How can you decorate for the holidays if you don't have space for a Christmas tree? 6 interior designers on what they do instead

Whether you have no room for a Christmas tree, or just want to decorate a little different this year, here are some easy and effective alternatives

How to decorate without a Christmas tree
(Image credit: McGee & Co./Future)

The Christmas tree has become the focal point of a holiday scheme. But what if you don't have space to squeeze a full-sized tree in your home? Or what if you would rather focus your efforts elsewhere this year and leave the floor space free? Going without a tree over the holidays is not sacrilege, it can be very practical and it definitely doesn't mean you can't bring just as much festiveness into your home. 

But what are the best alternatives? We asked interior designers what their easy alternative ideas are. Take note even if you are having a Christmas tree this year because all these Christmas decor ideas can be used in those lesser decorated rooms too that usually don't have a tree like entryways and kitchens. 

How to decorate for the holidays without a tree

Nothing groundbreaking here, nothing that means investing in a whole new lot of ornaments or ditching any traditions. In fact, some of these ideas are incredibly frugal, sustainable and will create new traditions. From going all out on mantle decor ideas with foraged foliage to creating festive displays with ornaments that really mean something to you, here's what designers suggest for decorating a space without a tree. 

1. Curate personal displays

Entryway decorated for Christmas

(Image credit: Jon Day)

'My young children use any holiday as an excuse to decorate, so our holiday decorations tend to reflect our family and lives. From holiday-themed drawings made in art class to enormous pinecones our kids collected on a walk, our house is festive, conversational, and inviting around the holidays.' explains designer Jessica Jubelirer.

'As a mom and designer, I always arrange the kids’ treasures in an intentional and artistic manner. As a lover of artistry and craftsmanship, I also tend to bring out special festive objects I’ve collected over the years, light a few Christmas candles, and bring in fresh-cut flowers. Touches of personality and individuality, candles, and seasonal florals or Christmas foliage are all beautiful ways to invite holiday spirit into your home, whether you have a Christmas tree or not.' 

2. Downsize the tree and upsize the cozy decor

McGee & Co. christmas decor

(Image credit: McGee & Co.)

'I love the look of a miniature Christmas tree that can easily perch on top of a trunk or console table. Add additional holiday cheer with vases of greenery, seasonal decorative accents (like reindeer figurines and glass trees), throw pillows and blankets with subtle holiday motifs - you can't go wrong with faux fur pillows and cashmere throws - and icicle lights in your windows.' explains designer Kathy Kuo.

'You can create a cozy atmosphere by introducing more seasonal foliage and draping additional throws over the backs of armchairs or sofas,' adds Christina Bull, project lead at Sims Hilditch. 'We like to introduce battery-operated side lamps during the darker seasons which offer the flexibility to move them around the home.'

3. Focus on surfaces to add Christmas decor

Rustic dining room decor

(Image credit: Future)

'If you have a fireplace, styling a mantelpiece is a great focal point of the room to make extra special at Christmas time. I love to dress ours with an abundance of greenery from the garden or a faux garland or a mix of the two adds depth and is such a time saver. Wind in fairy lights - battery operated are a great option here -  and then add a few pine cones or tree decorations.' explains Mark Winstanley Chief Creative Officer at The White Company

Designer Bethany Adams agrees, if you don't have the space for a Christmas tree, 'Focus on decking your halls with greenery instead of centering your attention around a tree.  Doorways, mantles, banisters, etc. can be festively outfitted so no one will even notice the tree is missing.'

4. Adorn the walls

McGee & Co. olive garland around door

(Image credit: McGee & Co.)

'You can still decorate for Christmas without a traditional tree or when space is limited,' says designer Jennifer Davis. 'Adorn your walls or doors with a Christmas-themed tapestry, a Christmas wreath hung over a painting or picture window, or a series of hanging ornaments arranged in a decorative pattern.; 

'This creates a focal point without taking up floor space.  Opt for smaller tabletop trees or potted plants like mini pine trees or rosemary bushes decorated with fairy lights and ornaments. These can add a touch of holiday charm without requiring much space.'

5. Get foraging for folliage

Vase of festive flowers and foliage on round table

(Image credit: Jon Day Photography)

'Instead of a tree, I like to bring in winter foliage, oversized branches from the garden for example, and dried flowers (especially hydrangeas as they add lots of volume, texture, and color).' explains Iwona Budnik, Senior Interior Designer at OWN LONDON. 'You could consider dressing any mantelpieces with foliage if there is a fireplace, and add candles, lots of candles.'

6. Get decorating the windows

West Elm Christmas collection, wreaths & garlands

(Image credit: West Elm)

'Don't forget about the window decor!' says Jennifer. 'Hang string lights, small boxwood wreaths hung with a wide ribbon, or consider arranging battery-operated candles on the window sill for added ambiance. And also don't forget about a holiday-themed centerpiece for your table using candles, ornaments, pinecones, or seasonal fruits like cranberries and oranges. This becomes a beautiful focal point for the room.' 

'Remember, it's not solely about the presence of a tree but about the overall atmosphere and the incorporation of festive elements that evoke the holiday spirit.' she adds. 

See decorating for the holidays without a Christmas tree can be just as joyful and look just as beautiful. It's just about being a bit more creative and looking for areas that you can decorate instead that will add just as much of a focal point. 

Head of Interiors

I am the Head of Interiors at Homes & Gardens. I started off in the world of journalism in fashion and luxury travel and then landed my first interiors role at Real Homes and have been in the world of interior design ever since. Prior to my role at H&G I was the digital editor at Livingetc, from which I took a sabbatical to travel in my self-converted van (not as glamorous as decorating a home, but very satisfying). A year later, and with lots of technical DIY lessons learned I am back to writing and editing, sometimes even from the comfort of my home on wheels.