How to decorate a small Christmas tree – 12 easy ways to make a mini tree magical

Our favorite designers know how to decorate a small Christmas tree to make it feel as big and beautiful as a huge one

Small Christmas tree on console table by Neptune
(Image credit: Neptune)

When it comes to Christmas decor, the tree, usually, plays a leading role. But if you haven't been blessed with acres of space to host an 8ft fir, it can be tricky to know how to get in on this holiday tradition without being greeted with a face full of pine needles every time you walk into your living room. 

However, we have seen many many examples of how tiny trees can bring in just as much festive cheer with a much smaller footprint. All those festive feels are still there, the lights, the baubles, the dodgy-looking homemade fairy, just on a smaller, less overwhelming scale. Plus, tiny trees are actually a bit of a Christmas trend this year, so even if you do have the space to go big, consider adding a smaller tree to your window sills, or hallway, they look super cute in a bedroom too.

So now you are convinced small Christmas trees are where it's at, we have pulled together loads of tips and inspiring Christmas decorating ideas to help you get creative.

1. Placement matters

When you have a small Christmas tree, the placement of it makes all of the difference. Displaying your small tree by the window will ensure it’s the bright spot of your home, drawing attention and making it the focal point. 

“Get extra mileage out of your small tree by placing it in a window, so that it can also be enjoyed from outside,” says Mercedes Feller, VP of Merchandising at Balsam Hill. “Or if you place it in front of a mirror, you’ll get some extra sparkle. Lights are key- even with diminutive trees,”

1. Elevate your tiny tree

Small Christmas tree in green bedroom by Little Greene

(Image credit: Little Greene)

Positioning is everything with a small tree. Stick with the standard corner spot, it's going to get lost. You need to place it somewhere that's going to elevate it and give it just as much of an impact as an 8-footer.

'A small tree can be just as beautiful as one that only just fits through the door.' says Becky Martin, Interior Design Leader at small space gurus IKEA. 'Place your tree in an uncluttered spot to allow it to take center stage throughout the festive season. Elevate your tree slightly by standing it on a small table or box to bring it closer to eye level.'

Lucy St George, Co-founder of Rockett St Georgeagrees adding, 'With smaller Christmas trees, location is everything. We always recommend elevating a smaller tree on a side table or styling the tree in a raised planter to create the illusion of extra height and ensure that the tree is closer to your eye line. Style yours next to a sofa or armchair for a fabulous festive glow of light that will rival any luxe accent light.'

So get your small Christmas trees up off the floor! Side tables, shelves, coffee tables – giving them those extra few inches will instantly make them more of a focal point in your room. Which is what Christmas decorating is all about.

2. Add a small Christmas tree to less traditional spots

dark kitchen with Christmas tree and garland by Kitchen Makers

(Image credit: Kitchen Makers)

The prime spot for a Christmas tree is in the living room. But the lovely thing about smaller Christmas trees is that you can bring them into smaller or more functional rooms in your home – ones that might not usually get as much festive attention as the lounge. Tiny trees look fabulous in a hallway and can add some unexpected Christmas kitchen decor too.

'A hallway is a great place for a small tree, it's the first thing that greets us as we arrive home,' suggests Becca Thurston owner of sewn. 'I love putting my small trees here as you can open your front door, step inside and you feel instantly transported into a Christmas scene. I also love to place my small pine potted trees on places like bedside tables, shelves and mantelpieces, They add a lovely Christmas touch to any room.'  

'Small trees are also great for adding a Christmassy touch to a guest bedroom or bathroom. Most years we have family stay and I like them to enter the room and on the bedside table or console is a small tree, Christmas card, and a little gift. This year I've opted for some personalized hand-painted Christmas macarons from Emma Dodi Cakes, who doesn't love a sweet treat at this time of year,' says Suzy Humphreys, Founder of Layered Lounge.

3. Choose (or DIY) the perfect small Christmas tree stand 

Christmas stair decor garland with bells and ribbon in white hallway

(Image credit: Lindsay Salazar/House of Jade Interiors)

This is such a great hack from Sue Barnes, florist and founder of Lavender Green, and definitely one we will be trying out. However, if you aren't all that crafty, take note from this Christmas hallway decor idea and go with a simple wicker basket that you can reuse throughout the year. 

