10 style-savvy ways to decorate a small living room for Christmas, according to design experts

Size isn’t everything; discover smart ways to get Christmas-cosy in your living room without compromising on comfort or joy

Sofa in living room
(Image credit: Future PLC)

The thought of decorating a small living room for Christmas can feel a little dispiriting. You’re bombarded with blingy festive interiors on TV and social media, loaded up with Christmas trees that can be seen from space and more spruces and pinecones than Sherwood Forest. Meanwhile, you’re sat on your space-saving sofa wondering whether it will be possible to squeeze a tree in at all, or at least not without getting a face full of needles every time you sit down.

‘Sometimes it’s about using what you already have, and if you don’t have the room for grand Christmas decor ideas, metres of fairy lights or even a tree, there are routes you can take to show you’re still in the spirit!’ reassures Joanna Baumard, Co-Founder of Purlfrost. There are plenty of ways to add festive charm without overwhelming a small living room

Small living room Christmas decorating ideas

Decorating a spatially challenged room for the festive season definitely isn’t all doom and gloom, as some of the best Christmas living room decor ideas really do look so much better in a bijou setting. And it requires far fewer baubles and bunting to dress a small living room for Christmas, leaving a little more in the pot for presents. 

1. Dress the windows

window seat with pink cushion and festive greenery and garlands

(Image credit: Future)

You may not be looking out onto a winter wonderland this Christmas (finger’s crossed for snow), but your windows are the perfect target for a sprinkling of festive cheer. A generous bay window or any windows with deep sills or seating will provide a little more space to layer up the holly, ivy and evergreen spruces but it’s easy to drape garlands and tinsel across even the smallest frames for a beautiful Christmas window decor look.

‘No matter what style of window you have, there are lots of great opportunities to utilise different types of decorations,’ enthuses Rikke Blaesild, Range and Design Manager at JYSK. ‘Even simply hanging existing decorations such as baubles and other tree ornaments in front of the glass will add festive sparkle without needing to splurge on extra decs.’

The glass itself can also be given a festive makeover using window films and reusable window stickers.

2. Go for gold

gold decorations against grey textured wall with honeycomb trees

(Image credit: Rockett St George)

It might be tempting to stick to a white and silver scheme for the promise of space-enhancing brightness but the experts believe a cosier vibe is the way forward when seeking out decorating ideas for small living rooms. 

‘You can never go wrong with gold at Christmas and it’s perfect for small living spaces,’ says Jane Rockett, Co-founder of Rockett St George. ‘Gold introduces cosy warmth and maximalist glamour to your home and is, therefore, the ideal choice for your festive colour scheme.’

Rockett St George’s top tip for creating a magical atmosphere at home during the holiday season is to use Christmas candles everywhere. ‘Gold Christmas decorations and garlands reflect this candlelight with a gorgeous golden glow and help set the scene for any occasion – from cosy nights in, to festive house party entertaining with all of your favourite people,’ explains Jane. 

3. Work in a wreath

Sofa in living room

(Image credit: Future PLC / David Brittain)

The classic Christmas wreath is no longer just for the front door – bring the festive greenery inside your living room, on walls, shelving and above the fireplace, to enjoy for longer. Hung or leaning on the walls, wreathes don’t take up any precious floor or counter space, making them a brilliant option when space is restricted. 

‘Each year we see new and creative ways that customers are displaying this simple yet impactful decoration inside. We see a real trend for wreaths as a Christmas tree alternative in smaller spaces to still create a Christmassy feeling at home,’ says Abi Wilson, Head of Buying – Celebrations at Habitat.

‘Christmas wreaths make a great festive focal point, often dressed with personal touches to complement the surroundings. Faux designs are a great option as they don’t perish, and so can be stored and enjoyed year after year.’

4. Add festive sparkle to shelving


(Image credit: Home Bargains)

Get your shelfie action on and give vertical storage a seasonal glow up – be it a single shelf above the sofa, living room shelving in alcoves or a small dresser. If you don’t have any shelving in-situ, consider investing in freestanding shelves. ‘A slimline shelving unit provides the ideal framework to create a neat festive display while maximising the space in the room,’ says Jonathan Clark, Creative Director of Shelved

‘The key is to dress your shelves with items that complement a small space, without compromising on the fun of Christmas décor,’ he adds. Pared back needn’t be joyless. For example, a Scandi-style shelving display featuring white lanterns, pinecones and a sprinkling of battery-operated fairy lights will look absolutely charming, without overpowering your small living room. 

5. Makeover your mantel


(Image credit: B&M)

No space for a tree? No stress. Drape a fir garland – the bushier the better – across your mantlepiece and load it up with baubles and lights. ‘Framing your mantlepiece with a garland and stockings will add that instant festive flare,’ says Shelley Robinson, Senior Brand Manager at B&M

‘We recommend using a variety of textures and colour – and by bringing in festive characters like gonks or nutcrackers you can invite the joy of Christmas so easily into your look.’ To add extra impact to your Christmas mantel decor, carry your garland down to the floor on one side and double up the thickness.

6. Focus attention upwards

A bow-decorated Christmas tree next to a pink sofa

(Image credit: Sofology)

You may not want to recreate the festoons of red, gold and green metallic garlands your nan favoured, but don’t overlook the living room ceiling for a dose of festive cheer. Usually white, ceilings are the perfect blank canvas for a splash of colour. Opt for lightweight decorations that won’t cause any damage to the plaster, and make sure any decs that dangle down sit above head height!

