Shawna Davidson's Thrifted Christmas
Story by Shawna Davidson
Photos by Micah Zimmerman Amdak Productions
Whether you are a “jingle all the way person” or are feeling a little like “Scrooge”, it’s that time of year again to rummage in your attic and drag down all those boxes of holiday decorations! For me, it’s all about getting out that glittery goodness; that giant glitter bomb, which consists of garlands, wreaths and shiny baubles. Not a glitter person? Don’t worry; traditional, vintage, rustic and glam are just a few examples of all the ways to do it up for the holiday season.
In this issue I will showcase three dining rooms all decked out with three different styles. “A Collected Christmas” designed by Steve Johnson, “A Thrifted Christmas” designed by Lynette Neuschwander and “An Eclectic Christmas” by yours truly, Shawna Davidson.
Whether you go all out or keep it simple this year, I hope these homeowners inspire you to pour yourself a holiday cocktail, hang the Mistletoe and get your decorating on!
I am a Fargo native; wife, mom of four mostly grown kids, and dog mom of three. I love rearranging, and reimagining all my vintage treasures in our English Country home. I am an avid thrifter and love the history or what I imagine that history is of all the items I bring home.
I have to admit, when I first started thinking about Christmas decorating this year, I told my husband I was not in the holiday spirit. Which I think he was secretly hoping I meant it…so he once again wouldn’t end up at work with glitter on his face, a sore subject in our house.
I moved on and as I began to decorate for this article, I started thinking about my childhood Christmas memories and realized those moments are such an important part of my life. My Grandpa whistling “Silent Night”, sounds of laughter coming from the living room and the smell of ham and pies wafting from the kitchen are all memories I truly cherish.
As the Holidays approached each year, my Dad would always ask my brother, Tim, and I if we wanted presents or wanted to take that money and travel to visit our relatives. Of course we always chose the latter. We fired up our Greyhound Bus converted into a motorhome and were off! I remember as soon as we got to Grandma Myra’s and Grandpa Roy’s house in Pocatello, Idaho, we would set up the small tabletop tree and gather the heirloom decorations.
I always had the honor of putting the ornaments on the little tree but we always argued about who and how to put the tinsel on. Do you remember tinsel? I wanted to throw it on and my mom wanted to strategically place each piece on the tree. Since I usually won, I’m thinking it must have looked
like a shiny debacle, every kids dream.
After Christmas the tinsel was carefully put away piece by piece and placed back in the basement ready for the following year. I’m not sure what happened to those decorations but I have those joy-filled moments that I will always treasure.
“What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future.” Agnes Pahro
Dining room #1
An “Eclectic Christmas”
The 1930s South Fargo home of Scott And Shawna Davidson
As I began to put the ornaments on my tree I was transported back to my Grandma and Grandpas living room in their little pink house. (I think that’s where I got my love of pink from.) I realized those memories and moments have shaped me into who I am today and why I love the holidays so much. Those family members are all gone now and I have my own family and traditions to carry on, so I decided this year more than ever it would be important to keeps things normal, well as normal as it can be in this strange year.
I am a very non-traditional person – I don’t do red, I stick with the colors in my home and just add gold, white and silver. I also like to shake things up and use ordinary things in my holiday décor just spruced up a bit! This year I wanted to make people smile so I chose to be whimsical and think outside the box.
I kept my dining room pretty simple with garlands, flowers and candles on the table and buffet. Simple place settings and a small piece of art add a little personality.
My tree was Chinoiserie inspired; pretty cups, saucers and salt/peppers were my starting point, gathered from various sales. Oversized monkey and tiger ornaments are just whimsical and have a “Gucci” vibe. I went a little wild on top - a girls gotta have a little fun.
I went a little more of a traditional and vintage mix in my butler pantry. My tree is adorned with my vintage collection of mini art prints and frames. I feel nostalgic when I look at it, thinking of Christmas’ past. I was once again filled with emotion and knew I needed to make this year special.
