A Summit Home Decked Out for the Holidays

Each Christmas season, blogger and self-taught decorator Kelly Elko transforms her hundred-year-old house into a winter wonderland. 

The dining room of Kelly Elko's Summit home, decked out for Christmas
Kelly Elko breaks out a bevy of festive baubles every December. Photo by Kelly Elko

As Kelly Elko’s 47,000 Instagram fans rely on her for holiday decorating inspiration, they might not realize her residence didn’t always look so cheery.

“When my husband and I first laid eyes on our home in 2007, he said it looked like a knockdown,” Elko admits. But 15 years later, after a total gut job and countless visits to estate sales, flea markets and thrift shops, the charming Summit property is a winter wonderland bursting with treasures from the past.

Inside the 1913 colonial-style home, the fireplace mantel is set with an ice-skating themed scene. In front of the antique chalkboard (snagged for free at a garage sale) is a whimsical calendar page that Elko had enlarged to 24 square inches at her local Staples store. Also gracing the mantel are Home Goods deer figurines and vintage-looking feather trees with miniature, mid-century Shiny Brite ornaments. “I like to use what I have around the house. Sometimes it might not be holiday-themed, but it can easily be made festive by adding a bow or a sprig of holly,” Elko says. 

Kelly Elko's dog, Sushi, in a red and green sweater on the couch of her Summit living room, decked out for Christmas

Sushi, Elko’s trusty sidekick and a social media darling, hangs out in front of the family’s decked-out fireplace mantel. Elko swaps out her holiday decor each year. Photo by Kelly Elko

Sushi, the family’s beloved Boston terrier, is Elko’s elfin sidekick, appearing in hundreds of images since the homeowner wrote her first blog post in 2011. “Those who follow my kellyelko.com blog know that I like to mix old and new, high end and low priced, for a one-of-a-kind look. If I like something and the price is right, I add it to my collection,” Elko says.

What exactly does Elko collect? A better question might be, what doesn’t Elko collect?

Collections of Elko's Christmas trees and ornaments

Festive baubles abound on nearly every surface. Photo by Kelly Elko

“I especially have a thing for vintage ornaments, Santa mugs, ceramic light-up Christmas trees, holiday trays and ice buckets,” she says. “Decorating doesn’t have to be complicated or pricey. It can be fast and easy—like filling up an old ice bucket with a tiny rosemary Christmas tree from Trader Joe’s,” Elko suggests.

Each season, the self-taught decorator styles her home in a different way. “I move everything around so it always looks fresh and festive. For example, an old brass figurine takes on new life when wrapped in a little scarf or garland,” she says. Other tips include using antique throws or quilts as tree skirts and filling oversized glass jars with strings of tiny, white lights.

A white dresser adorned with a hanging "Be Merry" sign

Mid-century furniture enjoys a new life surrounded by seasonal decor. Photo by Kelly Elko

Although her husband and twin daughters don’t share her zeal for collecting vintage baubles from secondhand stores, Elko is a thrifting queen, as evidenced by her eye-popping collection of 750 mid-century Shiny Brite tree ornaments, scrounged from tag sales and junk shops. At what point will her Shiny Brite collection be complete? “Probably never. I can’t stop buying them, especially if the price is right. But at least I can admit I have a problem,” she says with a sly grin. 

During the holidays, the family congregates in their sleek white kitchen while Elko prepares Christmas dinner on her gourmet BlueStar stove, which sports a custom red finish. Above the stove stand giant numbers 2 and 5, found at an estate sale, a reminder that December 25 is fast approaching. 

Kelly Elko's Summit Kitchen has a red stove and two giant red numbers, 2 and 5, that serve as a reminder of the impending holiday

Elko’s renovated kitchen is decked out with a red stove and a reminder that Christmas is fast approaching. Photo by Kelly Elko

But Elko’s collections aren’t limited to Christmas treasures. In fact, she zhuzhes up the house all year long. 

“Since I need to keep up the thrill of the hunt, I might be willing to part with some of my hoard over the coming months. I’ll need to empty a couple of closets to make room for more seasonal decorations and more Shiny Brites!” 

For more inspiration, visit kellyelko.com or follow her on Instagram (@kelly.elko).

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