February 28, 2024

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christmas treepinterest
Courtesy Bradley Odom

Go Big (Really)

christmas tree
Courtesy Bradley Odom

We have great news: A sad, sparse, Charlie Brown Christmas tree isn’t the only way to make a small space feel festive. In fact, it’s not even the best way. “In small spaces people have a tendency to downsize their decor in order to not overwhelm it,” Odom explains. “However, this has the opposite effect in a smaller space. By having an oversize wreath that takes up an entire wall, for example, it makes the entire space feel more grand, and definitely more festive.” The right holiday fixture, like this voluminous Christmas tree that Odom brought into this modest modern living room, also draws the eye around the room with statement pieces that make the space feel more expansive.


Layer on the Luxury

Courtesy Bradley Odom

This crackling fireside moment doesn’t require a colossal wreath to make an impact. The secret to some unique displays is variety. “Abundance can really be the highlight of the season,” Odom adds. “Instead of thinking in the rule of threes, throw that out the window and go over the top. Why not have 20 brass candleholders on your mantel?” Here, Odom festooned this mantel with a generous arrangement of billowing greens, including eucalyptus, pine, berry sprays, hypericum flowers, and tree branches—basically, anything you can get your hands on that’s green.


Make Your Art Work

Courtesy Bradley Odom

Wondering what to do with your lack of wall space? Odom gave an otherwise year-round couch a holiday embellishment that feels so very fitting. “Rather than clutter the space with additional pieces of decor, I like to decorate on top of what already exists,” he explains. Here, [a wreath] really popped against the paint and is great if you have limited wall space.”

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Create Small Wonders

Gordon Beall

Dana Dore, the tastemaker behind Adored House, knows how to make the best use of needed floor space with a clever stool turned tree stand. “Using a decorative stool or table is a great way to add some height without getting a tall tree,” says Dore, who used a decorative stool and basket to add some feet to her fir. And here, where size might be lacking, ornamentation compensates, with copious amounts of glitzy tinsel that is as lovely as it is practical. “The tinsel almost does the same thing that a mirror does for a space by reflecting the light and making it appear larger,” she adds. The tinsel also fills the tree, requiring fewer ornaments—which means less to store after Christmas (we see you, Home Edit-ers).


No Mantel, No Problem

Jenna Sue

For a simple yet festive tabletop surface, blogger Jenna LeBlanc draped a Norfolk pine garland with burgundy berry stems. “A vignette was created with large brass bells and a scented winter candle atop coffee table books,” she explains. “Spiral taper candles add a fun detail to a set of tall candlesticks.” Santa might not be able to take the easy route down the chimney, but the hike to the front door will be worth the end view.


Repurpose Your Console

Katie-Nixon Photography

There’s enough room for everyone’s stocking on this table, another hack for a fireplace-less dwelling. Here, designer Caitlin Wilson cleverly made use of her living room console table to create a stunning holiday vignette. Stockings receive a pop of cheer with whimsical red ribbons, overseen by a verdant holiday wreath that is a classic nod to tradition that draws the eye upward.

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Create Cozy Corners

Marian Parsons

A relatively untouched corner of Miss Mustard Seed’s Marian Parsons’s 1948 home, that she passes multiple times a day, needed a festive touch. “A Christmas pillow, a few homemade gingerbread houses, and some natural greenery took just a few minutes to arrange and made the corner look festive,” Parsons explains, adding that little sprigs of greenery, live or faux, are a great way to decorate small spaces for the season. “They are easy, classic, and can be left up beyond Christmas, if desired.”


Slim It Down

Katie-Nixon Photography

An intricate design and sophisticated color palette combine in designer Caitlin Wilson’s sumptuous tree that knows how to make use of vertical space. For added visual interest, a window wreath with an elongated bow always makes an impression. Look at all that present-unwrapping space!


Integrate Small-Scale Adornments

Lucy Call

Sure, the tree is its own moment, but what about the rest of your house? A chic, fuss-free idea? Group complementary baubles in a decorative bowl, like Shea McGee’s effortless cabinet-top moment, which features contrasting ornaments in a scalloped marble bowl, alongside the cutest mini Christmas wreath that ever was!

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Pare It Back

Lucy Call

Leave it to designer Shea McGee—who describes herself as an advocate of the classic modern rustic look—to take it back to the basics. We’re loving this chic indoor wreath that is accompanied by a pair of bleached wood nutcrackers and a bunch of burnished bells. “Just like in art, randomness is often the hardest to achieve,” she explains.


Embrace Your Entry

a woman hangs a holiday garland across a doorway
Courtesy Jess Morris

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.


Try a Midsize Tree

beautiful christmas decor of residential white room
Anastasiia Krivenok//Getty Images

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!”

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Improvise a Mantel

christmas decorations
Kylie Fitts

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.


A Garland Garnish

new york apartment christmas decoration
Carly Fuller

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!


Take Advantage of Vertical Space

christmas centerpiece
The Jungalow

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.

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Keep It Light and Bright

nautical diy christmas decorations life preserver wreath
David A. Land

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.


Add a Touch of Twinkle

young woman making a christmas wreath
AleksandarNakic//Getty Images

’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.


Flaunt What You’ve Got

christmas staircase
Michael Wurm Jr.

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.

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Double the Decor

a green couch with a christmas tree and a mirror
Maryna Terletska//Getty Images

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!


Arrange a Winter Bouquet

winter bouquet
Meghan Klein

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!

Headshot of Rachel Silva

Rachel Silva, the Assistant Digital Editor at ELLE DECOR, covers design, architecture, trends, and anything to do with haute couture. She has previously written for Time, The Wall Street Journal, and Citywire.


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