Colorful & creative retro Christmas decor from the 60s & 70s

Christmas decor inspiration and tablesettings from 1960 - Retro style (2)

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A bouquet of colorful light bulbs and Christmas lights (1970)

A bouquet of colorful light bulbs and Christmas lights (1970)

A geometric retro Christmas tree made out of striped straws (1972)

Decorated with ornaments made of papier mache or cut from tin cans, Designer Gere Kavanaugh’s peppermint-stripe tree — made of drinking straws — can hang almost anyplace.

First, make small tetrahedrons or tepees: Run fine wire through six straws; shape three into a cone at the top, and use three to connect the bottom points; join by twisting wire ends together. Use one tetrahedron for the top of the tree, and add another at each point, tying with pipe cleaners.

The second row will contain three tetrahedrons; the third row, six; fourth, 12, and so on. Continue this process until the tree is as tall as you wish — a 48-inch tree (six tetrahedrons high) is shown here.

The papier-maché ornaments were painted with tempera and then finished with a coat of clear varnish.

A creative retro Christmas tree made out of drinking straws (1972)

Tall colored Christmas “candles” for outdoors (1970)

A picturesque portal is a must for the holiday season. What you want is something decidedly different — something that extends a distinctive “welcome” to the family and friends on your doorstep.

But outdoor decorating isn’t easy, as you’ve probably discovered from Christmases past. Too much is gaudy — too little, insignificant. Most often, outdoor trappings are merely afterthoughts — a few skinny strings of lights slung over a nearby spruce or around a doorway. Well, don’t discard the lights. Do something inspired with them!

Towering torches are habit-forming. Once you’ve created a couple of these candle-like beacons, you’ll want to add others in different colors every year.

Form the body of the ornaments with sheets of translucent colored heavy-gauge plastic, wrapped around and fastened into tubes with clear plastic tape.

Bases are made with two-foot-square pieces of 3/4-inch plywood. Reverse a brass or chrome ceiling light fixture (so the bulb extends upwards) and nail the collar to plywood. Then screw a small outdoor spotlight into the socket for a warm glow. Insert plastic tubes in the collar and firmly secured by tightening the screws in the base of the collar.

You can vary the height of your torches by cutting wide sheets of plastic, varying lengths with an art knife. Once they’re made, you’ll have them as a lasting hallmark for your home.

Tall colored Christmas candles for outdoors (1970)

A white table sculpture: A castles of candles (1971)

Candles, gleaming and white, and the magic castle they build — a king’s residence that could only exist in the wonder of Christmas Night.

Assembled from candles of all sizes and shapes and trimmed with shining silver appointments gleaned from the stationery store and the five-and-ten, the Christmas castle crowns a holiday table or lights a frost-crazed window.

Huge holiday castle made of white candles - Christmas decor from the 60s

Paper spheres with colored plastic windows & lights inside

We’ve taken paper sculpture spheres in 10-, 15-, and 22-inch sizes and turned them into impressive entryway ornaments.

Spray one side of the paper with clear plastic spray to winterize it. (Even if your decoration is placed in a protected area, snow and rain may soften the cardboard.)

On the reverse side, tape colored acetate [or cellophane] over the cutouts. Follow the printed instructions for assembling spheres, omitting one piece from each ornament. [Editor’s note: We have not been able to find these sphere kits in the 2020s, but you could probably assemble your own by cutting large circles out of posterboard, then cutting out a smaller circle from the inside of each piece. Fold the outer edges into five equal flaps, letting a pentagon shape be your guide, and then join the flaps as shown here.]

Glue together the three different sizes with the smallest at the top. Insert a light socket and bulb through the open portion of each. Fasten the sides in place with a small paper fastener.

Acetate windows will reflect pinpoints swirling, glistening light.

Retro Christmas spheres with colored plastic windows and lights inside

Decorating a 60s home for Christmas with lots of garlands (1963)

Decorating a 60s home for Christmas with lots of garlands (1963)

Christmas centerpieces

At Christmas time, you want to set a bountiful, beautiful table, with your very best china, a cherished old lace or damask cloth or a special new one in brightly-colored fabric.

You want a holiday centerpiece of tall white candles and fresh greens and holly, or pink and red roses, or clusters of frosted fruits, or a bowl of shining tree ornaments.

You want a centerpiece for every dining table, the small one by the living room fireplace for after-dinner coffee, and the kitchen breakfast table, too. But the most festive one of all, of course, belongs on your dining room table, where you gather round for a Merry Christmas dinner.

Christmas centerpieces (1962)

Below: Circle of candles and holly, filled out with a generous border of blue spruce, against a bright blue cloth.

Christmas centerpieces (1965)

Below: Pink and red roses, live greens, holly leaves sprayed gold, and tall white candles on a shocking-pink cloth.

Christmas centerpieces (1963)

Below: Basket, piled high with holly, and hurricane candles, blue spruce boughs and artificial fruits on a red cloth.

Christmas centerpieces (1964)

Sparkling decorative Christmas tree cake (1968)

This year, stage a Christmas spectacular… with a glittering, glistening eggnog cake!

Shape it like a starry Christmas tree, deck it with silvery garlands made from foil. On high, put a shining angel, and at the base, rock candy crystals to reflect dancing candlelight.

Sparkling decorative Christmas tree cake from Seventeen (1968)

Amazing candy houses for kids (1975)

Amazing candy houses for kids (1975)

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