by Erin McNelis, Photography by Ethan David Kent
Popular PBS personality from the show Market Warriors, interior designer, and life-long antiques collector Bob Richter’s new book, A Very Vintage Christmas is so much more than a guide book for how to decorate with found treasures. The narrative begins by taking the reader on a trip through time from the 1800s to the 1980s discussing not only what ornaments were used but why and what they meant to the people who hung them. According to Richter, people’s love of Christmas décor is deeply rooted in our need for continuity. When the world outside changes all the time, it is a comfort at Christmastime to look back and remember the stories and traditions and people who populate Christmases past. Vintage and antique ornaments help connect us to those memories.
“Vintage ornaments are conduits for connectivity, so when we see them, we think of those who made Christmas special for us, and we share those stories with others,” says Richter. “That’s been one of the most amazing things about the book for me, hearing people’s stories when they see photos in the book that remind them of Christmases past. I believe we can use these things today and honor the past while living in the now. That’s why I offer up lots of ideas in the book for reimagining how to display some of these things.”
Richter’s own story begins where all Christmas stories do: in childhood. “My dad started me out by handing me a box of beautiful old ornaments and saying, ‘It’s time you started collecting something, and I know you like Christmas,’” says Richter. His father and brother took him to auctions, flea markets, and yard sales to find vintage Christmas items waiting to be discovered and loved.
A Very Vintage Christmas opens with the fact that 100 years ago, only one out of every five households in the United States put up a tree. Now the tree is the main focus for many, but if you don’t have room or choose not to have one for another reason, Richter suggests other ways to display treasured vintage ornaments, like placing a group of them in a glass bowl or creating a vignette on a side table or book shelf. “No space is off limits when it comes to Christmas decorating,” says Richter. “The same goes for objects.” One of his style heroes, Diana Vreeland, noted fashion columnist and editor, said, “The eye has to travel.” Richter suggests letting color, rather than the objects themselves be the guide. “Your eye will follow the color and you will have harmony,” says Richter.
The books gorgeous photographs by Ethan David Kent showcase the vintage and antique holiday decorations Richter has spent his life collecting, many from family members, and in particular his grandmother. Because the ornaments and other decorations span Christmases past, the reader is sure to recognize a favorite or two from their past. By savoring and remembering, readers add their own stories to its pages.
A Very Vintage Christmas is available on Amazon.com, in Barnes and Noble stores, and at many independent stores throughout the country. You can also find it and Richter, too, at The People’s Store in Lambertville, where he operates an outpost. Other locations in the area include Farley’s in New Hope, Olive with a Twist in Frenchtown, Bountiful Acres in Holicong, Stone House Antiques Center in Mechanicsville, and The Doylestown Bookshop. Many local events are scheduled beginning mid-November. For a complete list of events, please visit www.averyvintagechristmas.com and click on the buy tab.
“I really do enjoy all things vintage, and these river towns are a perfect place to live a vintage life,” says Richter. “It is a beautiful historic area where we know our neighbors, with antiques venues and auctions as well.” Richter is busy writing his next book.