Blogger Karen Bertelsen shares her gorgeous holiday decor that has the perfect blend of traditional and kitschy decorations.
A connoisseur of secondhand chic, Bertelsen knows where to find fabulous vintage treasures and—just as importantly—how to haggle. That gilt baroque mirror behind the sofa, for instance, was a yard sale gem she talked down to just $3. And those outrageously expensive antique ornaments sprinkled throughout the space? They were snagged for a song when Bertelsen gought a bulk container of baubles at the Christie Antiques Show.
Even if you’re not inclined to hoarding, holiday decorations have a curious tendency to multiply. Fight the urge to put every last ornament on display and, instead, pull an edited selection from the ever-growing stockpile. “If you don’t set it all out, you can actually focus on individual ornaments,” says Bertelsen, who tapped just three-quarters of her stash for this year’s decorating scheme. “Just because you don’t use a decoration one year doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth buying.”
The plush-looking perch in the corner of the living room looks significantly less shaggy after the holidays. “It’s actually a little mustard-coloured chair that I found on the curb. I just toss a Mongolian throw over it in the winter,” says Bertelsen. “It changes the whole look of the room in an instant.”
If Bertelsen’s mix of vintage finds and budget-friendly buys looks effortless, there’s good reason. “The moment I stopped caring about whether everything went together is when everything started to go together,” she says. “Maybe it’s because I’m at a place in my life where I’ve got a handle on my own sense of style. You just get to know what you like, and everything works.” Sofa, eq3.ca. Table lamp, crateandbarrel.com. Drapes, fabricland.ca. Rug, costco.ca. Cloud White CC-40 paint (on walls), benjaminmoore.ca. Design, theartofdoingstuff.com.
Rein in your decorating materials and you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve—not to mention how seamlessly everything comes together. “Give me burlap, pine garland and sparkle, and I’ll give you a holiday,” says Bertelsen. Of the three basic components, it’s burlap that fuelled her festive refresh, weaving its way through each room in a number of inspired applications. “Burlap is the pauper’s linen,” she says. “It’s natural, it drapes beautifully and it’s cheap. I love burlap!”
Although most of the festive greenery is freshly cut and delightfully fragrant, Bertelsen makes an exception on the mantel, where faux spruce garland frames her signature swag of burlap. “Nothing dries out evergreens like the heat from a roaring fire,” she says.
Bottlebrush trees are a seasonal decorating staple, but when have you seen them serve as protective cover? Vintage toy soldiers not only bring a quirky one-of-a-kind flourish to Bertelsen’s fireplace vignette, but they also have sentimental value—they were childhood favourites of her late father.
Instead of hanging these stunning antique ornaments on the tree where they’d be lost in the mix, Bertelsen came up with a crafty way to put them on display. “I drilled holes into a piece of barn board and attached Ikea cupboard handles as legs,” she says. “Although I use it to show off favourite ornaments at Christmas, it’s an egg holder the rest of the year!”
The Victorians may have been fussy, but they knew how to accessorize. In fact, the Victorian practice of displaying accessories under glass is still a great way to elevate everyday decorations like these bottlebrush trees.
Bertelsen’s home dates back to the 19th century, so it was only natural for her to take a few decorating cues from Christmases past—particularly when it came to dressing her dining table. “I wanted to do Downton Abbey— what they would’ve had in the kitchen, not the upstairs,” she says. That translated into period-appropriate decorations such as the zinc candelabra, pinecones and oranges (“Though they never would’ve had that many oranges—or sparkly pears—back then,” she laughs).
Some decorations have been in Bertelsen’s arsenal for years, but her most recent finds earn prime real estate. The latest addition to the lineup, a matte black candelabra gets maximum exposure as a striking centrepiece for the dining table.
With its pared-down palette of whites and warm woods, Bertelsen’s home has a somewhat Scandinavian vibe. In keeping with that style, plush sheepskins are scattered throughout each room—not only underfoot but also on the dining table bench in the form of cozy seat cushions. “I have a cowhide rug that stays out year-round, but the sheepskins all get put away for the summer,” says Bertelsen. “They feel more special when you bring them out for only a few months of the year.”
