December 11, 2023
Deck Your Halls like 'The Gilded Age' This Christmas
Christopher Ehlers READ TIME: 13 MIN.
If you're as obsessed as we are with the fabulous drama of the NBC-turned-HBO drama series "The Gilded Age," then chances are you've fantasized once or twice about living amidst such regal glamor.
In "The Gilded Age," created and written by Julian Fellowes, drama unfolds surrounding two families that live across the street from one another on New York's Upper East Side: one old money family and one new money family. Naturally, the old money family looks down its nose at the new money family as they try to claim their place in upper class society.
In addition to this prestige, soapy drama offering a healthy dose of eye candy by way of visuals, the cast is also a venerable who's who of beloved New York stage actors featuring the likes of Carrie Coon, Cynthia Nixon, Christine Baranski, Kelli O'Hara, Donna Murphy, Debra Monk, Michael Cerveris, and Audra McDonald. Think of it as an American "Downton Abbey" (also created by Fellowes) with the delicious drama of The Real Housewives.
But why Gilded for Christmas? Well, as it turns out, Americans reinvented Christmas during the Gilded Age, and many trappings of the holiday as we know it today are directly reminiscent of traditions that started in the late 1800s. For example, the mailing of Christmas cards, decorating trees, singing carols, and hanging stockings are all traditions that Americans made their own near the end of the 19th century. The commercialism of Christmas, too, is something that began during this time.
Thankfully (or not, depending on your idea of a merry Christmas), there are some Gilded Age traditions that have not necessarily continued into modern times, like engraved party invitations, black tie and top hats, and long gowns and tiaras for the women.
But one of the reasons that Christmas and the Gilded Age continue to go hand in hand is because of the decorations: elaborate trees covered in lights, expensive velvet ribbon, and beautiful ornaments purchased from a store. Prior to the Gilded Age, Christmas looked a lot different. And although electric tree lights, velvet bows, and elaborate ornaments are no longer a sign of extreme wealth, they are an indisputable part of how most people celebrate the 25th of December.
While purchasing a Gilded Age mansion is one way to immerse yourself into a such a world of excess, we have another suggestion, one that's slightly more realistic for most of us: Go Gilded with your décor this holiday. After all, there are few design schemes more ornate, warm, and cozily festive than this 19th Century era.
Generally speaking, there are a few hallmarks of Gilded Age décor that should be kept in mind: Ornate is always a good idea, luxe pillows and fabrics can make all the difference, and gold, texture, patterns, or minute detail is totally fair game.
Thinking of bringing some old money elegance to your holiday decorations this year? Here are some items we love.
Gilded Glamour 54-Piece Ornament Collection, $349.30
If you've got a big tree and you're planning on a total overhaul of your ornaments, we love this massive set that makes decorating your tree a one and done. This collection is entirely in gold and pearl-colored glass, giving your tree that classic gilded monochromatic look but with each piece still remarkably original. Frontgate.
Mixed Gold Ornaments, $31.50
If you've got a smaller tree (or don't feel like copping 54 new ornaments this year), these classic balls are an affordable and simple way to give your tree that Gilded Age look. They're also universal enough that they'll blend with virtually any décor. But remember: Only white lights on your tree! Pottery Barn.
Christmas Bells with Faux Greenery Door Décor, $10
Understated is not a word that is typically applied to Gilded Age design, but these door bells are a relatively understated way to bring some festive gold cheer to your front door. Target.
Cascading Garland, $90.30
When in doubt, hang garland. Everywhere. If you've got a big mantle you want to adorn, or even a piece of furniture that could benefit from a little draped garland, this light-up garland from Grandin Road is a great way to start. They're studded with 70 little lights, upping the festive factor significantly. Grandin Road.