ISSUE 50  |  Feeling Festivus

Small Space DIY: Christmas in a Tiny Apartment

December 15, 2014 5:00 PM

BY Erin Boyle

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Holiday decorations may require tweaking. This year, I started off by going big. I envisioned garlands with multiple layers of fruit and greens and berries draping from the sleeping loft. The staircase to the loft would be swathed in more of the same.

It would be wintry fairyland or bust. I trekked to the New York City Flower Market, returning home with a Kraft paper torch filled with chartreuse and lime colored evergreens. For fruit, I bought a bundle of kumquat branches. For brightness, I chose something that I normally would call cedar, until Lindsey taught me it’s more likely Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Special Variegated.’ I also had branches dark green pine with cones attached (similar to ones I recently used for DIY Fire Starters). 

But then. I set to work on garlands and quickly discovered that I didn’t have materials enough to create the look I’d intended. So instead I made swags. Then I strung up lights. (At least I had sense enough to use tiny lights instead of the string of inch-long beacons that last year had nearly blinded the entire block of neighbors.)

As I finally finished and surveyed the effect—robust swags of a scale perhaps better suited to a castle than a studio apartment—my husband came home and smiled. “A little claustrophobic in here, don’t you think?” James asked.

So I started over. With a tiny plan: 

Photography by Erin Boyle.  

Above: The remains of my well-intentioned, but entirely too large swags.

Above: I dismantled one and made iteration No. 2: tiny wreaths that also proved too much in such a small apartment. Try, try again.

Above: The reckoning. I laid out my materials to take account of what I had to work with and what I could make. Among the loot: washi tape in two shades of green (mine were Vibrant Solid Color Washi Tapes, $4 apiece from Cute Tape); Gold Foil Tape ($2.99 from Ranger Ink); 24-gauge Gold Floral Wire ($2.55 from Mardi Gras Outlet), and all of my greens.

Above: And then I started taping. Taping and snipping and generally trying to make a little something out of entirely too much.

Above: I settled on a making a kind of two-dimensional wreath, a variation on last year’s design in a whole new color scheme.

Above: On the table below, a tiny Christmas tree and tapers because this time of year calls for both.

Above: Over the mirror that hangs above the couch, a simple garland and a view of the wreath wall in the “distance.”

Above: If I look down from the top of the stairs, the wreath looks festive, but doesn’t make me want to retreat.

Above: On the ledge, I compromised with a much more delicate garland made only of pine and tiny lights. I used 22-Gauge Copper Wire ($5.29 at Home Depot) to fashion makeshift hooks to hold the garland and lights in place. (I used a 15-foot string of Starry String Lights; $27.99 from Restoration Hardware.) 

Above: And there you have it, the finished piece and a reminder that bigger is sometimes not at all better.

Think small with Tiny Trees: Window Boxes to Last All Winter and DIY: Holiday Decor for Small Spaces.

N.B.: This is an update of a post published December 12, 2013.