In my house, a certain sound signifies the beginning of the holiday season. It isn’t the sound of hooves on the rooftop; it’s my husband, banging around (and muttering) in the attic as he pulls down my boxes of holiday decorations – somewhere around 30 of them (I stopped counting a few years back. I think it is sometimes better not to know). We have the main Christmas tree in the formal living room (silver, white, and blue) and a frilly Victorian tree in the family room (a white tree with gold and pink ornaments and ribbons). In the dining room, I have a baking-themed tree with tiny teacups, Santas in tall chef’s hats, candy ornaments, and so on. On the front porch, I have an outside tree with rustic birdhouse ornaments, animals, pinecones, a plaid tree-skirt, and an old-fashioned mountain-man Santa topper. I also have a small, funky, neon green tree with purple ornaments for the entryway and a fiber-optic tree for the fireplace. And then, of course, there’s the house décor … towels, dinnerware, candles, a nativity set, snow globes galore, and so on and so on for dozens and dozens of boxes.
Every year, I tell my disheveled, exasperated husband that I will eliminate some of it … but I never do. So we live in a forest of artificial trees from the middle of November until the first week of January. It’s not that I set out to make my home into a forest of Christmas trees and a wonderland of kitschy décor – I inherited a lot of it, and don’t have the heart to get rid of any of it. My parents live in a small apartment, so every year they “downsize” their decorations. When they do this, they pass the unwanted items to me – which is how I inherited the white tree and the fiber-optic tree. When my mother-in-law moved to Florida, she passed along boxes of snow globes, statues, candles, decorations, and more to me, since she no longer had anywhere to put it. A family friend passed along a Christmas village, complete with tiny figurines and little snow-covered trees, on to me when he moved into a smaller house. Now, when friends, neighbors, and relatives come to visit, they decide I must really love holiday decorating … so they “gift” me with even more.
As I ponder getting all of those boxes out of the attic yet again, I’m looking at ideas for a kinder, gentler approach to decorating. I’m thinking of taking lessons from my mom, who has a very simple tabletop arrangement. Of course, I’d have to do more than that, but I’d like to avoid the inevitable pandemonium that arises when six trees and a sea of tchotchkes meet up with two rambunctious boys and two small but missile-fast dogs.
Learn from my inevitable yearly chaos when deciding how to decorate your apartment. In a small space, the decorations can very quickly become overwhelming, so a scaled-back approach is probably a good idea. If a regular tree won’t fit in your space, try a small tabletop tree or a skinny tree. You can even get an upside-down tree. If a tree is just impossible but you’d still like the look of one, try this unique approach (slide 57) using an antique drying rack to show off small, elegant ornaments. You can even give wall decals a try, or make a potted plant do double-duty and string it with lightweight ornaments and Christmas lights.
Decorate for the season by simply framing wrapping paper and hanging it above the couch or over the fireplace. Or fill a charger with ornaments and place them on a table. Choose a simple color scheme and carry it through your apartment. (If you use silver, the light will bounce off the decorations and make your space appear larger.) I’m thinking of using this idea and giving new life to many of my older, worn-out ornaments: get a Styrofoam wreath, spray-paint it, and hot-glue ornaments to it. This would look great on your front door or hanging on the wall.
Another great way to decorate is with holiday cards. They can be displayed on a rack, framed and placed around the room, or string them up and hang them across one wall. Or, get creative and make tiny boxes out of them. Stack them up in a creative display, complete with cheery ribbons.
If you have a balcony or patio, string up lights and decorate an outdoor plant. If you grow containers of tomatoes in the summer, put your tomato cages to use and make Christmas trees out of them. If your apartment is very small, you may want to concentrate on this outdoor space – it can be seen from your apartment and it won’t be so much as to overwhelm your space.
Even if you just choose to switch out your throw pillows, add a few seasonal throws to your furniture, and place a scented candle on your coffee table, sprucing up your apartment will bring some holiday cheer into your space. If you want to go a little more extreme, be sure to measure your spaces and decide where everything will go ahead of time. Also, be sure to plan for storage when it’s time to un-deck your halls. Whether you have one box or 50, you need to have a place to put them, so don’t be lured in by the bright and cheery decorations on display at the stores – unless you have a gullible friend or family member willing to take unwanted decorations off your hands.