’Tis the season for bringing out the holiday decor. Cue the voluminous trees and infinite garlands, festive mantel ensembles and elaborate tablescape layouts—you’re ready to deck those halls! OK, in your case, rooms—that is, just the one room. Decorating a small living space during the holidays can put a damper on your dreams of becoming the next Mariah Carey. But compromising on square footage doesn’t have to mean you’re short on holiday flair—or even holiday extravagance, for that matter. “It doesn’t take a lot of stuff to make your home merry and bright,” says small space expert Melanie Gnau. “Something as simple as a wreath and a few boughs of holly can turn your small space into a festive spot for entertaining.”
If you have visions of transforming your 250-square-foot apartment into Santa’s villa but would still like access to seating that doesn’t involve a pine needle face massage, we’ve compiled 30 tips to show you that size doesn’t equate to pizzazz. Read on for brilliant holiday hacks to add some sparkle to your small space, from ceiling centerpieces to alternative mantels.
1. ENTRYWAY EAVES
You might not have a yard or even a bedroom (we see you, studio dwellers)—but everybody has a doorway. Jess Morris’s Scandinavian-inspired doorway, a dramatic enveloping of handmade garlands, offers all the holiday magic we need. “Less is more in creating a beautiful space in small quarters,” says Morris. “I like to use one main feature piece or material and add a few accents in.” We can almost smell the fresh pine needles from here.
2. TRY A MIDSIZE TREE
This might go against everything you’ve been told, but hear us out on this: While small trees leave more room for walking around, tiny trees lack the bravado of a large tree. So rather than placing a pokey little Charlie Brown inspiration in your four-person sitting room, go ahead and opt for a midsize tree that still offers that dramatic moment that will have you vocalizing “How lovely are thy branches!”
3. IMPROVISE A MANTEL
Missing a mantle? While Santa has perfected the fire escape entrance into your apartment (fear not, city kids), he’s also an expert stocking detector—so be inventive with your stocking placement.
Consider this simple improvisation by Havenly vice president of creative and design Shelby Girard. With minimalist stockings, a stunning garland, and a simple string of lights, this corner is all decked out for old Saint Nick. Cookies and milk considered.
4. A GARLAND GARNISH
Your kitchen island doesn’t have to be an eight-seater to make an impact. Take a cue from My NYC Apartment’s Carly Fuller, whose minimal garland arrangement is just the statement piece for this festive 450-square-foot apartment in New York City. We’ll still be rocking this season, whether or not it’s around a tree!
5. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF VERTICAL SPACE
As you gear up for the big day of eating and gifting (and more eating), think beyond the traditional table centerpiece by hanging ornaments and pendants from the ceiling, like this stunning setup from The Jungalow. Not only does this combination of oranges, garland, and twinkle lights add dimension, it also comes at no cost to foot traffic space. Feast mode: on.
6. KEEP IT LIGHT AND BRIGHT
Rule number one of small space decorating dictates that lighter colors make a room feel more spacious. And this delightful nautical vignette offers many lessons to be learned in the neutral-toned department. Cream-colored yarn stockings? Check. Festive chalky holiday “wreath”? Check. Ivory-colored candles? Check.
7. ADD A TOUCH OF TWINKLE
’Tis the season to sparkle! Christmas lights are the ultimate mood lighting, and the warm glow of this gleaming wreath will level up the festive cheer in any room. Whether your wreath is embellished with a touch of red or gold accents, or it channels neutral hues, this Christmas will be lit with the right plug-ins.
8. FLAUNT WHAT YOU’VE GOT
So the saying goes: If you’ve got it, flaunt it. Those words have never been more true than for those learning how to live large in a small space. Whether it’s a staircase, a media console, or even a floating wall shelf, add some impact in the vein of Inspired By Charm’s Michael Wurm Jr.’s dramatic garland. Styled with LED lights, a red ball garland, vintage Christmas cards, and two garlands for the “full” effect, this festive red-and-green scene will beat any bough of holly.
9. DOUBLE THE DECOR
Mirrors are multitaskers. A tall mirror not only draws the eye upward, but it also reflects, creating the illusion of a much larger room. Hot tip: Place your tree in front of the mirror and you’ll have twice as much evergreen cheer!
10. ARRANGE A WINTER BOUQUET
When going glam on your petite domicile, every inch counts. Rather than struggle to make a traditional tree work in your apartment, settle for a Scandinavian woodland Christmas arrangement like this. On Jojotastic, Joanna Hawley-McBride explains how she foraged noble fir, blue ice cypress, ponderosa pine, and tallow berries—arranging it all in this faceted geometric vase. If we didn’t have a reason to hunker down indoors before, bringing the outside in will certainly give us one now!
11. WORK THE DECOR AROUND YOUR LIFESTYLE
You needn’t sacrifice personality for a few square inches of space. If a tree in your kitchen comes at the cost of sink access, we’d suggest instead embellishing the nooks and crannies that won’t inhibit your ability to function. Take a cue from this festive kitchen, complete with mini red tree cones, holiday mugs, and (the dramatic touch) evergreen garlands sprinkled with decorative snowflakes and baubles. The result? A culinary wonderland with floor-to-ceiling appeal.
12. SLUMBER IN STYLE
Some people dream of a white Christmas, while others dream of a beautifully designed Christmas. Mission accomplished in this cozy bedroom with a few simple accents—an above-bed wreath, tartan pillows, and a bright red blanket (linens compliments of Lark & Linen)—that require no furniture rearranging. Whether or not there’s snow beyond the window, we’re channeling all the holiday cheer tonight.
13. EAT, DRINK, AND BE MERRY
If there’s one holiday vignette your guests will all gather around at a Christmas party, it’s the wine and spirits. Take inspiration from Hank and Hunt and add a little holiday flair to your favorite area in the apartment (we’d still say that if you lived in a mansion). With a few cranberry sprigs, a set of whimsical candlesticks, and a soft faux fur rug, you’ll be sure to impress your holiday guests. We’ll drink to that!
14. GO BOLD WITH COLOR
The best way to make a small room feel festive is to go big on color. Even if your home has a relatively neutral color palette, adding a few vibrant pieces will shock your design system...in the best way possible. Kelly Smith makes the case for a pink Christmas tree, which features black, white, and gold ornaments and a matching tree stand worth showing off in any apartment, big or small.
15. DRESS UP THE CHAIRS
Jazz up your everyday furniture with Christmas flair without taking up any extra space. In this festive vignette, Burnett’s Boards adds a a sweet touch to wooden dining room chairs with a small wreath and neutral ribbon.