Decorating for Christmas


Caustic Cross Stitch is one of the makers who will be at our Sunday, December 10 market

In addition to cross stitching all the damn time, I also LOVE Christmas. Like, more than normal people love Christmas. I go beyond all-out on my decorations every year. However, like most people in New York, I also have limited space to work with and don't actually own my living space. This will be my sixth Christmas season in Astoria, and over the years, I've worked out some apartment/rental decorating tips that I'd like to share.

I have to warn you though--I am not a trendy minimalist Scandinavian style Christmas person. My usual attention to visual space and avoiding overcrowding disappears as soon as Halloween is over. I'm all about squishing as much holiday decor into my apartment as possible.


Trees are probably the trickiest part of apartment decor. Here are some solutions to common problems:

If you have pets, your tree is pretty much in constant danger of toppling over. This is especially true of artificial trees, since they don't have the weight of a tree stand full of water to help keep them in place. People who live in houses that they own can use clever tips like wiring the tree to the wall or ceiling, but those of us who rent may not want to put holes in the wall.

I just duct tape the tree to the floor. I put tape across the base of the tree, and it stays in place no matter how many times my cats dive bomb the nativity or my tipsy friends bump into it at my Christmas party.

A word of warning, though: think about what kind of floor you have before you pull out the duct tape. The tape can leave residue, and many cleaners that remove adhesive don't play well with hardwood floors. This has never been a problem for me--the rooms I've put my tree in have all had floors that could hold up to a little nail polish remover when needed. But if you do have hardwoods, make sure you have a floor-friendly plan for removing adhesive if needed.

I suggest waiting to tape your tree to the ground until after you’ve assembled it to make sure it’s in the right place.  That brings me to another tip: put your lights on as you assemble the tree.

Fake trees look best when there are lights on both the inside and the edges of the branches.  I do one layer of lights from the bottom up as I put them tree together, wrapping one layer of lights on top of each layer of branches, and then another layer on the outside from the top down.

So, your artificial tree is secured to the floor, and your living room is super festive. But your apartment doesn't smell festive! You need real tree smell!

I put up both an artificial tree and a real tree (I'm a festive monster), but lots of landlords frown upon or outright ban real trees, and lots of apartments simply don't have enough space.

A simple solution that I used when I was in law school and couldn't afford to buy a real tree was to scatter pine boughs around the apartment. You can buy them at farmers’ markets during December, or beg your friendly neighborhood tree vendor to give you some of their trimmings.

Once you have your trimmings, you can either tie twine around them and hang them up (I used to loop them over the ends of curtain rods to avoid putting more holes in the wall) or, if you want them to last longer, put them in a large vase or pitcher.


One great way to make a room more festive without taking up extra space is simply covering up furniture you already have. That can mean basic things, like tablecloths on your kitchen table or a seasonal throw on your couch. I usually go further than that, though--for example, this quilted runner (picture below) gets draped over a side table in my living room every year. It makes a plain table festive without sacrificing extra space. I also love seasonal dish towels in the kitchen for the same purpose. Which brings me to…


If you look at kitchen Christmas decor on Pinterest, you're going to see a lot of stuff that apartment dwellers with tiny kitchens can't do--cookie jars that you don't have the space for and wreaths on windows that you don't have.

In addition to my Christmas dish towels and tablecloth (which, bonus, take up almost no storage space for the rest of the year), I also put bows on my cabinet doors. They can be attached with Command strips so you don't have to worry about damage to the cabinet doors, they don't take up much space, and they can be adapted to fit any seasonal aesthetic. Just keep them relatively simple--a large, elaborate bow is going to be too heavy to stay stuck to a Command strip for a whole month.

If you happen to have space above your cabinets, that's an excellent place for garland. It's out of the way, and no hooks are required.


If you want to hang up lights but you don't want holes in the wall, you basically have two options: suction cup hooks on the window and Command hooks on the wall. I've never had much luck with suction cup hooks, especially here on the East Coast where we often get drastic temperature fluctuations (which can make suction cups unhappy) during December. I prefer Command hooks.


I've already sung the praises of cabinet bows, but seasonal ribbon is helpful all over your apartment. Like fabric, it takes up little storage space during the rest of the year, and it can simply be added to objects you already own. I wrap or tie ribbon around lamps and knick knacks to make a room more festive without adding additional stuff that there's no space for.

Happy Decorating!

Robert Duffy