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No Space for a Traditional Christmas Tree? Try These 12 Brilliant Alternatives

By Michelle Hopkins Dec 3, 2015

O Christmas tree… Those words alone evoke fond memories of a centuries-old tradition that brings family and friends together. But if you own a smaller home, space can be precious or just too tight for a tree. In addition, if you live in a condominium, chances are your strata won’t allow for a real tree. spoke to two interior designers who offer up their best alternatives to make your space look just as festive without a giant Christmas tree.

Ben Leavitt, lead designer, Fox Design Studio

1) One simple and easy tree design that is sure to wow your Christmas guests is to use nothing but poinsettias and mini-lights as decorations. Simply buy a bushel of artificial poinsettias and cut them as long in the stem as possible and then just feed them into your tree – the more the merrier. You can mix and match different colours to get different looks – whether you want a more traditional or more modern vibe. 

2) If you live more minimally – or just want a no-hassle tree for the kids’ room – a cardboard Christmas tree is fun idea. Simply cut out the shapes, connect them in the centre and the self-standing creation will pack away as easy as it was to assemble.

3) Buying a potted evergreen is super easy and one of the more environmentally friendly options for your unique Christmas tree. Despite the size, it's sure to fill your home with that fresh sent and holiday glow. Leavitt recommends filling it with lights only. When the season is over, plant it in the yard or move it to the patio. Several mini-trees can be amazing at night when all the lights are lit up. Place trees throughout the house and decorate with minimal styling. It's important that a tree looks good during the day but the twinkling of trees throughout the house will trump any combination of ornaments. Leavitt’s personal favourite is a potted tree in the centre of the kitchen table with battery-operated mini lights. It’s the perfect centrepiece and will light up the eating area perfectly for late-night hot drinks and hearty breakfasts.

4) Gingerbread or other cookie tree ornaments are fun to make and keep you from having to buy any ornaments at all. Simply make the cookies and cut a hole in the top with a straw for the hook. No icing needed – the simple cookie gives that classic warmth and Christmas vibe. For fully edible decorations, add string popcorn as the garland. And if you have no tree at all, make cookie or popcorn garlands for your mantel or shelves. Warning: this is not recommended if you have a hungry pooch!

5) A tree and message drawn on your chalkboard is a fun way to customize your entryway with a holiday greeting. You can also decorate the board with flat Christmas decorations.

6) If your space is extremely tight, switch your art during the holiday season for a wreath or a faux deer mount. If you don’t have floor space, you most likely have wall space. Changing art for holiday appropriate decor is simple, fun and less expected.

Toni Gibbons, lead designer, Potters Nurseries

1) A lovely glass or crystal bowl filled with colourful glass Christmas baubles looks festive and beautiful on a table.

2) Take a candle holder or lantern and add some Christmas greenery, twigs and small birds. Change the candle colour to complement the festive season.

3) Purchase some small Christmas village houses, a few accessories to go with your houses, arrange the items on a cake stand, add some fluffy artificial snow and voila! You’ve created a festive winter scene.

4) You can also bring in a small branch or branches that have lost their leaves for the season; they look wonderful on your table or mantel with all your favourite decorations.

5) Decorating a mirror or a mantel with a garland or branches over is a good way to make your room look festive without taking up space. Add some pixie lights for added sparkle. If you have a fireplace, hang a string of matching Christmas stockings, sparkly beads or baubles.

6)  Still really want a tree? Get a space-saving one! Here are some ideas for space-saving Christmas trees:

a.      Fake evergreen-like “half-trees,” which, when assembled, are placed flat against the wall.

b.      Fiber-optic trees, which come with filament lights that are usually pulsing in a variety of colours. They are usually small and do not need a lot of extra decorations.

c.       Upside-down trees: the wide part of the tree is at the ceiling, pointing downwards. This tree gives you a lot of space that a regular tree would take over.

d.      Two- to four-foot tabletop trees, either fresh or artificial. You can also decorate under the table or leave it as a place to put the gifts.

e.      Small to medium live potted trees that spend most of the year on your patio can come inside to be decorated for the festive season. Alberta spruce is a good tree for this purpose – it is slow-growing so it can stay in the same pot for two to three years.

f.        Norfolk Island pine, a tropical plant that lives in the house for most of the year, is also an interesting tree to decorate for the season. Given the right conditions it can spend late spring and summer on your balcony or patio.

Final tip: When purchasing your decorations for a small space, keep in mind the storage issue, and buy decorations that will fold up or store flat.

“For me the holiday season is a good excuse to add whimsy and sparkle to your home – it does not have to be expansive and lavish, it has to be you,” says Gibbons.

Michelle Hopkins
Michelle Hopkins is a Vancouver-based freelance writer with extensive magazine, newspaper and online writing experience in home décor, new home developments, culinary adventures, wine, travel and more. Michelle writes for many notable publications including Real Estate Weekly and other Glacier Media Group publications, Western Living Magazine, Vancouver Magazine, Home Décor & Renovations, to name just a few. Michelle is passionate about anything to do with real estate.
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