Published on November 29, 2019

how-to-be-festive-without-tree-domino Pin It
photography by Katie Newburn for MARCH

Maybe you live in a walk-up and don’t feel like lugging a balsam fir up four flights of stairs. Maybe you just don’t have the space for a massive plant to take up an entire corner of your living room. The good news is you don’t need a tree to complete your festive decor—there are plenty of other ways to get in the holiday spirit that don’t result in pine needles littering your floors. 

The key is a combination of reworking what you already have and picking up a few new (small!) accents that you can easily pack up in under-bed storage bins come January 1. We approached it like a design challenge, playing around with traditional elements of the season to come up with something fresh.

Set the Scene

String lights are a classic, but they don’t just belong on a tree. Pick colorful strands or bulbs in a funky shape, then go wild draping them over any surface that needs a little zhuzhing, from an empty mantel to above your doorframe. 

Make a Few Substitutions

You’ve spent so much time and money raising your beloved houseplants—why not make them the stars of the show? Group a few of your tallest together and toss some ornaments their way; if they don’t have branches, try garland. Anything can be a Christmas tree if you keep an open mind. 

Pause for Some Reflection

Mirrored surfaces are innately glitzy. Go as big as a new side table or as small as a series of trays for your coffee table (you can pile baubles on the platters for a tiny impactful vignette). 

Boost the Mood

Candles are a holiday favorite for a reason. Simple gold holders with cream tapers are timeless and elegant—and make a chic centerpiece in a pinch—while a bunch of silvery votives give off twice the glimmer when lit. (Pro tip: If you’re looking for an abstract take on a menorah, a few candles staggered in height will do the trick.)

Pepper in Little Bits of Tradition

Okay, you might not want a full-on tree, but what about a couple mini replicas? Be it something sleek made of milk glass or a rainbow of bottlebrush versions, these objects will go a long way in helping you feel festive. The best part: They barely take up any storage space. 

Fill Every Vacant Vessel

Preferably with something a little less on the nose than red berries. Burgundy-colored eucalyptus will do the trick, but if you can get a few sprigs on the drier side, spray-paint them metallic gold or silver for a touch of shine. 

Play Up Your Walls

We love Ferm Living’s Art Deco–inspired piece because you can keep it up year-round; make it December-ready simply by affixing a sprig or two of holly. Or why not try a nontraditional wreath for your front door? MoMA Design Store’s Technicolor one will up your spirits before you even step inside.

See more ways to prep for the holidays:
Frederick and Mae’s Quirky Ornaments Will Make You Rethink Holiday Decor
5 Festive Beverages to Bring to Dinner That Aren’t Wine
Winter Decorating Ideas to Steal From a Cozy Home in Bath, England

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