How to throw a nostalgic holiday party, John Derian-style

There’s something about the holidays—especially this year—that brings about a welcomed sense of nostalgia for days gone by and warm memories of togetherness. Whether you’re reminiscing with cousins by the fire at your great aunt’s house or shout-singing to Mariah while blasting the heat in your sedan, it’s just a generally cozy, sentimental time. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

When it comes to palpable nostalgia, few do it better than our very own design partner John Derian—the retro decoupage extraordinaire with a knack for collecting quirky, dimensional decor and throwing unforgettable parties. From pickles to princess pine, read on for Mr. Derian’s holiday hosting quick-tips, and get a first look at his brand-new collection of vintage-y online holiday cards for Paperless Post.

 

His favorite holiday party tradition

Serving my guests stuffed grape leaves and kufta shipped from Masis Bakery—this great little place in my hometown of Watertown, Massachusetts that sells Armenian and Middle Eastern pastries and food. 

 

Left: A holiday invitation featuring poinsettias. Right: A feather tree with ornaments and a bust.

Euphorbia” by John Derian for Paperless Post. | Photo Credit: John Derian

 

The one decor item he can’t get through the holidays without

No question, my little vintage feather tree.

 

Classic holiday textiles or patterns that’ll never go out of style

You can’t do Christmas without red velvet, kerchief prints, and gingham.

 

His advice to holiday party hosts

Don’t go it alone! Whether you hire help or ask friends to help, allow yourself the time to enjoy it, too.

 

 

John Derian’s home decorated for the holidays with greenery and flowers.
Photo by Stephen Kent Johnson

 

Where he spends most of his holiday decorating energy

The parties [my partner] Stephen and I have hosted are always fun to create. We’ve hung garlands around the ceiling, doorways, and windows using simple princess pine. Once, we used a bunch of bare organic trees (grown in the wild—the more scraggly, the better) throughout the house… it was a really nice way of bringing the outdoors in and creating a little winter wonderland.

Aside from that, we always add lots of candles, fresh flowers, and of course, plenty of candy from Stowaway Sweets in Marblehead, Massachusetts.

 

Left: Close up of a tree hung with pickle ornaments. Right: A holiday party invitation featuring holly.

Branches de Houx” by John Derian for Paperless Post | Photo Credit: John Derian

 

Some advice for decorating a Christmas tree (hint: it involves pickles) 

When it comes to Christmas, I think more is more. We only have one small tree—an antique feather tree—so it has no scent. But I do like to have a little bit of that pine scent inside around the holidays, so I often decorate with fresh garlands, too.

You can really do whatever you want as far as decorating is concerned—a themed tree, something that matches your decor, or just fill it up and go crazy. I have some antique mercury ornaments that I love that are very faded pretty colors. I didn’t personally grow up with the holiday pickle ornament tradition, but I find it charming and I’ve loved collecting them for the past 10 years. I’m always searching for new pickles! [Editor’s note: These John Derian Christmas ornaments should have him covered.

 

The key to a successful holiday dinner party table 

I like a simple buffet. It’s easier for people to come and go to the food table, especially if there is snacking going on throughout the night.

 

John Derian’s sink decorated for the holidays with glittery lobsters and navel artwork.

Photo by Stephen Kent Johnson

 

The one thing you need in abundance when hosting a holiday party 

Water.

 

How he hopes guests leave his parties feeling

Love! Feeling loved.

 

Left: A holiday invitation featuring a vintage tree illustration. Right: A corner of John Derian’s home decorated for the holidays.

Ponderosa Pine” by John Derian for Paperless Post. | Photo by Stephen Kent Johnson

His favorite holiday party invitation in the new Paperless Post collection

Ponderosa Pine.” It features an early 19th-century German Christmas tree that I found in a scrapbook I’d been holding onto. It’s probably only half an inch tall, but it has such an iconic silhouette.

BRB, shopping for an adorably charming vintage feather tree, then immediately sending out invitations for all my friends to come help decorate it with pickle-shaped ornaments. You too? Check out John Derian’s new holiday cards for Paperless Post now.  

 

Browse John Derian

 

Hero photo by Stephen Kent Johnson