Decorating an apartment for the holidays differs from trimming a home you own and have free reign over. In a rental, you can’t haphazardly nail stuff to the wall. You’re probably dealing with a smaller space or odd physical obstacles (like no mantel, or too many mantels!). And your landlord might even have restrictions on real trees or lighting candles. All these hurdles just means that the earned end result is far more satisfying. Personally, I think apartment Christmas decorations are the coziest of all, because you can really play into the quirkiness of a smaller space and the coziness of the season. So grab a hot drink, take notes, and get ready to transform your rental into a holiday wonderland.
Apartment Christmas Decorations that Won’t Break Budget
If you’re renting, you need to think about budget. You probably don’t want to invest in expensive decor that may or may not vibe with the next property you move to. Fortunately, living in a small space means your hard-earned dollars can go towards smaller (and thus more affordable) apartment Christmas decorations. Here are a few ideas for affordable and simple Christmas decorations that you can feel good about.
Turn your bar cart into a holiday spirit command station
More and more bar carts are being used as a platform for holiday decor. And why not? They’re affordable, stylish, and they hold alcohol – talk about the holiday spirit(s)! Hone in on a color scheme or theme, and use objects of varying heights to style the top of your bar cart. Try candles, bottles of spiced booze, and small knick-knacks. Drape a garland or a festive banner over the railing, and style some mule mugs underneath.
Make use of verticals
The best simple Christmas decorations make your eyes travel upwards. Up the tall evergreen, up the chimney, up to the roof of a colorfully lit home. Small spaces also benefit from the use of vertical visuals, as they can make a space appear taller. Look to walls, windows, arches, and door frames with your decor.
To the windows, to the wall
Speaking of walls and windows…
One of the biggest problems with apartment Christmas decorations is that there isn’t enough space for them. There’s no designated spot for a bushy tree without relocating the couch. Or, you don’t have enough tabletop space for jolly salt-and-pepper shakers. If you want to pack in more holiday cheer without risking square footage, focus your decor on windows and walls. Hang a wreath in an open window, or make your own window decals. Hang felt banners on the wall, try your hand at a DIY Advent calendar, or use tape to create festive, temporary imagery.
Replace smaller everyday objects with festive ones
If you have the extra storage space in your rental place, you might consider swapping out some of your decor. Pillows, throw blankets, napkins, placemats, and hand towels can all be replaced with more festive versions of themselves for instant holiday cheer.
Make use of the available space you have
Maybe your apartment lacks the spaces traditionally decorated during the holidays (i.e. a mantel or banister railing), but that doesn’t exclude you from getting festive. There are plenty of other areas in your home that can be decorated with holiday cheer. Your dining table, breakfast table, or coffee table is a fantastic surface for bringing in a wide variety of decor (like these DIY minimal cone trees, or a small tabletop tree). Bookshelves, ledges, and media cabinets are great for hanging garlands and greenery from. And if you’re really short on space, you could always start hanging decorations from the ceiling.
Group smaller items for big impact
Large decor is hard to store, and storage space is hard to come by in your traditional apartment. Keep it simple by investing in smaller pieces that you group together for big impact. This can be a collection of vintage ceramics, a candle centerpiece, or even a bowl full of pinecones.
Hit up the dollar store
The great thing about temporary living spaces is that the decor doesn’t have to stand the test of time. Head to the dollar bin section of Target, the thrift store, or the Dollar Store if you need lots of affordable apartment Christmas decorations, pronto. Ornaments are where you’ll save the most cash, since these can tend to be pricey and add up quick.
How to Decorate and Still Keep Your Security Deposit
If you live in a rental, you’re probably familiar with the usual lineup of non-damaging hanging hardware i.e., Command hooks and strips. While these are great for hanging apartment Christmas decorations, they might not work in every scenario. Let’s meet some of the other players in the nail-free game:
How to hang a stocking in a rental
If you’re lucky enough to have a mantel over a fireplace in your apartment, then you’re all set for Santa. Avoid adding nail holes by adding a sturdy stocking holder (like this one) to the top of your mantel. You can also “nail” your stockings in a way that leaves only a small pinprick behind. Hang stockings from a single dressmaker pin by lightly hammering them in place – this will only work with empty stockings, as the pin can’t hold weight!
No mantel? No problem. There are lots of great ways to hang stockings without leaving any lasting damage behind. Consider hanging your stocking from an existing peg rack. Or off a ladder. Or from a dressing rack. If it’s got a hook, you can hang it. Head over to our article on 16 mantel-free stocking ideas for inspiration!
The magic of tape
Hey renters – if you haven’t experimented with washi tape yet, you’re missing out! The adhesive on this tape is so light that it pulls up easier than masking tape, and doesn’t leave any residue behind.* Washi tape can be used to hang holiday cards, make unique festive graphics, or frame and highlight existing apartment Christmas decorations.
*While I’ve never had any problems with washi tape leaving residue, be safe and test on a small section of your wall before you move forward in your washi tape endeavors.
The paper clip trick
Hang lightweight apartment Christmas decorations with a paper clip, a small magnet, and a piece of masking tape. No holes, no joke. Click here for the visual instructions.
What kind of Christmas tree should I get for my apartment?
The type of Christmas tree you get will be dependent on the conditions of your lease. Some places won’t allow for a real tree. Others don’t care. Check your paperwork before you decide. If you live in a large apartment building several stories up, consider how far you’ll have to carry your dead, dry tree at the end of the season. If you live in an apartment with limited closet space, consider where a faux tree can be stored afterwards.
How to decorate an apartment door for Christmas
While you may not have your own rafters from which to hang lights, you do have something that homeowners do not: a front door completely protected from the elements. And this, my renter friends, is a fabulous opportunity to spread some holiday cheer. You can decorate an apartment door for Christmas in so many ways! Dress it up like a big present. Use temporary contact chalkboard and draw a festive scene or saying (like this festive door here). Buy or make your own holiday-inspired doormat. Or go traditional with a handmade wreath (using a Command hook to hang, of course!).
One Final Tip: Keep It Cozy
Small spaces work well with homey elements, and fortunately for us renters, so do holiday decorations. Try and aim for really simple Christmas decorations by honing in on hygge. Lighting is key. Twinkle lights in a door frame or on a shelf can instantly add charm. So do glowing candles in windows or on ledges. Also, focus on natural elements, like evergreen branches and cranberries. Bring in texture, like furs and flannel. And don’t discount how effectively a Christmas aroma can quickly transform a space! In short, you don’t have to fill your home with brand new decorations for it to feel festive. Focus on making it a warm, inviting, and cozy space you can enjoy.