How To Decorate a Small Living Room for Christmas
Living Room

How To Decorate a Small Living Room for Christmas

As a Sagittarius born in December, two weeks from Christmas, I’ve been the recipient of far more birthday-Christmas combo gifts and Christmas-themed gifts than most people get in a lifetime.

And most of my life, I’ve lived in homes with small living rooms, including a true one-room loft space (900 square feet) and a midcentury home where I could barely wedge in a coffee table, couch, love seat and TV.

So because I’m a holiday-loving, Christmas collectible-collecting, small-space living person, I’ve had to be creative when decorating for Christmas. I’ve compiled some tips from my own experience and talked with pros to get you in the Christmas spirit, no matter the square footage.

Consider Your Tree Options

For our purposes, a small living room means 70 to 130 square feet — or less. Decorating a space that tiny takes careful consideration.

In my loft (kitchen, living room and bedroom), I opted for a pink glitter pre-lit tabletop tree. If I had to go unorthodox, I was going to take it all the way! But more traditional tabletop options abound. And if you style it just right, no one might even notice the difference.

Midcentury aluminum trees tend to be smaller — some are tabletop size — and super festive.

Another option: Watch for an artificial tree modeled after a Fraser fir or Norway spruce. Both are narrower with less of a triangular silhouette, so they take up less space. Also look for terms like “slim” or “pencil” in the item description.

It’s OK to stick a tree in a corner. It still steals the show because the twinkle lights will bounce off the walls, creating a nice, cozy glow.

There are all manner of flat-pack wooden trees, wall decals, and other less traditional options that will nevertheless capture the spirit. So don’t be afraid to try something new.

Final tip: Think of the Charlie Brown tree. Rescue accordingly.

Use Height to Your Advantage

When you can’t expand out, expand up. Artem Kropovinsky, an interior designer and founder of Arsight, says this is the most often overlooked dimension.

“Use tall bookcases or shelving to elevate the eye and create an illusion of a larger room,” he says. “Decorate these elements with holiday pieces, such as garlands or twinkling lights.”

Take on Textiles

Decorating for the holidays doesn’t have to mean sprawling ceramic villages across a space. It can be swapping out textiles and pieces you’d usually use to make your room fun and functional.

“Layer textiles, like throws, rugs and cushions, in rich holiday tones to infuse warmth without occupying additional space,” Kropovinsky says. “Choose fabrics with subtle festive patterns for an understated seasonal touch.”

Interior stylist Vivianne Chow, founder of Viv & Tim Home, calls swapping out throw pillows her favorite trick.

“In my living room, all of my throw pillows are actually pillow covers with pillow inserts so that I can easily swap out just the cover to transform the entire look,” Chow says. Bonus: After the holidays, you only have to store a flat pillow cover instead of a whole pillow.

“I usually go for a more subtle holiday look when it comes to Christmas throw pillows,” she says. “A plaid pillow is a must-have, along with a cable knit sweater pillow to cozy up your living room. I tend to stick with neutrals and just a pop of muted red or green.”

Layer Lights

Twinkle lights add ambiance and a festive holiday feel without taking up precious square footage. String them from bookshelves, plants, along crown molding or anywhere that needs a little extra glow.

Kropovinsky offers a secret weapon: mirrors. “Mirrors not only make a space feel larger, but can also reflect holiday lights or decorations,” he says. “Place one opposite a window with string lights or candles for added luminance.”

Move Furniture (If You Can) And Make a Focal Point

When you live in a small space, chances are you have modular furniture that serves multiple purposes. You could rearrange furniture to create a conversation pit.

Create a new focal point around a mantel by hanging a wreath or stringing lights or ornaments on the wall above. That works even if it’s a small modern gas stove in a townhome. It may just give you a few extra inches to layer in another holiday piece or a larger tree.

Make the Most of Nooks and Crannies

“Small nooks or architectural quirks in townhomes can be decorated,” Kropovinsky says. “Use these spaces for a series of festive candles or a unique art piece that brings in the holiday spirit.”

I like to use little niches or tiny floating shelves to feature cool candles, fragile ornaments I don’t want a dog (or kid) to knock off a tree, or other no-touch items. A pre-lit garland on a railing feels grand without taking up space.

Don’t Forget Tabletops

Add a runner, seasonal or fancy-special candlesticks with beautiful tapers in festive colors, collectible bells or even poinsettias. (With the latter, be careful around pets.) Cool centerpieces make every meal special during the season, not just the big Christmas one. And you’re not taking up any extra square footage with bulky decorations.

Make Multisensory Magic

You’ve dropped in a few sparkly holiday pieces to dazzle the eyes, and some rich textures to touch. You can appeal to one more sense without taking up any space. Light a Frazier fir, cranberry or ginger-spice candle to set the tone for the season.