it behind a
purple ornament gives the appearance of an even deeper purple, the lace is pressed
back against the lights, allowing a bit of a glimmer between the black strands. In
the second photo, the lace has been replaced with a semi-opaque silver floral ribbon.
The silver helps the cones to accent the purple, brightens the tree and ads even more
shimmer. Changing something as simple as the type of ribbon or lace used can make a
huge difference in the feel of your tree and draw the eye to the ornaments you want
best showcased.

In this next set of photos I am killing two proverbial birds with one stone. We are
now treading slowly into the realm of haunted trees. The first step comes from using
old red ornaments. These ornaments are actually older than most of this blog's
readers. They were originally a bright red, but over the years the colours have faded
and morphed into a mixture of old red and burgundy. I included a close-up snap to
show where the colour has chipped and worn off in places. In the first photo, I was
fortunate enough to come across a ribbon at the craft store that resembled spun
sugar, or spider webs. In a warm gold/bronze colour, this thin ribbon makes a nice,
subtle accent. Following that is a bolder, wide floral ribbon in a red/purple organza,
depending on the angle of light, and bearing a lovely Victorianesque cross and jewel

Just as with our Victorianesque Hallowe'en, the goal of this blogger when it comes to
holidays is to bring out the reminiscent side of the old haunted house. No gore, no
scare, just the abandoned, slightly worn, faded, all-but-forgotten imagery of the
home's old grandeur. Using antique ornaments can give your tree a feeling of that
sepia-toned memory the house clings to when Victorian children sat cross-legged on
the floor in front of a crackling fireplace, now sitting empty and cold, as they
listened to stories on Christmas Eve. Now their ghosts still sit listening, vague
outlines of worn little knickers and ruffled skirts brushing neglected wooden floors
and the storytelling is reduced to a barely audible whisper to the living. 

Now if you are wanting something a bit more, shall we say...spooky, we can do that,
too. If anyone read my All Hallow's post on Hallowe'en trees, hopefully you still
have your black, leafless creations and purple or orange lights handy. As time was
not on my side this year, I was reduced to bargain store branches painted black and
rolled in glitter. But guess what.. they worked! They had been fitted with purple-
ish/fuschia lights and fit perfectly in an old Grecian urn I just happened to have.
For ornamentation, those little silver pine cones came in most handy. And as my walls
are painted a deep gray, the lights create a hauntingly wonderful visual in a lonely

There. Now we have the basics down. The rest, as I always say, is up to your
imagination, so run with your creativity! Make the look yours. Grab your personal
Victorian theme and go to town. Having the basics: ornaments, lace, ribbon, colours,
down, add ornaments that suit your nature. Add bows (VERY Victorian), or browse some of the Etsy shops whose links I have listed below, to get ideas or to induce your shopping gene and give some much deserved business to very talented individuals. Keep it as simple or go as FAR over the top as your personality wishes.

For your perusal: (You remember this wonderful store from one of my previous posts)

And these are just a few. OH... and if you have any spider webbing left over from
Hallowe'en, try that on the very tips of the branches instead of tinsel. Be sure to
check the flame retardance of the product first, but I guarantee that when it billows
just slightly in the most subtle breeze, your haunted tree will certainly be

Now I am off to finish decorating the main tree in shades of cocoa and aged bronze
with a little gold (glittered real pine cones). I will post a photo once it is done.
Next post (almost assuredly)... Lighting.

Until then... Break out the ribbon and sparklies. Your evergreens await.
Raven =)

1 comment:

  1. Great ideas!! I never thought about ribbon for garland. And my favorite idea putting webbing on the tree!! I have a Halloween Tree I leave up all year and a little webbing on it will be great!!