‘We love to use Origami paper decorations, which can look simple and elegant and instantly transform a small living space. As they are very light you can hang them using a drawing pin and fine cotton or ribbons from the ceiling, the bright white paper decorations look really striking and add a beautiful touch to festivities,’ says Jamie Graham, co-owner of Graham and Green

7. Look for tree alternatives

A Christmas tree alternative wall hanging with branches and red berries

(Image credit: Homebase)

Christmas trees can swallow up a lot of precious floor space in a small living room – you may even need to rearrange or relocate some furniture to squeeze one in. Instead, why not consider Christmas tree alternatives like a ladder tree from John Lewis or a DIY space-saving tree? Those aimed at small spaces are designed to sit on a sideboard, coffee table or windowsill, so you won’t have to make any seating sacrifices when guests come over. 

‘Using a branch from the garden or local woodland is a brilliant and sustainable alternative to a traditional tree in the home,’ suggests Lou Graham, co-founder of Graham and Green. ‘Decorate with delicate lights and baubles and it will feel just as magical but require much less space.’

8. Layer on the lighting

a modern fireplace filled with candles and christmas tree and wreath

(Image credit: B&M)

Decorating with Christmas lights is the secret to establishing a festive atmosphere – everything feels more magical under the soft glow of fairy lights! Battery-powered string lights are affordable and flexible, too. 

They can be draped around windows, doorways and the tops of dressers without having to worry about socket locations or extension leads. Our guide to where to buy Christmas lights is full of options for all types. We love lanterns or vases filled with string lights on a windowsill or table for a cosy glow, and don’t forget the candles. LED or real flame, candles always guarantee the cosiness levels will soar. 

‘Try spreading festive lighting evenly to draw the eye around a small living room and make it appear larger. Evenly spread light is key for opening up a space and lighting up dark corners. Lights that illuminate upwards and outwards will also help to bounce light around a room and create a glow that is soft and flattering,’ adds Camilla Lesser, property expert at Essential Living

9. Invest in Christmas cushions

a sharing sofa with cushions and throws and star garlands in the background

(Image credit: Dunelm)

As the largest piece of furniture in your living room, it’s easy to make a big seasonal splash on the sofa. Simply switching out your regular cushion covers for Christmas themed designs can prove a quick win and is a great budget Christmas decor trick. Give them a wash after the holidays, and store with the rest of your decorations to be used every year. 

‘Decorating the sofa can really help dial up the festive atmosphere in a small living room,’ agrees Gareth Coxall, Creative Director at Terrys. ‘Drape a festive throw over the back - maybe a bottle green faux fur or ruby red fleece. Next, arrange a collection of Christmas cushions. Whether you choose neutral cream boucles, neon brights, or more traditional designs - mix, match and layer them to create an inviting and cosy space to relax on a chilly winter’s evening. The last thing you’ll need? A mug of mulled wine.’

10. Practice restraint

living room with aubergine walls a small tree in the corner and retro coffee table

(Image credit: Hillarys)

While decorating is fun, when it comes to small living room decorating ideas it’s essential not to get too carried away. Less is more, and a few thoughtfully placed decorations can often be far more impressive than an overwhelming visual feast of tinsel, sparkle and bright lights. 

‘Don’t go overboard. A theme is important and decorations are key for occasions like Christmas where you intend to bring some festive cheer into your space, but taking this too far — with large inflatable props and eccentric hanging decorations — can make your already small space, feel even more cramped,’ says Camilla Lesser, property expert at Essential Living


How can I make my living room look Christmassy?

There are so many joyful ways to bring ALL the Christmas feels to your living room. From twinkling fairy lights and silvery garlands for a snowy winter theme, to bold neon brights and deliberate in-your-face gaudiness, there’s something to suit all personalities and tastes. 

While there’s no need to stick to a strict theme, working out a loose style direction or Christmas colour scheme can certainly help channel your festive creativity and ensure your living room feels cohesively Christmassy, not completely chaotic. Anything that sparkles, twinkles and glows is always good for creating a festive atmosphere – think roaring log fires, clusters of candles and string lights swung over mirrors, around the mantel and along shelving. 

How to decorate for Christmas in a very small house?

One of the best ways to decorate for Christmas in a very small house is to begin by packing away your clutter. ‘If you're planning to bring a tree into your home and fill your surfaces with fairy lights, you need to make some space. Almost all great Christmas decoration projects start with a tidy-up, and it’s more important than ever if you’re battling for space,’ says interior designer Melissa Denham, from Hammonds Furniture. 

‘Pack away any non-festive ornaments so that your small house doesn't look cluttered. Dust your shelves ready for the garlands and, if you have fitted living room storage, then make the most of it by squirreling away anything that usually takes up surface space.’


A small living room can still look beautiful at Christmas, simply think of your room as a jewellery box and fill it with everything that sparkles and brings you job.

Linda Clayton

 Linda Clayton is a professionally trained journalist, and has specialised in product design, interiors and fitness for more than two decades. Linda has written for a wide range of publications, from the Daily Telegraph and Guardian to Homes & Gardens and Livingetc. She has been freelancing for Ideal Home Magazine since 2008, covering design trends, home makeovers, product reviews and much more.