Small Space, Big Cheer

By Kristen Castillo

November 10, 2015 5 min read

You don't need a mansion to celebrate the holidays in style. Whether you're at home or on the road, your small space can be big on holiday cheer.

While traveling last year during the holidays, photographer Sarah Sloboda wanted to decorate the apartment where she was staying.

"I got inspiration on Instagram for a washi tape Christmas tree," she says. "I made the shape of a tree in washi tape on the wall, put in a few thumb tacks, hung some ornaments and a tiny strand of LED lights -- voila! Merry Christmas!"

*Embrace Small Spaces

While you might dread the holidays in a small space, one designer says it's a good thing.

Jennifer Bertrand, winner of HGTV's "Design Star" and ambassador for Design for a Difference, a design contest benefiting local charities in the U.S. and Canada, says having a little living area is a great problem to have, as you can focus on quality and not quantity.

"You can focus on doing elements well and right, rather than buying tons of nonquality items simply to fill a space," she says.

Even though your living area may be spatially challenged, you can still go big with design if you take a few risks.

"My advice is dream up the ideas that make you sound kooky and don't tell anyone or show them to anyone until after you are done," says Bertrand. "So crank up the music, have fun, take some risks and know I'm cheering you on."

*Focus on Your Senses

Think of the holidays. It's easy to envision the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches of the season. For this reason, interior designer Jill Winstead, owner of Custom Interior Designs, encourages decorating for your senses.

"Remember to think about holiday sounds and smells just as much as taste and sight," she says, explaining how pine oil and other seasonal scents provide a festive feeling.

She's also an advocate for forgoing store bought decor in favor of picking decorations from nature.

"They will give any space a unique decor, save money and can be tossed away easily at the end of the season," says Winstead.

She suggests filling a decorative bowl with pine cones, acorns, gourds or squash and then adding fresh scents and lighting. Fill your home with the smells of fresh-baked holiday treats and play holiday music. Doing so will make your cozy home a seasonal wonderland.

*Get Organized

Small spaces can look cluttered, and extra decor during the holidays can add to the problem. Professional organizer Bonnie Joy Dewkett, of The Joyful Organizer, encourages decorating with items that can easily stored post-holiday.

"I like to focus on things that break down," she says. "Inflatables, for example, store in a small space."

She also likes repurposing decor from nature, explaining that pine garlands and wreaths can be composted after Christmas or New Year's. "This way there is no waste and you don't have to store in the off season."

Maximize your whole living area, too. Dewkett recommended decorating on the backs of doors, on windows and above cabinets. "This gives you all the spirit of the season, but it doesn't take up valuable surface space," she says.

Adding holiday lights is also a festive mood booster that's easy to do and doesn't require much storage.

*Designer Jennifer Bertrand's Top Tips

1) Remove existing items that will junk up the space. If don't remove those items, "your small space can become overwhelming and actually lessen the holiday cheer."

Bertrand recommends creating new focal points to spice up the space. "Take down existing art/photos and replace with holiday art/photos," she says, noting you can enlarge childhood holiday photos.

2) Rearrange your furniture for the holidays. During the holidays, you need to redefine a room's flow.

"Reimagine your furniture by using a patterned throw across the sofa to add a graphic effect," says Bertrand. "Or paint an old side table ... to add a little fun for the holidays, knowing you can always paint it back to a classic neutral. I love to use lacquer paints to add shine and color."

3) Play with scale and groupings. "When people have small spaces and they don't know what to do, they put a little bit of something everywhere," says Bertrand, who suggests grouping items in clusters instead to create drama. For example, layer two to three garlands over inside doorways.

"Approach displaying your holiday decor like an installation artist," she says. "You can create movement and happiness by the pattern you use to display the items."

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