Despite its ornately framed antique oil portrait, the dining room is far from stuffy—and that’s not just because Bertelsen has taken to cheekily calling the portrait “Margaret.” Rather, contrasting contemporary furnishings, such as sleek Panton-style chairs, have given the room’s traditional trappings a shot in the arm.
Bertelsen fashioned her own tree skirt by winding a few yards of burlap around the base of the tree—and not just because of her affinity for the fabric: she was frustrated with the meagre proportions of ready-made options on the market. “Unless you wrap only four presents, store-bought tree skirts just aren’t big enough,” says Bertelsen, noting that virtually anything can be repurposed for this oft-overlooked slice of seasonal decor. “In my Carrie Bradshaw years, I even used a vintage fur coat!”
It’s increasingly en vogue to dispense with a tree topper, but Bertelsen has a very practical reason for following the fashion. “The ceiling in the foyer is only seven feet high, and I always want to mash the biggest tree possible into the space,” she explains. “If I allowed room for a star, I’d have to settle for a tiny tree.”
More than just a gift, a gorgeously wrapped package can become part of your holiday decor. Bertelsen traded in store-bought gift wrap for a roll of kraft paper, a few yards of rhinestone ribbon and some dollar store tags for a DIY approach that strikes the perfect balance between rustic and refined. “That bit of sparkle from the ribbon is just what was needed under the tree,” she says.
Forget everything you’ve heard about picking a specific colour scheme for your Christmas tree. Bertelsen has found that vintage ornaments defy conventional decorating wisdom. “No matter their colour, antique ornaments always seem to go well together,” she says. “They share the same patina, and that’s enough.”
Guests receive a warm welcome from this stylish sentinel—a made-over mannequin that Bertelsen lifted from decidedly unglamorous surroundings. “I found it in the garbage,” she laughs. “There are two of them, actually, and I normally put them on either side of my living room entrance on Oscar night as big gold statuettes.” This year, however, she dressed one in swathes of burlap, cinching the waist with tightly knotted rope. To finish the festive ensemble, she tucked cedar boughs under the rope, which she then covered with a length of burlap ribbon.
In lieu of a ready-made bow, try your hand at the rustic rosette that Bertelsen used to dress this pretty present. Fold a two-foot by threeinch strip of kraft paper lengthwise, creating three accordion-style one-inch folds. Roll the folded strip to create a coil, then attach the loose end to the outside of the coil with clear tape. Affix the rosette to a wrapped gift, and give it pride of place under the tree!
While the snow blanketing Bertelsen’s woodpile is the real deal, the frosted windows on the shed came straight from a can. “At first I thought, This is going to look like spray snow on the window. And you know what? It does,” she says. “I just love a bit of kitsch at Christmas!”
Photo courtesy of Thinkstock Credits: Photo courtesy of Thinkstock
Getty Images Credits: Getty Images
If you can't find time to hit the gym, you can still do an at-home workout with a quick search on YouTube. Here are five fitness channels that will help you work up a sweat.
Don't feel like going to the gym? No problem. Recently, YouTube has undergone a fitness revolution as trainers post exercises and routines that you can do at home or on the go.
Searches for "home workouts" are on the rise across Canada, and YouTube fitness gurus are stepping up to meet the demand. "There are over 11 million videos on YouTube with 'home workout' in the title," says Google and YouTube trends expert Jenn Kaiser. And you don't have to limit yourself—the videos offer everything from Pilates and yoga to ab and HIIT challenges. We asked Kaiser about the top trending fitness crazes in Canada and the best workouts to try for each.
1) For your yoga fix
"Searches for yoga have been on a steady rise over the past eight years. Today, almost 3.8 million videos have 'yoga at home' in the title," says Jenn.
What to watch: Get a little zen at home with our pick, Yoga with Adriene, which has more than 1.3 million subscribers. With lessons for all skill levels and options to sweat and tone or relax and meditate, this channel has something for everyone. One of Adriene's most popular playlists is her Yoga Boot Camp, a 30-day program designed for beginners to fully immerse themselves in the yogi lifestyle.
