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Home's Scandinavian-inspired holiday decor curated from upcycled items

Elizabeth Tangquist makes holiday decor out of items people would typically throw out. David Samson / The Forum1 / 4
This "joy" sign was created from a buffet door she painted. David Samson / The Forum2 / 4
Anderson created holiday decor for a downtown photo studio using strips of scrapbook paper, a tree decal from a dollar store and a garage sale picture frame she painted silver. Special to The Forum3 / 4
Hope Anderson of Moorhead outfitted a $40 artificial Christmas tree from Walmart with bright ornaments and ribbon she purchased for a few dollars. Special to The Forum4 / 4

MOORHEAD - Elizabeth Tangquist rescued her mom's silver wedding platter from a box in the garage. She knew it'd make a shiny addition to her Scandinavian-inspired holiday decor.

The vintage silver found a home next to a handmade twig star, antique Swedish ornaments and a black Swedish "Dala" horse. Tangquist carefully curates her holiday decor to represent her Scandinavian heritage and love of upcycled items.

"When we were growing up, we didn't have as much at Christmastime, so my mom would take anything and just make it so magical and beautiful," she says. "It was fun and exciting. She was trendy and creative, and I think that gets passed on."

"Upcycling" is reusing materials to create something new, Tangquist says, and it usually costs far less than purchasing items brand-new.

She enjoys a trip to Target, Hobby Lobby or Ikea for new goods, but her primary sources for decor are thrift stores, garage sales and even boulevards. Most items she collects only require a coat of paint and some creative modifications.

In her kitchen, a bicycle wheel she found on a curb hangs on the wall, holding photos and cards. Old buffet doors find new use when they're painted with seasonal words like "joy." A wire basket scored during cleanup week is a rustic vessel for gathered twigs, and Tangquist dressed up an old tray with Mod Podged paper and blue mason jars.

"It's all simple but it's so amazing," she says.

To her, holiday decor is stylish when it holds meaning and tells a story.

"It's like a journey. With upcycling, you use your imagination. The process is part of the fun," she says.

Self-proclaimed "Thrifty Queen" Hope Anderson approaches decor much the same way as Tangquist.

"The thing with decor is it's what's you love. It's not about 'Well everybody's into bright colors this year' or 'Everybody's into the upside down Christmas tree.' If you don't love that, don't do it. Find what you love," says the Moorhead-based lifestyle blogger.

Anderson outfitted photographer Michelle Warren's studio space downtown using bright colors that pop against gray walls. Instead of traditional green and red, she used decor in lime, fuchsia, teal and purple, and scoured thrift, craft and big-box stores to find the vibrant trimmings on the cheap.

The white artificial Christmas tree is a $40 Walmart find, and many ornaments were purchased at thrift stores for less than a dollar. Anderson created art for the space using paint and scrapbook paper she had on hand, proving that thrifty decor only requires imagination and a little cash.

"Everyone's creative but not everyone uses it," she says. "With design, it really is about whatever you like."


• Seek a new perspective.

"Relook at objects and think Christmas - how can I make this more seasonal?" Moorhead homeowner, Elizabeth Tangquist says.

Most of her holiday decor isn't specifically Christmas. Instead, she sticks with fall/winter decor so items can transition easily season to season.

• Keep it simple.

When Tangquist and "Thrifty Queen" blogger Hope Anderson tackle design projects, they keep it simple.

For instance, Tangquist applies letter stickers to wood, paints over them and then peels them off rather than stenciling words. Anderson hung ornaments from the ceiling with ribbon and push pins.

"It doesn't have to be complicated to look good," she says.

• Dig.

Cupboards, attics, garages and basements can be full of usable decor.

"There's just so many things people think are junk or trash that you can turn around," Tangquist says.

• Hit up dollar stores and thrift stores.

Both savvy decorators frequent thrift stores and dollar stores to score cheap decor. And go often - that's Anderson's trick to finding "the good stuff."

• Start small.

Walking into any store can be overwhelming for people, Anderson says. She makes a point of only looking for a few things at time, like items to make a wreath.

• Shop sales.

Tangquist and Anderson raid post-holiday sales at stores like Target for discounted decor. Items are often marked at least half off.

"It's fun because every year, I forget what I buy so it's always a surprise," Tangquist says.

• Pursue inspiration.

Pinterest, "Better Homes and Gardens," "Country Living" and PBS' "This Old House" are Tangquist's top "research" hubs.

Anderson finds inspiration in the items already in a space. For the photography studio, she used the colorful floral chairs as her starting point and pulled colors from them to use in the holiday decor.

• Make it count.

Items with history and meaning take decor to a new level, Tangquist says.

The silver platter she found in her mom's garage or the vintage Swedish ornaments on her mini tree are examples of decor with family ties and special significance.

• Stay true to your style.

"I like to decorate around what I already have instead of trying to make green and white and red work in a space," Anderson says. "That's the best advice. Otherwise you feel like it doesn't go with your house or space."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Anna G. Larson at (701) 241-5525

Anna G. Larson

Anna G. Larson is a features reporter with The Forum who writes a weekly column featuring stylish people in Fargo-Moorhead. Larson graduated from North Dakota State University with a degree in journalism and joined The Forum in July 2012. She's a Fargo native who enjoys travel, food, baking, fashion, animals, coffee and all things Midwestern. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter: @msannagrace 

(701) 241-5525