'Put the tree on its own stage. Because with small trees the leaves and branches tend to go upwards you actually see the container more than you do on a big tree, so therefore it is imperative that you have the most attractive container you can possibly find or create.'

'Tips for creating a great small Christmas tree pot cover are to bind on with garden string branches of cut rosemary or cinnamon sticks vertically, or Christmas tree foliage cut from the back of the tree if it is in a corner. Put double-sided tape on the pot, arrange the cuttings vertically around the pot and secure them with garden twine, finishing off with your favorite ribbon. This also adds fragrance and a really attractive finish!'

4. Get the lights right

Small Christmas tree on console table by Neptune

(Image credit: Neptune)

If you are adding lights to your small Christmas tree, opt for really delicate designs so they blend into the foliage as much as possible. 'Lighting chains with wire instead of cables can give a more delicate impression on a smaller tree. Allow the beauty of your tree to take center stage by using a simple static lighting program,' advises Becky.

'When it comes to finding Christmas lights for a smaller tree, there are lots of options to choose from. As you won’t need meters and meters of fairy lights to wrap around your tree, beautiful wire fairy lights are a gorgeous alternative to traditional fairy lights, and chic starburst fairy lights will also look amazing on a smaller Christmas tree.' adds Jane Rockett. 'Personally, I love old school, warm-toned lights for a gorgeous glow and always opt for green flex as it blends in beautifully with the tree.'

This year we are really into the Scandi Christmas decor and keeping it super simple, and have seen some gorgeous examples of trees that only have lights – zero decs. This Christmas tree trend works particularly well on a small tree as it won't risk it looking overwhelmed with baubles and tinsel. Sometimes less is more.

5. Keep it simple 

christmas tree

(Image credit: Matalan)

Keeping with the less is more theme, let's talk decorations. With a small tree, you obviously have less surface space to play with and you want to avoid it looking cluttered. Minimalist Christmas decor is key. An easy way to ensure you don't overdo it is to stick with just one type of decoration that you really love. Chic and cohesive.

'With smaller trees do consider a “one dec” scheme which can provide a real statement,' suggests Chrissie Rucker, founder of The White Company. 'Alternatively dress in a Z formation with threes, sixes or twelves of a decoration ( never more than four styles) and you will create a beautiful and balanced look.'

Designer Emma Sims-Hilditch adds, 'With a small tree, the key is not to overload it with extravagant décor. Keep it simple and minimalist with white lights and natural decorations including pine cones and foliage. Simple and natural schemes work well with a small tree so as not to overpower its natural beauty. Instead, enhance it using natural trimmings and small, glass baubles.'

6. Go monochrome

Small Christmas tree with pink decor in a pink hallway

(Image credit: Dobbies)

'An interesting way to make a small tree look bigger is to use the same color or palette of ornaments rather than overload it with tons of mismatched pieces,' suggest Jen co-founder of Interior Fox. 'A blush and champagne palette looks gorgeous on a small tree as adds depth and richness! And avoid multi-colored lights, stick with white or off-white!'

And if you are sticking to one color, be sure to bring in plenty of textures and shapes that will add in the interest instead. 'Try choosing one metallic, one color, and then something with a natural texture for a Scandinavian look,' says Becky. 'Even with a small tree, don’t be afraid to use decorations of different scales – small decorations will work but a few larger ones help to create drama and impact.'

7. Create impact with bold contrasting colors

Traditional christmas tree with red and green scheme

(Image credit: Polly Wreford)

'When it comes to decorating the tree, regardless of size, I like to pick two stand-out colors, this also ensures a smaller tree doesn’t make the space feel overwhelming with lots of color and décor,' says luxury florist Ronny Colbie.

'This year I am loving pink and green, this pairing can shine beautifully during the holiday season, with blush pink baubles and jolly bubble-gum-colored bows softening and warming up the deep green of your Christmas tree’s branches. For some added glittering intrigue, introduce gold branches and baubles into the scheme. The festive metallics contrast beautifully with the earthy tones in the tree.' Sounds delicious.

