How can I make my house look Christmassy? 6 simple style secrets of a top interior designer

Knowing how to make your house look Christmassy is shorthand for being able to create wonderfully festive decor

How can I make my house look Christmassy? Christmas living room by Marie Flanigan
(Image credit: Marie Flanigan)

When the holiday season rolls around, do you often find yourself wondering: 'How can I make my house look Christmassy yet elegant?'

If you're left scratching your head, it's time to brush up on some expert tips on stylish Christmas decorating that will see you through the season every year.

Top interior designer Marie Flanigan has let us in on six of her festive styling secrets so you can recreate the look in your own home for a chic holiday decor display that also channels the magic of Christmas.

Marie Flanigan headshot
Marie Flanigan

Houston, Texas-based principal designer Marie Flanigan is a regular contributor to Livingetc. As a classically trained and practiced architect, Marie's work has also featured in Architectural Digest, Elle Décor, Vogue, Southern Living, Domino, Traditional Home, Elegant Homes, Southern Home, and Luxe Magazine. She regularly shares her design and lifestyle advice with TV audiences, including appearances on HGTV’s internationally broadcast series, Property Brothers: Brother vs. Brother.

How can I make my house look Christmassy? 6 tips to a design-led display

It's not as hard as you might think to create a high-end Christmas look that will impress your guests. 

Marie Flanigan, of Marie Flanigan Interiors, reveals her six top tips for making your house look Christmassy below. The bonus? They're all ways you can decorate for Christmas cheaply, too - so you don't have to blow the budget for a designer-worthy aesthetic.

1. Don’t forget to look up

Paper stars on light pendant, Christmas decorations in living room by Marie Flanigan

(Image credit: Interior design: Mare Flanigan/Photography: Rachel Manning)

Use fixtures and fittings that are already in place in your home to dress up and hang oversized Christmas decorations on. This has a simple, Scandinavian Christmas decor vibe to it, especially when done with a neutral palette.

'One of the sweetest ways to decorate for the holidays is by adding holiday details to light fixtures,' says Marie. 'Whether adding a beautiful bow to pendant lights or dangling snowflakes from a chandelier. This is an easy way to add a festive feel to your space.'

Silver snowflake ornaments, Amazon
Editor's Pick

Silver snowflake ornaments, Amazon

These silver snowflakes are the perfect size for hanging from light fixtures, at about 11 inches each. Not so big you bang your head, not so small they get lost in the space. An ideal, easy Christmas fix.

2. Decorate the unexpected

Bathroom chandelier with Christmas wreath by Marie Flanigan

(Image credit: Marie Flanigan/Rachel Manning)

Bring a beautiful Christmassy feel to the whole house by placing simple decorations throughout. Yes, Christmas bedroom decorations are a thing, and why not include the bathroom?

Marie comments: 'Even bathrooms should include holiday touches. I love adding a festive arrangement to countertops or hanging a wreath on the window or door.'

You could also bring a festive touch to your sleep sanctuary with by hanging paper garlands, stringing lights around the bed, or placing a homemade Christmas stocking on your nightstand.

White-finished country-style wreath, Etsy
Editor's Pick

White-finished country-style wreath, Etsy

Where else to turn for individual and interesting wreaths but Etsy? This particular frosted white one is inexpensive and ideal for hanging indoors or out.

White bedroom with Christmas decorations by Annie Sloan

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

3. Keep your holiday decor simple

Christmas garland and stockings on mantelpiece by Marie Flanigan

(Image credit: Marie Flanigan)

'When in doubt, keep décor simple,' says Marie. 'I love including pared-back, beautiful greenery with a touch of natural elements, like orange slices, pinecones or berries. This method is foolproof and an easy way to usher in the season.'

4. Create a tablescape before Christmas Day

Christmas table decor by Marie Flanigan

(Image credit: Marie Flanigan)

One way to foster the Christmas spirit in your home every day? 'Keep your Christmas tablescape on display all season,' suggests Marie.

'Sometimes there’s nothing more beautiful than Christmas table décor, so choose items that will last all season, like faux garland, flowers and fruit, along with pottery, and other delicate touches.'

