Courtney Warren is a Texas-based interior designer whose work has been featured in Real Simple, Better Homes & Gardens, Good Housekeeping, Apartment Therapy, and Today.com. She is a frequent consultant on Fox 4 TV’s Good Day program in Dallas, was ranked in the top 3 percent of interior designers in the US by Houzz.com, and starred in the Dallas episode of TLC’sFour Houses. She delights in helping overwhelmed clients create beautiful spaces—and will never turn down a warm chocolate chip cookie or Diet Dr Pepper.
Who wants to be a millionaire! For $10,000, is a putz house
a. golfer’s practice equipment
b. a home for unproductive persons
c. a traditional German Christmas decoration?
If you guessed C–ding, ding, ding! Congratulations! While you’re (ahem) waiting on that prize money to come through, I’d love to share with you about my prized collection of putz houses, a favorite Christmas tradition at the Warren house. Can you tell I have a few?
According to cardboardputzhouses.com, putz actually means “to put” in German. But in German-American vernacular, it sorta means “putter around.” So who was puttering around and with what? Historically, families would set up little villages of cardboard or wooden houses around the Christmas tree or Nativity. Then family members (usually the mother) would “putz” with the pieces until they were satisfied with the effect.
(That would be me: “Mo-o-o-om, are you coming?? Can we eat now?!”)
According to cardboardputzhouses.com, the first “putzers” used toy wooden houses or house-shaped cardboard candy boxes from Germany. Later, electric Christmas light sets made possible a new kind of putz house: Japanese-made cardboard houses decorated with sparkly materials and/or fake snow and translucent (usually cellophane) windows that glowed when you poked a small light through a hole in the back of the house. Early on, stores like Sears-Roebuck offered simple versions of these, usually in sets of eight. But now collectors (like me!) are discovering an amazing variety of putz houses, and you just can’t believe the creativity in these little decorations that were, in their day, very cheap!
I’m a huge fan of these glittery little structures! How did I get bit by the putz bug? I’ll tell you.
Some years ago I mentioned to my mom that I wanted to start a putz house collection. Shortly afterward, my dad passed away suddenly of a heart attack. That first Christmas without him was difficult because, of course, gatherings are so different when you lose a member of your family. It was at that Christmas that my mother presented me with a glittered putz house in memory of my dad.
Adding a putz house each year has become a tradition, and my collection has such a special meaning for me. It’s a small way to remember my dad as we celebrate Christmas. I unbox and unwrap them lovingly, and then I putz around for many happy hours, placing them among my other vintage Christmas treasures on shelves and tabletops.
Have you ever noticed these happy little houses at flea markets or garage sales? Did you know they were collectible? Well, now you do!
Wondering how to work your collection(s) into your home’s decor? I have ideas! Let’s Talk!