How to make a home cozy for Christmas – 9 rules for a warm and festive feel

These nine tips guarantee a magical decorating scheme for the holidays

Christmas decor
(Image credit: Layered Lounge)

Christmas is the perfect time to cozy up at home and create the perfect winter hibernation spot to wait out the cold weather, and luckily, it is simple to make a home cozy for Christmas.

With a good tree, well-executed Christmas decor ideas, and a few of the best candles, you’ll be halfway to creating the ideal hygge home. 

This is how interior designers make a house look cozy during Christmastime, for a magical grotto perfect for hosting.  

How to make a home cozy for Christmas 

One trick for a cozy home is to focus on each room individually, from making a bedroom cozy to cozy kitchen ideas, adding to each of your spaces for a cohesive feel.

1. Focus on one theme

Cozy living room with candles and decorated mantel

(Image credit: West Elm)

For a cozy, all-encompassing scheme, Cherie Lee, interior designer and director of Cherie Lee Interiors, suggests focusing on one Christmas tree theme and pulling it throughout your space:

‘Unless you are a maximalist, I'd recommend focusing on a cohesive theme, whether it's traditional, modern, or rustic, to create a unified and visually pleasing look,’ she suggests. Be sure to pick out garlands, baubles, and lights that match the aesthetic, taking inspiration from what you already own to make it simple. 

Cherie Lee
Cherie Lee

Cherie Lee heads the team at CLI, taking creative lead on all projects. She works closely with her team of designers and project managers who ensure the smooth implementation and delivery of stunning homes.

2. Introduce lots of foliage

Wooden traditional staircase decorated with a foliage garland

(Image credit: Jon Day Photography | Designers Guild | Trenoweth House)

There is more to good Christmas decor than the tree, Naomi Astley Clarke, interior designer emphasizes that you need to invest in Christmas foliage throughout your space for that magical touch:

‘A beautiful Christmas wreath for your front door is a wonderful festive welcome to your home. Dried flowers and foliage are a gorgeous traditional way to decorate your home during the winter months and often retain their scent – I've put up garlands of dried hops before which provided a beautiful visual effect above a fireplace. So simple and yet effective.’

Audrey Scheck, interior designer and founder of the eponymous design company, adds that it is not just plants you should focus your attention on, but other seasonal offerings too:

‘Opt to sprinkle in decor elements that are rooted in nature such as pine cones, branches,  greenery, and mushrooms. Utilizing natural elements will make your space feel authentically warm and inviting.’

naomi astley clarke headshot
Naomi Astley Clarke

Named as one of Andrew Martin Top 100 in the World 2022, Naomi is a highly experienced interior design practice with expertise in the sympathetic renovation and refurbishment of residential and commercial properties. Naomi has worked in the industry for over 25 years and is now one of the most sought-after designers with a client base that includes world-famous movie stars, producers, music moguls, professionals, and entrepreneurs. 

3. Layer luxury fabrics

Christmas living room with wreath around mantel mirror, stockings, tree, candles, neutrals sofa, armchair, coffee table and footstool, grey walls

(Image credit: Neptune)

Layering in interior design is a must year-round, but it is particularly important if you want to create a cozy look, reminds Trish Knight and Nicole Varga, interior designers and co-founders of Knight Varga. They recommend starting by swapping out your existing soft furniture for something that matches your Christmas theme a little more, with luxurious fabrics such as faux fur, velvet, and holiday-inspired patterns. 

‘For easier storage after Christmas, shop for covers only when buying holiday-inspired cushions and use them with the inners you currently own,’ they add.

Knight Varga Interiors
Trish Knight and Nicole Varga

Co-founders of Knight Varga Interiors, Trish and Nicole collectively have two decades of experience in the design world. Their Vancouver-based multi-award-winning design firm has become known and sought after for creating well-curated interiors. The firm provides complete bespoke residential design services throughout Vancouver, BC Canada and North America.

4. Set the scheme with candlelight

Mantelpiece dressed for Christmas

(Image credit: Birdie Fortescue)

There is arguably nothing more Christmassy than a bunch of candles casting a soft light. They are inherently cozy.

As a result, Audrey Scheck, interior designer, strongly recommends setting the tone with just candlelight alone – be it real or fake: 

‘The glow of candlelight instantly warms things up to make your home more inviting. We love utilizing an array of different candles throughout a space. Tall taper candles are perfect for bringing height to a vignette, and scented candles can quickly make your home smell like the holidays.’

LED Taper Candles | View at Amazon

LED Taper Candles | View at Amazon
If live flames aren't for you, or you have young children or pets, these LED taper candles are perfect to create a soft glow without the fire risk. 