5. Fill vases with foraged foliage

Ceramic vases with Christmas foliage by Marie Flanigan

(Image credit: Marie Flanigan/Rachel Manning)

'Do you have shelves and surfaces with ceramics? If so, fill them with holiday foliage,' advises Marie.

'There are so many beautiful options for holiday foliage, like ferns, holly berries and snowberries - and don’t forget to check your yard for beautiful branches, stems and berries first.'

If you want to go one step further, you can hang baubles, pine cones sprayed with metallic paint, or paper decorations to give festive twigs and stems a bigger dose of Christmas spirit.

6. Use a color palette that complements your home

Christmas tree and Christmas decorations in living room by Marie Flanigan

(Image credit: Marie Flanigan/Rachel Manning)

'It’s so much fun to shop for holiday décor, but often it can look a bit disjointed if it’s a large departure from your home’s aesthetic,' warns Marie.

Instead, create a holiday color palette that complements your home. If your home is full of modern farmhouse design ideas and you favor minimalist Christmas decor, continue the rustic appeal with authentic foraged foliage displayed in garlands on mantelpieces and stair bannisters, pine cones placed in decorative bowls, and cinnamon sticks scenting the space.

maximalist Christmas living room by James Merrell

(Image credit: James Merrell)

If you're a fan of maximalism in interior design, allow your Christmas decorating to follow suit with joyful, colorful displays that could include bright paper garlands and honeycombs, pretty 'presents' created by wrapping empty boxes with printed paper and ribbons, or brightly painted baubles.

The Livingetc edit of the best Christmas decorations in the sales now

How do you decorate your house for Christmas?

Christmas living room and mantelpiece by Heal's

(Image credit: Heal's)

Don't forget that Christmas decorating ideas do not have to be complicated. Create a basic scheme and build from there. 

Try hanging a wreath indoors for an easy first step, and fill vases with festive foliage for a simple look that will pack visual impact.

One of the easiest ways to bring a festive ambiance to your home is by peppering it with fairy lights and candles.

'Set your home aglow and use candlelight and fairy lights to create ambiance and warmth in the home,' advsises Becca Casey, of Connecticut-based Becca Interiors 'From wrapping greenery to clustering lights in a glass hurricane centerpiece, light can create such a beautiful festive mood within a space.'

And don't forget to fill the home with enticing festive aromas. Becca says: 'Utilize scent to set the scene; source a festive holiday candle to excite the senses. 

'Then, bake dried oranges with cloves to bring a gorgeous holiday scent into your home as well as a beautiful ray of color. 

'Cut slices and hang them from your tree, or bake them whole and style in a bowl atop your coffee table.'

When it comes to your tree, learning how to put lights on a Christmas tree is the first step. You can then build your look with a few pretty baubles and keep it there for a minimalist effect, or keep building with more decorations for a flamboyant aesthetic.

How can I make my house look Christmassy on a budget?

Christmas mantelpiece with candles and wreath by Heal's

(Image credit: Heal's)

The best way to bring a festive ambiance to your home for free is by foraging for foliage. You can create anything from a mantelpiece garland to a showstopping Christmas table centerpiece with ivy, berries, and herbs. 

You can also use foliage to decorate sideboards and consoles, whether it's by placing pine cones in bowls, stems and branches in vases (trying hanging baubles from styled twigs), or greenery around window frames and mirrors.

For affordable but cool Christmas decorations, choose paper honeycombs and stars to hang from the ceiling or leave loose on benches or on the floor.

And don't forget to be creative; you can give old baubles a new lease of life with some paint and glitter, and why not try making Christmas stockings to hang from the mantelpiece instead of splashing out on store-bought versions this year?

Ruth Doherty is a lifestyle journalist based in London. An experienced freelance digital writer and editor, she is known for covering everything from travel and interiors to fashion and beauty. She regularly contributes to Livingetc, Ideal Home and Homes & Gardens, as well as titles like Prima and Red. Outside of work, her biggest loves are endless cups of tea, almond croissants, shopping for clothes she doesn’t need, and booking holidays she does.