The Christmas Cottage

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I love the Christmas season, and I'm so excited that it's finally time to start sharing the holiday content I've prepared!  First on the list:  The Christmas Cottage, designed for Bird's Party Magazine.

I came up with the idea for the Christmas Cottage last year, as we were setting up our Christmas trees.  We love having our trees up from the day after Thanksgiving until New Year's day, so we've been using artificial trees since before our girls were born.  Every year, as I put up our artificial tree (though lovely), I feel nostalgic for the real Christmas trees of my childhood.  I was sad that my kids had never experienced having a real Christmas tree, garlands made from real evergreens, never smelled that intoxicating scent when walking into the house.  And so I hatched a plan to renovate my daughters' backyard play house into a pint-sized Christmas wonderland.

We'd built the play house about four years ago, and while it was downright adorable on the outside, it was just bare studs on the inside.  And worse, my older daughter had decided to redecorate it herself with whatever she could find on the craft shelf, and it looked a bit like a blood spatter analysis scene from Dexter in there.  First order of business:  clean and paint!  An adventure in and of itself letting a 3 year old help!  The paint job is nowhere near perfect, but we had fun doing it together, and my little one is so proud that she helped make the project.  That's more important than perfection.

Decorations started outside the house, with fluffy fake snow (as close as we get to the real thing here in Phoenix), and window boxes full of real greens, felt poinsettias, and pink ball Christmas ornaments.

I made a matching wreath to adorn the door.  I made all the wreaths, garlands, etc. myself with evergreen trimmings from my yard and friends' yards.  It was so easy and quick, I'm not sure I'll ever go back to store-bought wreaths and swags again!

The inside of the Christmas Cottage was, quite frankly, a magical place.  It was exactly what I had envisioned, and it utterly captivated my girls, who have spent more time in it in the last four weeks than they had in the last four years.  

I upholstered the walls with an old set of sheets that I've had since I was a small child.  They'd only been used for blanket forts for years, and I was thrilled to find such a perfect new life for them.  Who cares if the fabric is a bit threadbare in a shabby-chic Christmas Cottage?  And the price was perfect!

A real Christmas tree full of handmade ornaments was, of course, the centerpiece of the play house.  

These little yarn and felt mice were probably my favorite project from the whole Christmas Cottage.  I'll have a tutorial coming up soon!  You'd be surprised how easy they are to make.

My amazingly talented cousin Stephanie from Imagine Our Life created a set of felt Christmas ornaments to match the Christmas Cottage theme.  She has the free patterns and instructions for the entire set (and much, much more) on her website here.  

Several decor items were inspired by the Christmas Candyland printable set from Bird's Party.  I painted this little robin based on the design of the printable collection, and used the printables themselves in traditional and non-traditional ways.

I added lace and twine to make Christmas ornaments, decorations for presents, and garlands.

Straw flags and name tags were used in traditional ways, but I had fun embellishing them and making them perfect for my purpose.  A little lace, felt, and hot glue can make a huge difference in just a few minutes!

A small wrought-iron table and chair set was purchased from Craigslist  They're heavy, sturdy, and unbreakable.  Just what I needed for a kids' space, and at just $30, a great bargain!

No Christmas Cottage would feel complete without a fireplace and stockings hung on the mantle.  A little bit of molding from Lowe's, some leftover pink spray paint, and a bit of tissue paper and I had the perfect place to hang the stockings I made.

And speaking of the stockings, I'm pretty impressed with how I did those.  Nice quilted stockings, right?  Let me just admit right now that I am NOT a quilter.  I've tried.  And failed.  That is simply not my skill.  But you know what I can do with my meager sewing skills?  Buy a seriously inexpensive quilt off Overstock, and use that as fabric to make beautiful quilted stockings, tree skirts, ornaments--and still have enough left over to make a quilt for the reading loft!  Plus, it came with two pillow shams for the loft.  Which meant I didn't have to make them!  Yes!

You might recognize this chandelier from several of my other parties.  I keep re-inventing it in new ways, this time painted a pale pink and embellished with a wreath of fresh greenery and some pink Christmas ornaments.  A gingerbread man hung from the center added a whimsical touch and smelled delicious.

Gingerbread houses are  a big deal in our family, so of course our Christmas Cottage had to have one.  

Bite sized sugar cookies were the perfect treat for our little Christmas tea party.

And what little girl wouldn't feel special wearing this gorgeous bow from Pickles and Piggies?  Her work is absolutely amazing, like no bow-maker I've ever seen before.  The way she manipulates and creates new things out of ribbon is absolutely remarkable.

Felt mistletoe was easy to make, and so cute.  Plus, any excuse to get more kisses from my sweet girls is a good one!

Sheer curtains, garland, and Christmas lights made the Christmas Cottage an absolutely magical place when the sun set.

It's my hope that the warm glow of the lights finds a special place in my daughters' hearts, creating equally warm, special holiday memories for them.  

Nicole Wills, creator of Tikkido