How do minimalists decorate for Christmas? 4 rules to keep your home calm but super-festive

Think festive decorating is at odds with minimalism? Think again. Discover how a new wave of the trend is lending itself to cozy, Christmassy spaces

A white table with boucle armchairs dressed for Christmas
(Image credit: Six the Residence, photographer: Luke Arthur Wells)

Traditionally, minimalist interiors have been characterized by an almost brutal absence of clutter and rejection of ornamentation. The design philosophy strives for simplicity to enhance wellbeing. It's a noble pursuit, but not a very Christmassy one. In fact, die-hard minimalists would likely recoil at the thought of bringing glittering baubles, inflatable Santas and tinsel into their homes. 

However, we’re seeing a new wave of ‘soft’ or ‘warm’ minimalism in interior design that is less monastic in its approach. The evolution of the trend is about having fewer but higher quality objects. There is more focus on using tactile, natural materials to create a sense of wellbeing, as well as colors seen in nature. 

At the forefront of this new school of thought is Norm Architects, whose book Soft Minimal: A Sensory Approach to Architecture and Design outlines the philosophy. 

Founding Partner Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen explains what soft minimalism means for decoration: “In our essentialist design approach, decoration is not as taboo as the minimalists insist, but is used with great restraint so as not to dominate the space. It is always authentic to the context and inhabitant, and it’s there to add warmth and personality rather than clutter. In this way, every object serves its user.” 

So, how do soft minimalists decorate for the holiday season? 

How do minimalists decorate for Christmas?

1. Simplicity is key

Paper stars as minimalist Christmas decorations

(Image credit: Ferm Living)

Minimalist Christmas decor looks for simple decorations in natural materials that can make a big impact. “Use objects that instantly evoke feelings of Christmas’s past,” says Daisy Brown, Co-Founder of contemporary furniture brand Six The Residence. “Christmas is about warmth and love, so by using classic pieces you can use less, but it will still feel really Christmassy, e.g. a white sculptural bowl filled with leaf-on clementines. Minimalism isn’t about having no stuff, it’s about only living with what you love. If you have a family bauble that you adore, then you can enjoy it more in your minimalist space and be sustainable by reusing it.”

To borrow a phrase from the Scandis, minimalism at Christmas is all about how to make your home more Hygge. To add cosiness, warmth and layers.

A minimalist approach to Christmas decorating can be far more environmentally friendly. “We were so inspired last Christmas [by our customers on social media],”  says Daisy Brown. “The movement towards traditional paper decorations, styled on simple twigs, looked incredible against a backdrop of marble and cane rattan—and the footprint of paper decorations and natural foliage is minimal when compared to other trends. Bear in mind that while real fir garlands and trees are better for the environment in the short term, if you invest in a high-quality faux simple design that can be used year after year, this is just as good!"

2. Invest in quality pieces 

A dark red armchair with a present on top and black side table with vase

(Image credit: Six the Residence, photographer: Luke Arthur Wells)

When it comes to lighting and styling your space, Daisy Brown recommends investing in quality, classic pieces that you can use for multiple occasions all year round. “When it comes to the all-important Christmas table, we love sheepskin accessories and large white platters with tall neutral candles,” she says, showing the crossover with Scandinavian Christmas decor. “We spruce these up with fresh greenery, rather than faux. It’s both better for the environment and the smell of real fir at Christmas is magical.”

The key is to invest in pieces you love rather than trends. “This applies to Christmas decorations as much as it does larger furniture purchases,” says Daisy Brown. “Focusing on natural textures, and quality materials means you can build a timeless home that lasts. Invest in décor you love, that invites you in and makes you stay a while.”

3. Add interest through materials 

A soft minimalist Christmas scene, with fireplace, armchair and candles

(Image credit: Six the Residence, photographer: Luke Arthur Wells)

A great way to add interest to a space without relying on ornamentation is to use contrasting ideas or materials. “Design is more interesting through unexpected pairings, for instance our Sculptural Side Table uses the warmth of walnut with the minimalist silhouette of a sculpture,” says Daisy Brown. “With warm minimalism you can create a home that truly reflects you and your taste. Unique styling can be achieved through the layering of raw natural textures with soft textiles such as velvet and sheepskin allowing people to express their individualism.”

4. Keep trimmings neutral

Another trick to creating a more calming festive vibe is to find simple wrapping paper for your gifts that pairs with items in your home. “This is a simple and subtle way to stick to your interior aesthetic without feeling too busy or too clinical,” explains Daisy Brown. 

So minimalism can be cozy after all - and by encouraging us to cherish the things we love, it can actually be surprisingly festive. 

Kate Hollowood is a freelance journalist who writes about a range of topics for Marie Claire UK, from current affairs to features on health, careers and relationships. She is a regular contributor to Livingetc, specializing in reporting on American designers and global interiors trends. Based in London, Kate has also written for titles like the i paper, Refinery29, Cosmopolitan and It’s Nice That.