Audrey Scheck
Audrey Scheck

With more than a half-dozen years of experience in remodels and renovations, Audrey Scheck leads Audrey Scheck Design, a full-service interior design firm based in Austin, Texas.

5. Abandon the overhead lights

Cozy christmas living room with fireplace, tree and seating

(Image credit: Rowen & Wren)

In a similar vein, it can be a good idea to stick with soft lighting ideas and ditch our harsh overhead lighting altogether over Christmas for a coy vibe, suggests Suzy Humphreys, founder of Layered Lounge:

‘I love to abandon all overhead lighting at Christmas time and layer the lighting with an abundance of fairy lights, lanterns filled with candles, and ceramics filled with tea lights. By utilizing LED versions with handy timers, you can also create a magical glow without the effort of lighting them every night.’

When using bulbs, play around with lighting temperatures and stick closer to the warm end of the spectrum for soft glows perfect for snuggling on the couch.  

6. Decorate with sentimental pieces

Christmas decor in a bowl on a table

(Image credit: Layered Lounge)

Christmas is a very sentimental time – we all have so many memories attached to it. To help channel this and make your house feel homey, consider making your sentimental pieces the highlight of your Christmas decorating, says Cherie Lee, interior designer.

‘This is possibly my favorite part,’ she shares. ‘Add personal touches when decorating a Christmas tree through DIY ornaments or family keepsakes for a sentimental and charming touch. Christmas tree decorations can quickly become expensive, so I like to buy one new special Christmas tree decoration every year for less sticker shock, but also to build up the tree over the years with special little touches that often bring back memories.’ 

7. Introduce a festive signature fragrance

Christmas decor around a scented candle being lit with a match

(Image credit: Layered Lounge)

A cozy home wouldn't be complete without making a house smell good for Christmas, says Suzy Humphreys, founder of Layered Lounge. ‘Candles are perfect for evoking memories of times gone by and helping generate new ones,’ she shares. 

‘I cannot recommend our Natal candle, from Layered Lounge, enough, with a wonderfully harmonious blend that’s not too sweet and sickly like some. Yet it simply wants to wrap you in your arms and welcome you in.’

8. Set up your fireplace

Christmas mantel decor ideas with relaxed pine branches on a white fireplace

(Image credit: Michael Sinclair)

‘If you are lucky enough to have a fireplace, go ahead and make a roaring fire,’ recommends Bethany Adams of Bethany Adams Interiors. ‘You'll be so cozy and relaxed you won't even notice that the weather outside is frightful.’ 

Just be sure to prep your chimney for winter first to avoid any unexpected stress. 

Bethany Adams
Bethany Adams

Bethany Adams has over 15 years of experience designing and project-managing high-end residential projects all over the US. She started her design firm in Louisville in 2015 and before worked for several designers and architects over the course of a ten-year career in Chicago.

9. Pare back color schemes for rich tones

Christmas entryway with dark walls, staircase garland, tea lights on the stairs, console table with wreath and candles, basket of gifts

(Image credit: Neptune)

Typically, darker color schemes make for cozier spaces, helping to absorb some light and cast a few shadows, giving the illusion of a smaller, more intimate home. As a result, Laura Williams of ATX Interior Design, highly recommends opting for more subtle holiday decor layered with rich colors and soft textures to give the space a cozy aesthetic. Think burgundies, deep fir greens, and luxury mustards, and use them throughout your decorating – even down to how you wrap your gifts.  

Laura Williams
Laura Williams

Laura Williams’ work is informed by all of the personal and professional experiences that led to her founding her own design studio. She can trace her eye for balanced interiors all the way back to her childhood home, where she would frequently rearrange the furniture and reimagine rooms.


How do you make your house magical for Christmas?

One of the best ways to invoke the magical spirit of Christmas is to decorate every shared space in your house, almost cocooning it in festivities. This might mean having your main tree but also decorating your entryway with garlands and lights, making it both warm and inviting when guests first walk in. Having freshly baked goods ready on your kitchen counter will also play a part in making your home feel like a Christmas grotto, as will picking a festive fragrance to fill the space.

When should I start decorating for Christmas?

As soon as Thanksgiving is over, you can start decorating for the next holiday. Usually, people will wait until the weekend after Thanksgiving to start digging out their decorations to give themselves a week to rest before jumping into the festivities again. That being said, others will wait until the first week of December, or sometimes even later – it is really down to personal choice.  

No matter how you decorate your home, you can't have Christmas without some good (and cheesy) Christmas music, reminds Trish Knight and Nicole Varga, interior designers. ‘Set the mood with holiday tunes playing in the background,’ they urge, ‘and create your own playlist of family favorites for a personal touch.’ 

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.