How to Decorate for Christmas in an Apartment

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aren’t all the beautiful pictures of 10 ft. tall christmas trees and gloriously decorated banisters on pinterest spectacular this time of year? i think so too, but what if you don’t live in a mansion house? here is how to decorate for christmas in an apartment or other small dwelling you call home!

decorations for an apartment

the first few christmases my husband i spent together were in a tiny 600 sq. ft. apartment in portland, oregon and there weren’t many dollars in our bank account to get christmas decorations. this is how we became crafty to make our little apartment feel in the spirit of the holidays!

get creative and think outside the box: want a fireplace but don’t have one? make one! i came home from grad school one day a few years ago and walked in to find this!

decorations for an apartmenthe straight up made a fireplace underneath our bar/counter area! martha stewart ain’t got nothing on this man of mine (and he’s never been to prison). we “splurged” and spent $15 on that baby christmas tree and it’s definitely in a cooking pot instead of a tree stand.

decorations for an apartment

bring lights to the inside: nothing is more magical than twinkly lights so why not bring them inside to quite literally brighten up the place. they sell lights with white cords, which look really pretty on a white wall.

decorations for an apartment

use window ledges to your advantage: we have extra large window ledges so what better place for my russian nesting dolls (matryoshka) that my in-laws got me as a present when we all went to russia last year! we also found little pine trees at target that sit in various corners of the windows.

decorations for an apartment

get creative with a christmas tree: whether your place feels too small for an average size tree, get creative with ones that sit on an end table. this year, we will be going to colorado for christmas so we aren’t getting a real tree but i still wanted a little something so i outlined a tree on the wall with embroidery floss, tacks and paint-safe tape (at least i hope it is) to hang some of our favorite ornaments.

decorations for an apartment

decorations for an apartment

hang things from light fixtures: sure, these fixtures are there to provide light but why not have them either hold decorations or show them off. we found cheap snowflake cutouts at michael’s and suddenly i’m married to elsa. we also put these on our cupboards and stuck a few to the corners of windows.

decorations for an apartment

replace books on bookshelf with holiday ones: the thrift store is an amazing place for holiday decorations! i scored one of my favorite books that my dad would always get my sister and me. there were also great candle holders, wreaths, mugs, etc.

decorations for an apartment

if i was reading this blog, i would want to come over and try to search for santa. you’re all welcome but in case you can’t make it by…i took a picture for you! find a bearded elf, cookies, an envelop, fish, giraffe, ice cream cone, reindeer, saw, toy duck!did you ever even consider that santa has a birthday?! i did not.


decorate your table: we have a tiny table that really only sits two so we decided to keep it set all festive-like. we found the placements on sale at target and the chargers from michael’s for a buck! it’s made eating a bowl of cereal on them way more exhilarating and jolly.

christmas decorations for apartments

dress up your door: one of the fun things about the holiday season is displaying decorations on the outside for others to enjoy and in my case…it’s for me to get super excited to come home. throw back to college dorm days when everyone decorated their doors so why not bring that into your apartment complex!

decorations for an apartmenti was explicitly told i could not lie and pretend like i decorated this door (i was tempted). in fact, i was only allowed to hand over pieces of tape. please note that my husband is unusually crafty and don’t be frustrated if your wrapping paper isn’t perfect but we’ve had neighbors telling us how much they enjoy it!

decorative pillows/blankets on your sofa: these can be pricy but found for cheap at a second-hand stores, on sale or if you live close to your mom, steal one of hers.

wrap pictures on wall: talk about a serious space saver! wrap your hanging pictures with festive paper and bows and put them back on the wall for added charm. we ran out of wrapping paper (please see completely wrapped door above) but love this idea!


dress your dog in holiday sweaters: this could just solve it all! *it’s a turtleneck!

christmas decorations for apartmentsquestions:
1) other suggestions for how to decorate for christmas in an apartment?
2) what do you most look forward to putting up each year for decorations?
3) do you dress your animals up in ridiculous/cute holiday gear?

i’d love your help in spreading how people can feel happy celebrating even in small apartments so please pin a picture, share this on facebook or email it to a friend! have fun decorating!


  1. Amanda

    December 2, 2014 at 8:34 am

    I LOVE the idea of making a fireplace out of paper somewhere. I may have to steal that idea. But of course a dog in a holiday turtleneck is for sure the best option.
    Amanda recently posted…Going Natural: Pet Food & Products

    • chelsea

      December 2, 2014 at 9:46 am

      you totally should, amanda! it was really festive and made my heart so happy that year! i knew you’d love the dog in a sweater…we are quite alike in this area 🙂

  2. Nina Williamson

    December 2, 2014 at 9:50 am

    This is a fantastically decorated apartment! So so cute We have a baby tree sitting on top of a box with some fake cobwebs leftover from Halloween bunched up to look like snow. I just absolutely love decorating for Christmas! I love your idea (or your husbands idea?) to make a fireplace. I might just have to do that!
    Nina Williamson recently posted…Those Little Red Cups Have my Heart {2}

    • chelsea

      December 2, 2014 at 1:31 pm

      thanks nina! we are quite happy with it and it makes me so excited to turn the lights on at 5pm inside! super smart idea to take leftover cobwebs for snow around your baby tree! you should totally make the fire place…while it doesn’t actually provide any heat…it warms your heart. (sorry i couldn’t resist and that was total cheeseball!)

  3. Elizabeth T

    December 2, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    That door!!!! Y’all have some serious crafting skills! I think I might have to borrow that idea of making a fireplace—that’s absolutely genius. 🙂
    Elizabeth T recently posted…It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

    • chelsea

      December 2, 2014 at 1:32 pm

      you should definitely make a fireplace too, elizabeth!! now i can’t recycle my ‘warms your heart’ joke because i already wrote it to nina but still do it! it’s mostly my husband that has the artistic and creative ideas…i get to benefit! oh and i’m a wicked good tape-hander-out-er

  4. Rebecca Chapman

    December 2, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    This seriously made my day. I was just thinking about how I didn’t have space/funds for great decorations. You took away my excuses. I really really love that fireplace your husband made. I’m pretty sure I’m about to go all Elf on my apartment.
    Rebecca Chapman recently posted…A California Thanksgiving

    • chelsea

      December 2, 2014 at 8:03 pm

      oh yay i’m so glad to hear it brightened your day, rebecca! i totally know that feeling of feeling bummed about space and money but that just means we have to get more creative 🙂 i cannot WAIT to see your elf-ed out place. that fireplace was one of the best surprises i’ve ever come home to!

  5. Rachel G

    December 2, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    You guys definitely get creative! I like your tree-on-the-wall! We’re just not decorating for Christmas this year. Usually I like to…but I don’t know, I just have no desire to decorate here. When we move to Malaysia I’ll get back into it. 🙂
    Rachel G recently posted…What My ESL Students Want to Learn

    • chelsea

      December 2, 2014 at 9:07 pm

      christmas is serious business over here (actually the hubs gets to take most of the credit). i felt not that into christmas a few years back too and that’s okay. better to acknowledge it than try to force something that just bugs you. ohh would love to see your malaysian christmas!

  6. Ashley @ Saving Money in your Twenties

    December 3, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    I love all of this!!! omg that fake fireplace is AMAZING. I would never have thought of that!! We have a real fireplace but it’s covered up by our couch. whoooops 😉
    Ashley @ Saving Money in your Twenties recently posted…How to get a late fee waived

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