“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.” Bob Hope
Dining Room #2
“A Collected Christmas”
The North Fargo home of Steve Johnson and Jack Rydell
Steve Johnson has a 30 year background in custom framing, art sales and design consulting. Formerly at SCHEELS Home and Hardware, Johnson is currently the Manager at Heirlooms Thrift and Gift, an upscale resale store in Fargo. He is passionate about incorporating his antiques and family heirlooms into his décor. “My grandparents and parents all collected antiques, you could say it runs in the family,” Johnson said.
The 1986 home is a five-level split which allowed the dining room to have 12’ ceilings. The ceilings were highlighted by creating a stunning garland and ornament wrapped chandelier, all the way to the ceiling - a true feast for the eyes. A collection of French and Czech crystals are lovingly hung off the chandelier to create drama. The homeowners favorite Santas, glassware and china are displayed on the dining table that is ready for a celebration.
The Christmas tree is filled with family heirloom tea cups given to Johnson over the years from relatives. “I like to incorporate the antique cups into my holiday design, I feel it honors my family who gave them to me,” said Johnson. Cardinals also adorn the tree in tribute to the red birds that often frequent their yard.
Over the years, Johnson has moved to using white lights, but this year chose to incorporate some colored lights in his design. “We always had colored lights as kids growing up, I was feeling a little nostalgic this year and added in a little pop of color,” recalls Johnson. “Like part of my childhood is on display.”
The buffet area showcases Steve and Jack’s love of French antiques. The beautiful mirror, sconces and lion were all found locally. The festive wreath that hangs on the mirror is another nod to Johnsons childhood memories.
“Growing up I remember we always had our tree up by my birthday, December 7th. That’s not early by today’s standards but in the 70s and 80s it was. I started decorating earlier and earlier as I got older, currently around Halloween,” said Johnson. “I am reminded of that special time as a child every year as I unpack my cherished decorations.”
“We are better throughout the year for having in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime.” Laura Ingalls Wilder
Dining Room #3
“A thrifted Christmas”
The South Fargo home of Lynette and Darin Neuschwander
Lynette has a background in Fashion Merchandising and has a love of all things thrifted. Both of these are very apparent in her closet - beautiful high end outfits and jewels were all purchased secondhand for a fraction of the cost. Her thrifting is not limited to just clothing and accessories; vintage Chinoiserie treasures, statues and art are evident throughout the home.
“It’s the thrill of the hunt, you never know what you’ll find,” said Neuschwander. After downsizing from their large North Moorhead home three years ago, Neuschwander had to be picky about the treasures she chose to keep, everything has to have a place and purpose in their smaller 1950s brick rambler. “I think I’ve had the decorating bug since I was a child,” she said.
The Neuschwander’s dining room is 100% thrifted from the table and chairs, candles, candy dishes, even the tassels are all local finds. “I was inspired by my recently found vintage ceramic Majollica fruit topiaries. I feel it is a different take on a traditional Christmas tree,” said Neuschwander. A conventional Christmas tree isn’t always necessary, whether you have a small studio apartment or just don’t want to be bothered with a large tree, small tabletop trees, vintage ceramic trees (like the green ones with the colored lights Grandma always had) or fruit topiaries can all be festive and bring the holiday spirit.
Neuschwander started her camel collection for her table last year. “I just had to add a few more camels found from manger scenes and spray them gold,” she said. “Inexpensive finds can create dramatic table scapes.”
A large bird bath from Goodwill was painted and is the base of the corner display. A small faux tree and lantern from Dakota Boys Ranch add just the right amount of festivity to the cozy dining room. “Christmas is a great time to use thrifted décor and can be purchased for a song,” said Neuschwander. Trees, garland, lights, figurines even unopened wrapping paper and cards are plentiful this time of year.
As Neuschwander decorated she was reminded of one of her favorite childhood memories.
“In middle school my family had an ‘Old fashioned’ Christmas,” recalls Neuschwander. The real tree was decorated with gingerbread men and houses they made into ornaments. Popcorn and cranberries were also strung to make garlands. “I don’t remember what I got for Christmas that year, but I do remember the joy of our family working together to decorate a beautiful tree,” she added.
No matter how you spend your holidays this year: decorating Christmas cookies, Christmas movie marathons or zoom chats as you virtually share a holiday meal, from our family to yours we wish you a warm and happy holiday season filled with joy and laughter.
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Midwest Nest Magazine features home designs in its monthly print and online publication.