From festive table spread to window displays and more, interior designers share their advice.

By Caroline Biggs
November 19, 2020
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Credit: Getty / LightFieldStudios

As fun and festive as Christmas trees can be, not everyone has room for one. "For most urban dwellers, there simply isn't enough space to add a Christmas tree into the mix," says Molly Torres Portnof of DATE Interiors. "You have to look to your walls, ceilings, door, and window frames for places to add holiday décor."

Fortunately, there's an assortment of stylish ways to deck your smaller halls for the holidays—no Christmas tree necessary. "My family lived overseas in rural Africa for three years and we were forced to get creative about holiday décor, since there were no Christmas trees available," says Lauren Ramirez of Lauren Ramirez Interiors. "I used stockings as the main focal point by hanging one for each member of the family on the wall above our fireplace with some red ribbons." Looking for advice on how to give a room holiday spirit with a traditional tree? We asked a few of our designer friends to share some of their suggestions to help inspire your own festive pursuits.

Hang ornaments everywhere.

Never underestimate the impact of a room filled with dazzling holiday ornaments. "Decide on a color palette and string up some beautiful ornaments in that color scheme throughout a room," John McClain of John McClain Design says. "You can hang them at different lengths from doorways and light fixtures throughout your home, or from the ceiling with a festive ribbon and a thumbtack."

Create a spirited window display.

Chicago-based interior designer Kate Taylor says decorating your windows is a beautiful alternative to having a Christmas tree in your home. "Adorning your windows with bows, wreaths, twinkle lights, and even strings of ornaments can make your space feel festive, but not crowded," she explains. Additionally, designer Haley Weidenbaum, founder of Everhem, suggests integrating some holiday foliage into your window scene. "Faux garlands look great draped on window ledges," she says.

Dress up a fireplace.

If you have a fireplace at home, Becky Shea recommends using it as a focal point for your holiday décor. "We love to use evergreen layered with juniper, eucalyptus, and dried florals," she says. "To give it even more character, pair wooden or ceramic elements to create a layered effect that gives volume to the mantel. If you don't have any organic items available, Breegan Jane suggests grouping candles in warm, neutral colorways to add a bit of oomph to the scene.

Set a festive table spread.

Your dining room table is brimming with holiday design potential. "DIY a spirited centerpiece by filling a bowl with sparkly ornaments or fresh seasonal fruit like pomegranates, oranges, and pears," Ramirez advises. Alternatively, Cagney Krzywosinski of Hyphen & Co. suggests arranging branches or ornaments in a glass vase with firefly lights for a twinkling tablescape display.

Burn tree-scented candles.

When you can't fill your home with the scent of a real Christmas tree, consider recreating the fragrance with candles, instead. "Sprinkle your side tables with candles in scents specific to the holiday season," says Lily Lanahan, designer and founder of Elizabeth Lake. "Candles with notes of pine, cedarwood, or fir evoke the holiday spirit because of their woody fragrance."

Get creative with foliage.

A greenery garland can go a long way if you're skipping a Christmas tree. "They are a great way to get your home into the holiday spirit," says Anna Kroesser of Kroesser + Strat Design. "We love eucalyptus because the real stuff smells great, but the faux looks just as good and is less delicate, so it will be easier to reuse year after year." As for the best places to hang yours? Mark Lavender of M. Lavender Interiors recommends areas of your home with prominent ledges, such as a fireplace mantel, window frames, doorways, and stair rails. "Integrate seasonal items, such as pomegranates, pine cones, nuts, and berries into the greens, to liven it up," he adds.

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