5 Simple Tips to Decorate at the Holidays

Real Talk: When I envision the holidays, the first thing I picture is dragging my Christmas tree home When Harry Met Sally style.

That being said, I’ve lived in enough tiny apartments to know that sometimes you have to get a bit more creative when it comes to decorating for the season. Whether your apartment simply can’t spare the square footage, or your bank account can’t spare the funds, we get that a tree isn’t always a realistic option.

Still, the idea of our readers celebrating the season with nary a holiday detail in sight was too much for our festive hearts to bear, so when Macy’s reached out about partnering with us to share five ways to dress up your home for the holidays, (no Christmas tree required!) we leapt at the chance.

1. Add festive textiles to the living area (or bedroom).

Pendleton 5th Ave Blanket; Alpine Village Pillow; Long Tassel Knit Throw 

Before you tell me that swapping out regular throw pillows for holiday inspired patterns is cheesy, LET ME STOP YOU RIGHT THERE! I say: No it’s not and even if it was, what are the holidays for?

Adding festive textiles to your living or bedroom is a practical way to decorate for the season—you’ll be able to reuse these pieces year after year, ultimately saving you time and money. And we love the extra dose of color and texture the additional layers add to the room. We swapped in the Alpine Village pillow from Macy’s to bring in just the right amount of red, green, and wintery blues; and we also layered a fluffy throw underneath to up the cozy factor.

We’re also big fans of the 5th Avenue Fringed Wool Throw, which adds the perfect hint of traditional Christmas cheer thanks to the plaid pattern. We chose the Grey Stewart Plaid color to keep it feeling appropriate all winter long, even beyond the holidays.

2. Hang stockings (with or without a fireplace!).

Glass Ball Initial Ornament; Cableknit Stocking; Gold Brushed Stocking Holders

The classic story ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas famously claims the “stockings were hung by the chimney with care” and I’ll be damned if I break this tried and true holiday tradition for lack of a fireplace! We hung this pair of soft cableknit stockings on a TV stand thanks to these gorgeous gold brushed stocking holders (we’re partial to the reindeer set!). With the Yule Log channel playing on the television we barely even feel like we’re improvising.

All you need is a surface with some height—a media stand, dresser, or bookshelf works perfectly. We customized each stocking with an initial ornament, which turned out to be an inexpensive and fun departure from the traditional monogram!

3. Give the illusion of a tree by decorating with greenery and lights.

Evergreen Garland; “Joy” LED Sign

I may or may not be the kind of person who spends an entire week putting up Christmas tree lights. The idea of forgoing that magical twinkle-lit glow against the evergreen is something I can’t fathom. We all fall into our own light camp: colored versus white or mini bulbs versus oversized. Personally, I have room in my heart for all the twinkle light varieties, just as long as they’re present.

We used the Kurt Adler Virgina Pine Garland and draped it against a living room mirror to create a focal point, but you can get the same effect by using windows or a doorway. The Starry “Joy” LED sign injected a touch more of that warm glow, and it’s the perfect weight and size for the floor, nightstand, or propped on a shelf.

4. Switch out your usual dishware with a few festive mugs, plates, and linens.

Lenox Holiday Napkins; Pups and Plaids Lab Cereal Bowl; Pups and Plaids Pug Mug; Silver Ornaments 

We all know hot chocolate is a major perk of the holiday season, but it’s just THAT much better when you’re drinking it out of a mug with a Christmas sweater wearing pug on it. (Trust.) Pulling out dishes and linens that are only used a few weeks out of the year makes every use feel that much more special and thrilling—each sip and bite serves as a reminder that it really is the most wonderful time of the year.

There’s no need to invest in a full holiday themed China set—just a few additions to your regularly scheduled dishware program (a mug for coffee, a bowl for Christmas movie popcorn, and a festive napkin to tie it all together) will do the trick. Bonus: It can also serve as the perfect vessel for a few of your favorite ornaments.

5. Our favorite: Keep seasonal treats out for guests (and you) to enjoy!

Peppermint Bark CookiesPeppermint Crunch CookiesArbor Village Hors d’oeuvre Tray 

You can tell me all you want that you never snuck handfuls of red and green holiday M&M’s out of your granny’s candy dish, but there’s still a good chance I won’t believe you.

To this day, it just doesn’t feel quite like Christmas without some seasonal cookies and candies on the table. Our whole team is newly obsessed with the Peppermint Bark Cookies from Macy’s (seriously, we’ve consumed an embarrassing amount of these in the last two weeks) but we’re also known for keeping Peppermint Crunch candies on hand for a little seasonal sweet treat. They both look so fun and festive on the Arbor Village Hors d’oeuvre tray that we would almost feel bad eating them if they weren’t THAT good.

Now we want to hear from you! What are your simple and affordable tricks to decorating for the holidays? Do you get a tree every year? Tell us in the comments below!

  • Nikki Laraja

    What a cute apartment, I love keeping little treats out around Christmas as well ; )


  • I really like these suggestions because we don’t like fake trees and we feel bad taking out a perfectly good tree and bringing it indoors. I think these ideas would still spruce up my apartment (no pun intended) without missing any of that cozy, Christmas feeling. Thanks!

  • Taylor Kim

    These are some great ideas, especially for an apartment! I particularly liked the reindeer stocking holder and adding the initials ornament details! The small things can really make a big difference! Thanks for the tips 🙂

    xo, Taylor

    • It’s always nice to personalize stockings and monogramming is beautiful but can be pricey. Glad you enjoyed it!

  • rosyrosy0125

    Love the vases (both the clear and white)! Are they from Macy’s as well?

    • Sarah

      I would love to know where the vases are from too. Very cute!

      • The white one was actually a $1 find from Salvation Army, and the clear glass is a candle hurricane from West Elm a few seasons ago!

  • Michele

    I’ve never bought poinsettias before, so I’m not sure how much they normally cost. However, I found great deals at Home Depot this past Sunday, and so purchased a bunch and placed them throughout my apartment. Love any excuse to incorporate more plants into my decor!

  • Rachel Jaggers

    Can you link to where the chair is from? 🙂 Thank you!

  • Jessica

    Can you share some Hanukkah decorations too?

  • Jessica

    Can you share some Hanukkah decorations too?

    • Yes–will have some great options in a few days!

  • Sarah

    I lust over your tv stand and have been trying to find one just like it to paint. Do you know the maker and dimensions? Love your decor and all the Christmas touches are perfect!

    • Oh thank you! This was a vintage piece redone by Megmade in Chicago. She does similar pieces all of the time and they ship anywhere! – Alaina

      • Sarah

        Yeah I know, she makes beautiful stuff! Saw her on Yellow Brick Home’s blog. I was trying to find one to spruce up myself since I love diy and was trying to figure out the furniture brand to refine my search and also make sure the dimensions would fit where I have in mind. 🙂

  • Laura Holmes

    Some really great ideas and some beautifully shot photos x


  • thats a lot of white! it looks brill but my kids would constantly make it all dirty haha :/ those stockings though!


  • Alaina

    The link is wrong for the alpine pillow. It links to a blanket. Could you update it?

    Loved the article by the way! I was looking for some ways to spruce up our place for Christmas beyond our very small tree. 🙂

  • What a gorgeous room! I can imagine I’d love to spend hours here as a
    little girl.

  • LOVE these ideas!

  • shaw

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