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Deck the halls when you live small

Holiday decorations don’t have to be big to celebrate the spirit of the season; experts offer tips

By KIM COOK, Associated Press
Published: December 9, 2023, 6:03am
7 Photos
Minimalist contemporary wooden Christmas trees and reindeer fit together with simple slots, and are easy to stash under a bed or behind a cupboard.
Minimalist contemporary wooden Christmas trees and reindeer fit together with simple slots, and are easy to stash under a bed or behind a cupboard. (Loll Designs) Photo Gallery

It seems like the frost hasn’t even hit the pumpkin before “holiday cheer” starts showing up everywhere, from social media feeds to the aisles of CVS. Tis the season to decorate.

But if you’re in a small apartment, there are limits to what you can do. A full-size artificial tree might take up half a room. You might have limited shelving for trinkets. How can you let your holiday flag fly when you don’t have much space to do it?

Here are some seasonal style ideas that max the merry but won’t eat the room. And that store easily.

Set the stage

A monochromatic palette is a good place to start, says Todd Carr, who runs the botanicals and homewares shop Hort & Pott in Freehold, N.Y., with partner Taylor Harrington.

“It helps keep the holiday décor cohesive and ties together pretty much whatever you do. I love green on green, for example — but take inspiration from your space,” Carr says. Think stacks of books, a scarf, and ornamental design elements like candlesticks and natural or faux greenery.

No room for even that? “Just adding bows and streamers of ribbon in your color will add a festive feeling to a tight space,” Carr says.

Bring in sparkle

Brynn Whitfield, a star of Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New York City,” has a social media following for photos of her one-bedroom Manhattan apartment. She says small square footage shouldn’t stop you from celebrating.

“Get clever with surfaces! Guests truly don’t care about the size of your table or how big your tree is. You can impress them with the right decorative pieces,” she says. “Everything looks better when the presentation’s good.”

CB2 has a new collection of transparent, opaque, and reflective glass and metallic ornaments that give traditional holiday motifs a fresh twist. There are amber glass balls that look like bubbly champagne; a trio of modern pines in smoky hues; milky-white glass snowmen; stainless steel orbs; and mini presents in mirror-finished steel.

Artificial trees with a slim profile work well in apartments. Get one pre-lit so you don’t have to store bulky light strings. Balsam Hill’s got a Norway spruce, for instance, that comes with its own zippered storage bag. CB2 has a super-slim one in several different heights. You don’t have to load up a tree with ornaments, either.

Get up off the floor

“Use your walls and ceiling to get festive,” advises Carr. “Garlands are gorgeous draped on bookshelves or chandeliers. And wreaths aren’t just for the front door. Suspend a foraged pine branch over the dining table with some cup hooks and floral wire, and decorate it as you would a tree.

“Or put a potted amaryllis in a hanging planter, and fill the base with evergreens for an uplighting, magical arrangement that takes up little space.”

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Tempaper’s Scandinavian Holiday tree decal has folk-arty Nordic Christmas ornaments like reindeer, hares, stars and stockings instead of branches. It’s large enough to take the place of a real tree, and the peel-and-stick feature lets you lift it off the wall easily when the season’s over. Unless you love it so much you decide to leave it up all year as artwork.

There’s a white winter village set here, too, that works nicely on a window, as well as removable decals of illustrated laurel branches, wreaths and a pretty Festival of Lights menorah.

Decor that stores well

Flat-pack ornaments that don’t need to be protectively stowed in a special container are a boon to small spacers.

For instance, Loll Designs’ minimalist, contemporary Christmas trees and reindeer fit together with simple slots, and are easy to stash under a bed or behind a cupboard. Magic Ornaments has sets of glitter- and mirror-finish ornaments; pull the drawstring and you’ve got a 3-D decoration. Each set comes with balls, stars, angels, snowflakes, a tree topper and 40 feet of ribbon garland. When the holiday’s done, everything flattens back down to be stored in a cardboard envelope.

Add sensory ambience

“A warm glow is key to a cozy, wintry mood,” says Carr. Try switching lamp bulbs with high wattage or cool light to ones that cast a more golden glow. The softer light makes even the sparest of holiday décor feel homier.

Scents can also bring home a nostalgic holiday vibe. Nest New York’s Holiday wall diffuser refill combines pomegranate, mandarin, pine, cloves, cinnamon and vanilla into an aroma that’s spicy and seasonal. Spices, musk and golden amber evoke a nice vibe in Pura’s Winter Noir diffuser refill.