Retro-Ho-Ho Christmas Cards

Fledgling company mines images of MCM homes and living for holiday card designs
Fridays On the Homefront
Holiday greeting cards for the mid-century modern set? Now there's an
entire line of them, thanks to the efforts of the Retro Christmas Card Company.
Fridays On the Homefront
Fridays On the Homefront
Diane Dempsey at the drawing board.

Diane Dempsey's home may not be a California Eichler or similar modernist design, but it's a house that's definitely has that same mid-century spirit going on inside.

"I call it 'mid-century modest,'" said Dempsey of the late '60s ranch house in Clearwater, Florida, where she operates her home business, Retro Christmas Card Company. "Kind of looks like the Brady Bunch would live here."

It takes no great stretch of the imagination to picture Carol Brady sitting in the Dempsey living room, sending out the Florida woman's brand of clever holiday cards, just as Diane has been doing since October—albeit not by the boxful, as Dempsey does.

"Just this last year, the Christmas card company has taken over my life," said Dempsey, creator of all the iconic and colorful images depicted on the firm's 50-odd different card designs. "We couldn't handle more orders than we're getting right now!"

Dempsey is a veteran graphic designer who was prompted by some work for the late Florida International Museum in St. Petersburg to do some research on 20th century design.

"Researching that angle of design is what led me to mid-century modern," she recalled of the inspiration for her first company, named after Cab Calloway's ditty 'What's Buzzin' Cousin?'

The Calloway reference came about from her and husband Brent's avid interest in swing dancing, but added with a laugh, "We found out after a few years that that was a really silly name."

Dempsey said they started the business in 1986, offering cards and poster art for a variety of holidays but realized, "The only one that turned out [as] really something you could build on was Christmas."

After narrowing their sights [and adopting a new name], the couple took a desert vacation in 2013 that included the self-guided modern homes tour put on by the Palm Springs Modern Committee. Creatively, the desert was far from barren for Diane.

"I was so impressed by those unique lines," she said of architecture in Palm Springs, where she took nearly 200 photographs of mid-century modern design. For her interior scenes to blend with the exterior architecture she photographed, "I researched the furniture to make sure I used iconic pieces."