Do you decorate for Christmas? I’ve gotten excited about holiday decor for as long as I can remember. Even when I lived the single life in a shotgun apartment, I strung lights and decked out my abode. Each year, I picked out a tree, transported and secured it myself, and decorated it with the usual red, green, and gold tchotchkes. I learned that holiday decorating in small spaces can be fun and sometimes more creative than trimming a huge house.
After Mike and I got married, decorating and celebrating the holidays took on a whole new meaning. Since he’s Jewish, he’d never had a Christmas tree before. And since I’m Catholic, I’d never lit a menorah before. I gave him a quick lesson how to pick out a tree, while he educated me how the candle lighting works at Hanukkah. We explored uncharted worlds at the time –– adopting one another’s lifelong traditions and forging our own memories.
One year, we picked out two trees. We did one in red and green for Christmas, and the other in blue and silver for Hanukkah. I think that was one way to convince Mike that we needed new ornaments. Years later, I still have those not-so-customary colors in my collection, and each season I find myself trimming our tree with lots of blue, white, and silver, and adding accents of red and gold.
Another year, we moved into a house with a renovation still in progress and were asked to participate in the neighborhood’s tour of homes (this was a huge remodeling project and was far from finished!), but we were honored to be considered, so we said yes. We closed the incomplete section of the house, and bought five Christmas trees to fill in all the empty spaces that needed furniture. Hundreds of people traipsed through our home and no one knew we were missing some major furnishings, thanks to the strategic placement of trees. Whew.
When we moved to New York, we encountered a new set of challenges when it came to holiday decor. Getting the tree home was one (some of the tree vendors will deliver…I’ve seen this take place in a shopping cart), but we wanted to carry our tree ourselves. I should say that Mike wanted to carry the tree himself while I walked next to him, opening doors and pressing buttons.
Meanwhile, we found that no matter how compact our living space is, we could squeeze a tree in somewhere without looking ridiculous. Unbelievably, one year we managed to host as many as 35 people for a holiday party too. Through trial and error, what I’ve found works best, is a smaller scale tree (around five feet tall), tucked into a corner in the dining area. I place the tree on a small table to give it height, and then cover with fabric. If only I could keep Bogey from squeezing by, whipping his tail back and forth and knocking ornaments and needles from the branches!
I’ve also figured out that when holiday decorating in small spaces, less is better. When we lived in 2,800 square feet, I was a little too enthusiastic about the decorations, because I could be –– wrapping greenery around the staircase, draping evergreens around each window and the doors on the front of the house; a tree upstairs; a tree downstairs; a tree on the porch!
Today, I’m sharing the subtle things I do so our home feels festive for the holidays. You’ll see how a few colorful additions can clearly put anyone in the spirit and ready for December 25th. First thing’s first. After Mike puts the tree in the stand and adds water, he strings the lights. He’s gotten pretty good at it over the years.
Once he discovered a tiny bird’s nest when he was putting the lights on. We left it in the tree. The nest is a little bit of nature in our big city apartment.
Next come the ornaments, which remain my specialty. I have many I love, so with a small tree, I don’t do as many balls, bells, etc. I hang a lot of my special, sentimental pieces first as well as some of my snowflakes (they make any tree look fab), and then fill in as needed.
I have some larger balls that I like to display since the scale isn’t quite right for a smaller tree. I place my large star ornaments around the apartment too. And lots of candles. Candles help with ambiance, especially when you’re missing a fireplace. I adore this Asian-inspired mini lantern. It was a gift from my mom.
Mimi is fascinated my decorations of any kind while Bogey is more of a supervisor. I place our stockings around the tree, rather than hanging them. Many of our gifts tend to be smaller and fit right inside.
I place other small decorative items in each room. I love the feeling of Christmas throughout, and it’s kind of fun playing with all of the stuff, especially since the holidays happen only once a year.
I swap out our warm-weather throw and pull out the tartan wool blanket. It’s perfect at the foot of the bed in our guest nook.
This silver ball ornament happens to be one of my favorites. Our dear family friend Beverly Lena gave it to us at least ten years ago. The inside is filled with potpourri. Believe it or not, it still smells fragrant. I always think of her each time I look at it. I hang it on the knob inside our front door.
No Christmas is complete without a little bit of tackiness, and I save it for the kitchen. I’ve had the Mr. and Mrs. Claus since I was a little girl. They are actually salt and pepper shakers, but I never use them as such. I’ve broken Santa at least three times, but he glues back together nicely.
I like a few colorful accessories in the bathroom, and another candle, particularly when guests come by.
I spend a fair amount of time in the bedroom, so holiday doodads are a must. Cinnamon sticks are another great novelty that you can display all winter if you like. Color-coordinated ribbon works nicely, making the room feel cheerful.
Pull a few holiday books like Cat’s Christmas, Snowmen, and New York in Four Seasons off the shelf, and you are all set.
If you have an tips for holiday decorating in small spaces, please let us know in the comments.
Happy Holidays from my house to yours!