How to Decorate Your Small Space for the Holidays

Yes, your space can be cute for the holidays no matter the size.

Christmas decorating ideas for small spaces
Photo: Getty Images

A small home doesn't mean you have to ditch the seasonal decor. Try these designer tips for turning your home into a holiday haven.

01 of 12

Ditch the Tree

Ornaments in bowl with gift boxes
ML Harris/Getty Images

Celebrating Christmas in a small space means you might not have room for the 7-foot pine of your dreams—but that doesn't mean you can't show off your favorite ornaments. Display your collection in a large glass or crystal bowl. "It still evokes the feeling of being 12 years old and helping your family decorate the tree," says designer Heather Higgins.

02 of 12

Or...Downsize Your Tree

Kid Christmas tree
Mark Lund; Styling: Ed Gallagher

All Christmas trees don’t have to be 9-footers. Yours can have one branch or 15 branches, it can be real or fake, or it can be a bundle of fresh sprigs of greenery cut from the yard and set in a vase. All your festive plant needs to be a good Christmas tree is a little love with lights, garlands, or ornaments.  To save space, set small trees on a mantle or shelf.

03 of 12

Consider Flow

Magenta dining room with white furniture
David Brittain/Ideal Home/IPC+ Syndication

If you're hosting a large dinner without a dedicated dining room, decide how you'll define your eating space. Designer Stephanie Sabbe recommends using low-profile benches and ottomans to divide the room instead of high-backed chairs. "It keeps the group that isn't sitting at the table from feeling like everyone's back is turned to them," she says.

04 of 12

Set the Mood

Candles and tea lights on mantel
Adam Gault/Getty Images

Candles are excellent lighting options for small spaces, which can be overwhelmed by overhead lights or oversized floor lamps. Their small footprint is a plus, too. "Candlelight is a great way to add a festive touch without forfeiting leg room," says interior designer Kerrie Kelly. String lights hung from the walls and ceilings are another unobtrusive option—but whatever you do, pick warm-toned lights. "Fluorescent bulbs aren't very festive," Kelly says.

05 of 12

Recycle Your Decorations

Handcrafted Paper Snowflake Garland
Grace Clementine/Getty Images

No storage space for reusable decorations? Raid your local arts and crafts store for recyclable options, like a tablecloth or runner made from paper doilies. "When dinner is over, you can pop it straight in the bin," says Sara Emslie, stylist and author of Beautifully Small: Style Solutions for Small Spaces.

06 of 12

Use Scent as Decor

Pot pourri in bowl on table
Gregor Schuster/Getty Images

During the holiday, your home's aroma is as valuable as its tablescape (as long as you don't go overboard). Higgins recommends filling small bowls with potpourri—or just oranges stuck with cloves. "It's almost like background music," she says. Looking for something subtler? Hang your wreath on the inside of your front door and enjoy the gentle pine fragrance.

07 of 12

Try Multi-Use Decorations

Plaid throw blanket used as a tablecloth
Anita Calero

In small spaces, everything should have multiple uses—not just your furniture. "Get the most mileage out of your decor," says Kelly. Look for beautiful items that aren't holiday-themed to substitute for tablecloths and runners, like plaid or cable knit throw blankets. The best items serve double-duty without much effort: Higgins transforms her Chinese garden stools from side tables to chairs (and back again) when she hosts holiday parties in her 500-square-foot New York apartment.

08 of 12

Keep Color in Check

Holiday wreath over mantel
Rita Maas/Getty Images

The holidays don't force you to go overboard with red and green and metallic. In a small space, it's imperative to resist the urge to overload your home with color. "I keep my colors to a minimum," says Emslie. "My home is all white, so I like to take inspiration from Scandinavian-style Christmas decorating, which is minimalist with hints of red and green."

09 of 12

Create Simple Centerpieces

Table setting with candle centerpiece
emmaduckworth/Getty Images

Your table centerpiece is the perfect place for holiday decor—but add too much, and you might crowd out the food. Higgins recommends swapping your tablecloth for a table runner to "keep the room feeling larger" and setting out white or ivory candles down its center. "They can be all different types, heights, and sizes, which gives your room interest and texture," she says.

10 of 12

Look Up

Helium Balloons On Ceiling
Stéphanie Borghino/EyeEm/Getty Images

With every inch of the floor occupied by people, chairs, or tables, there's never a better opportunity to take advantage of your ceiling—a surprisingly good spot for holiday decor. "I once saw a party in a tiny Brooklyn apartment where they hung cutout letter garlands all over the ceilings with festive sayings," Sabbe says. "I'm also a big balloons-with-curly-strings fan. Both totally change the space, and require zero floor area."

11 of 12

Make Guests Move Around

Credenza with sweets and coffee tray
David Meredith

With limited seating options, your party's first arrivals might end up hogging the sofa and dining chairs the whole night, leaving everyone else tired. Instead of offering a sit-down meal, Emslie encourages people to stand up by arranging drinks and appetizers in different spots around the space—like a dessert bar and a cheese-and-nuts table. Higgins agrees: "If you put all the food on the coffee table, people will stay there."

12 of 12

Maximize Use of Your Walls

Christmas Decorating Tips: Deck the Walls With DIY Christmas Decor
Jessica Gregg

Using wall space is the easiest way to decorate for Christmas in a small space. (And it doesn't have to be pricey!) Buy damage-free hooks and replace current art with Christmas art, fill frames with Christmas quotes or photos, display the kid's holiday artwork, or hang wreaths and greenery. And never underestimate the power of a paper fan. These plaid paper fans have a refined look when combined with modern hoop wreaths and greenery.

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