'If you are after something more traditional, then adorning your smaller tree with hues of green and red may be the way to go. You can make an impactful statement whatever size your tree with ruby red baubles and forest green decorations. I also love adding a natural element to my tree – think festive berries and pinecones.' 

8. Keep decorations to scale with the tree

Small Christmas tree in rattan pot

(Image credit: Unique Homestays)

'Although we love an eclectic, maximalist look at Christmas, when it comes to decorating smaller Christmas trees, our top tip is to pick a theme to ensure that the tree isn’t overwhelmed by lots of different colors and styles,' says Lucy St George, Co-founder of Rockett St George.

'However, that doesn’t mean your tree will be boring. Your theme can be anything from a focus on colorful Christmas styling to a disco drama theme with disco ball baubles hanging from the branches of the tree. Mini baubles are also a great trick for decorating a small Christmas tree. Often sold in multiples of 12 or more, mini baubles have a vintage feel and are a really affordable way to decorate the Christmas tree. Naturally blending in with the proportions of the tree, mini baubles can also be mixed and matched with a few of your favorite (standard sized) tree decorations to help create maximum impact.'

 Saskia Howard, Creative Director at Howark Design adds, 'When decorating a small Christmas tree, we would recommend using a combination of small and medium-sized decorations in line with the smaller proportions of the tree. Too many lights and decorations could overwhelm the tree, so consider a small string of delicate lights and well-spaced baubles/decorations for a simple effect. Sometimes less really can be more.'

9. Bring in extra foliage to add thickness

dark Christmas living room and tree by Neptune

(Image credit: Neptune)

This is such a great trick no matter what size tree you are working with, adding extra foliage can make a Christmas tree look fuller, and give a smaller fir more impact. 

'When decorating larger trees, we often make them seem fuller by inserting branches of eucalyptus into any open spaces. You can do this on a more minor scale by inserting sprigs of holly and ivy into a smaller tree. This creates different textures and a splash of color if you choose holly with berries attached,' suggests Emma Sims-Hilditch.

And you don't just have to stick with classic greenery. If you want to make it more of a decoration, try spraying your sprigs with metallic paint or bring in some soft pampas grass to contrast the fir.

10. Make it personal

Small Christmas tree in rattan pot

(Image credit: Unique Homestays)

We've talked a lot about how small Christmas trees should be cohesive and simple, however, as with anything relating to festive decor, be sure to inject it with some personality too (just on a small scale).

'With Christmas decorations, there are no rules. It can be an extension of your interior style or your chance to differentiate from it. Most importantly, you decorate your tree with things that appeal to you. Let it be a mix of your favorite family Christmas ornament, some lovely ornaments with different motives, textures, and some sparkling glass ornaments. A small well-decorated tree can have as much impact as a bigger one,' says Sisse Maria Witek designer at Broste Copenhagen.

And we love this idea from Suzy Humphreys, Founder of Layered Lounge, 'On New Year's Eve we get one of our small faux trees and pop it on the table at dinner, everyone has to take it in turns to add a decoration onto the tree and make a wish for the year ahead. It sounds very sentimental but it's a fun way of bringing friends and family together.' And that's what the holidays is all about right?

12. Make it foolproof

To save time, money, and to streamline the decorating process, Mercedes from Balsam Hill recommends considering an all-in-one tree decorating kit like this one with everything you need to create a festive tree with ease.

“For a fool-proof small Christmas tree, I always recommend a decorated tree kit that comes with everything you need in one box,” she notes. “The kit includes not just the tree, but just the right amount of coordinating ornaments and decor- and even a topper and skirt.”

Mini trees to buy now

Hebe Hatton

Hebe is the Digital Editor of Livingetc; she has a background in lifestyle and interior journalism and a passion for renovating small spaces. You'll usually find her attempting DIY, whether it's spray painting her whole kitchen, don't try that at home, or ever changing the wallpaper in her hallway. Livingetc has been such a huge inspiration and has influenced Hebe's style since she moved into her first rental and finally had a small amount of control over the decor and now loves being able to help others make decisions when decorating their own homes. Last year she moved from renting to owning her first teeny tiny Edwardian flat in London with her whippet Willow (who yes she chose to match her interiors...) and is already on the lookout for her next project.