10 Holiday Decorating Tricks to Steal from this Tiny Apartment

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Christopher Broe)

If you think you can’t fit Christmas decorations into your small space—we’re here to show you that you absolutely can. To prove it, we transformed designer Akhira Ismail’s 288-square-foot Brooklyn apartment into a Scandinavian-inspired winter wonderland using ten design tricks for small spaces. Yes, you can have a merry little Christmas, even in the tiniest of apartments.

(Image credit: Christopher Broe)

1. Style a holiday shelfie. For starters, prop a single pine branch in a glass vase to act as a tabletop tree. Then, fill a glass box with pinecones, greenery and a strand of fairy lights (bonus: this decoration is virtually cat-proof!). Build some mini vignettes using inexpensive bottle brush trees or any figurines you may own. Then, try covering just a few of your books in white or green gift wrap to create a more cohesive color palette. And that top shelf you can barely reach? Deck it out with a real or fake greenery garland.

Shop the set: OKÄND glass box, $8, IKEA. String fairy lights, $7.29 for 2 10-foot strands, Amazon.com. Avenue cement tea light candle holder, $3.95, CB2.

(Image credit: Christopher Broe)

2. Cozy up to textiles. Switching up your usual textiles for a chunky knit throw or a lush velvet pillow cover is the quickest way to warm up a room.

3. Work your wall space. A holiday-themed wall hanging will make any room feel cheerier—without cutting into your sitting space. We made our minimalist wall art by ordering a tree design printed on fabric from Spoonflower and displaying it in a simple DIY frame.

4. Decorate unexpected spots. We guarantee there are a few overlooked places in your home that are just begging for a festive flourish. Case in point: The side of Akhira’s breakfast bar (just 15 inches wide) was the perfect spot to hang a small-scale DIY wreath.

5. Reuse what you already own. Resist the urge to buy a bunch of decorations that you’ll have to find room to store 11 months out of the year. Instead, repurpose what you already own. Our idea: Turn those old glass bottles you have lying around into cute candle holders. Watch the video to find out how we did it.

Shop the set: Knit throw, $70, H&M Home. CILLA chair pad, $4, IKEA.

(Image credit: Christopher Broe)

6. Hang ornaments—even if you don’t have room for a tree. If you don’t have a traditional tree, simply suspend ornaments on long lengths of ribbon under a shelf, as we did in the entryway above.

7. And don’t forget the door decor. The front door is a blank slate for holiday decorations, and it certainly never hurts to make a cheery message the last thing you see on your way out. To make an easy-to-update message board, we hung an inexpensive roll of paper using a wooden dowel and twine. Hand-letter a season’s greeting (find our how-to here), or start a holiday countdown you can update each day.

Shop the set: MALA drawing paper roll, $5, IKEA. Marin ivory reactive bottle, $13, CB2. Iridescent snow globe, $24, Urban Outfitters.

(Image credit: Christopher Broe)

8. Garlands make anything feel festive. So drape them on mirrors, art, chandeliers and everything else you already own.

9. A little greenery goes a long way. If you can’t bring a full-size Christmas tree into your space, prop up a little tree on a side table or stool. You can also add little pops of pine by cutting branches to display in vases.

10. Warm up your windows. If you have a window seat wide enough to sit on, make it more inviting by adding a fuzzy throw pillow and hanging an ornament or two from the top of the window frame.

Shop the set: GLADOM tray table, in White, $30, IKEA; Glittery storage basket, $25, H&M Home. Felt ball garland, $9, Jamali Garden. Toodle pillow, $50, CB2.

Special thanks: To Akhira Ismail, for welcoming us into her charming Brooklyn apartment. If you’re a fan of her small space, check out the rest of her design work.

Propping by the talented Sarah Vasil.