Why we love it: Adriene breaks down yoga moves for beginners so you can learn them step-by-step.
Don't miss: Yoga for Complete Beginners, 30 Days of Yoga (Day 1) and Power Yoga.
2) For a fun fitness challenge
"Fitness challenges are a huge trend on YouTube," says Kaiser. "They typically involve a combination of different exercises that you repeat, and eventually work up to 200, 500 or 1,000 reps." We might not be completing 200 squats anytime soon, but we like the idea of using a challenge to motivate ourselves to get moving.
What to watch: Blogilates (3 million subscribers). Cassey Ho, the creator of Blogilates, is known for her POP Pilates videos, where she combines Pilates moves with Top 40 hits to make fun challenges for her subscribers. Blogilates is the perfect channel to visit if you're looking to test your limits, with videos featuring squat, ab and push plank challenges, and even a flexibility challenge. Ho's energy and spirit make your Blogilates session something to look forward to.
Why we love it: Ho creates a free, printable monthly workout calendar for subscribers, with each day devoted to working a different part of the body. Her channel also features a segment called "Cheap, Clean Eats," where Ho provides cheap but healthy meal and snack ideas that anyone can make.
Don't miss: Ho's Call Me Maybe Squat Challenge, which is one of the top squat challenge videos on YouTube with more than six million views. Other notable picks: What Makes You Bootyful Butt Challenge and The Ultimate Hot Body Workout.
3) For the ultimate abs
There's no shortage of ab videos online. In fact, "there are over 42,000 'ab challenge,' videos on YouTube" says Kaiser. But some are better than others.
What to watch: BeFiT (2.1 million subscribers). With their 30-day six-pack abs program, BeFiT is the perfect channel to visit to feel the burn. By combining routines from top fitness trainers like Jillian Michaels and Jane Fonda, BeFiT has established a reliable team that will whip you into shape in no time. Aside from ab videos, the channel has a range of exercises to help you tone and build muscle, from Pilates to dance exercises. With their 30- and 90-day workout programs, it's easy to keep up a regular fitness regimen.
Why we love it: BeFiT uploads a new video daily, so you'll never have to wait around for a new routine.
Don't miss: 6 Week Six-Pack Abs, 10-Minute Cardio Dance Abs and Jillian Michaels: Standing Abs Workout.
4) For a high-intensity sweat session
"Searches for HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts are at an all-time high in Canada," says Kaiser. "HIIT workouts consist of intense bursts of activity and fixed periods of rest. They have many scientifically proven benefits, and are known to increase metabolism, burn fat and improve cardiovascular health."
What to watch: Our pick for your Hiit challenge is Tone it Up (561,000 subscribers). Founded in 2008 by two best friends, Katrina Scott and Karena Dawn, Tone it Up brings a new approach to fitness with a focus on community and sisterhood. Their enthusiasm and friendly tone makes you feel like you're working out with a group of girlfriends rather than two trainers. Their goal was to create a group for women to stay connected, through their online community and the #TIUgirls hashtag, which allows women to support each other on social media throughout their fitness journeys.
Why we love it: Their videos are filmed on the beach in sunny California and will have you dreaming of your next vacation and how toned your body will be.
Don't miss: Hump Day HIIT!, HIITy Bitty Bikini and Boxing HIIT Workout!
5) For an express workout
If you only have a few minutes for a workout, you might not have time to get to a gym. Luckily there are plenty of express workouts available at the touch of a button.
What to watch: Fitness Blender (3 million subscribers). Fitness Blender was created by Daniel and Kelli Segars, a husband and wife personal trainer team. They started their channel with a mission to make fitness accessible to everyone regardless of income. They provide the perfect resource for at home fitness with over 350 videos for home training. With more than 120 express workouts that you can do in 10 minutes or less, you have no more excuses for skipping your workout.
Why we love them: Their interactive website lets you pick your workout length, calorie burn goal, body focus and equipment so you can have the ultimate at-home session tailored to your needs.
Don't miss: 10 Minute Abs, 5 Minute Butt and Thighs and Quick 10 Minute Core.
Need a workout that requires nothing but a smartphone? Check out these free apps that will make your workout better.