Christmas decorating ideas – 20 festive looks from cozy and traditional to bold and maximalist

Be inspired by our Christmas decorating ideas to break with tradition this year and try a new style for the holidays

Christmas decorating idea with bright color paper garland around a tree
(Image credit: James Merrell)

With the days getting a little chillier and the nights drawing in, as the smell of wood smoke wafts around and a sprinkling of frost can be found under food each morning, our thoughts begin to turn Christmas decorating ideas. What theme will we go for this year? What color schemes? Where will the tree go and how many trees is too many?

Now, perhaps for some it's a little early to be thinking about Christmas decor, but we say it every year, the early bird catches the best Christmas decorations. And just by planning a few weeks ahead, you can ensure you turn every room in your home into a magical festive wonderland that will wow guests and be a joy to spend time in over the holidays. So to provide you with all the inspiration you need, we poured ourselves a slightly premature glass of mulled wine, and perused through all our favorite looks of Christmases past and present. From really modern bold styles that are full of color and neon lights, to the more traditional, rustic decorations with oversized paper chains and layers of lovely texture, there's something here no matter what vibe you decide on for this year... 

Inspiring Christmas decoration ideas to suit any style

1. Play with scale 

Living room decorated with Christmas tree covered in paper decorations

(Image credit: James Merrell)

Old fashioned paper decs have been a Christmas trend for years now and they just keep getting bigger. Affordable, eco-friendly, and really effective, these traditional decorations can work with any scheme from a soft, neutral style to something bolder and brighter like this lovely living room. 

With honeycomb ball decorations, make the most impact by grouping them together, hanging them from the ceiling, gathering them around the hearth, or going for a simple, statement look and use only these to decorate your tree. Paper garlands also look lovely hung up anywhere and everywhere – over mantle pieces, door frames, or dining room tables – adding instant color and texture.

Be inspired by this Christmas decorating idea and once finished decorating your tree, artfully cover it in oversized paper garlands to make the look instantly more fun and festive. 

2. Go for a rustic theme with toasty tones

Rustic Christmas decorations

(Image credit: Layered Lounge)

When deciding on how to decorate your home for Christmas, the first thoughts go to color. Green and red have long reigned as the holiday hues and silver and gold are always a go-to if you are after a more elegant look, but if you after a more rustic look this year, experiment with warmer more earthy tones like deep oranges, browns, and mossy greens. 

Consider layering textures too, see how in this tree paper decorations mix with ceramic ornaments and wooden beaded garlands to create a very natural display that has a very on-trend Nordic vibe. 

Take home tip: ‘To create a balanced, visually pleasing tree, buy baubles in threes, sixes, or twelves, and place these on first in a ‘Z’ shape,' says Mark Winstanley, Chief Creative Officer, The White Company. 'Hang larger baubles closer to the center of the tree to give it more depth and use small ones towards the end of the branches. Dangle delicate glass baubles at the top of the tree to prevent any breakages and add special ones last, so they are in the perfect position.’ 

3. Give the kitchen a festive spruce with lights and greenery

Pink and purple kitchen decorated for Christmas

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

Despite often being the heart of the home during the holiday season, the kitchen does get overlooked when it comes to Christmas decorating ideas. It might not be the most practical to bring in an 11ft Christmas tree, but you can add some sparkle with just a few festive additions. 

If you have shelves in your kitchen, or even glass-fronted cabinets, weave fairy lights through your crockery and hang small decorations to give just a touch of a season update. And don't save all the table decor for Christmas day, be inspired by this space and run a simple garland down the center of the table, adding lights or candles to illuminate the greenery – simple but effective. 

The brush trees you can see interspersed in the garland and dotted amongst the shelving are some of our favorite Christmas decorations. They are great to have in your collection to dot around the surfaces of your home to add some instant festive cheer, and make for lovely table decor or as an alternative to place name cards. 

4. Or adorn a kitchen with hanging decorations

Kitchen decorated for Christmas with hanging stars

(Image credit: James Merrell)

Another traditional Christmas decoration that's made a comeback, Scandinavian straw tree ornaments. They add such a lovely rustic touch to a scheme and work so beautifully hung in groups as can be seen in this kitchen. They are just hung to the light fitting with clear thread and yet the effect is magical as they float above the dining room table. Pick different sizes and hang them at different levels to turn the simple decorations into a real focal point. 

5. Create a traditional feel with rich colors

Traditional christmas tree with red and green scheme

(Image credit: Polly Wreford)

Reds and greens are the colors of Christmas for a reason, these rich jewel-like tones are filled with nostalgic, cozy times of Christmases past and this classic combination is just guaranteed to fill a room with joy and warmth. For a fresh take on this traditional scheme, bring in some bold hues like a brighter green or a few pink tones to give those darker reds a lift. 

And for a touch of glamorous add some gold accents too. We love how this tree has been decorated with large gold magnolia leaves, a nice way to make a Christmas tree feel fuller and bring in more unusual natural shapes and textures to sit amongst the pine. 

6. Opt for a dramatic black and gold color scheme 

Dining room decorated for Christmas in black and gold decor

(Image credit: Simon Bevan)

Black may not sound like the most festive shade but used sparing it can create a really glamorous, dramatic color scheme. Be inspired by this Christmas dining room idea and black decorations with pops of gold and a heavy dose of white for a scheme that's got all the festive feels but still feels chic and contemporary. 

'Black and gold is a favorite Christmas color combination of ours.' says designer Juliette Thomas. 'Perfect for an opulent, grown-up and glamorous look, whether on the table or around the mantel, this classic combination should be completed with berries, bows, baubles in abundance in the same elegant hues.'

'For an even bolder look, we suggest mixing in tones of turquoise with gold accessories for a pop of color. Think peacock feathers combined with frosty, white accessories and matching turquoise fluted glasses for your table which pairs perfectly together. Touches of gold bring in warmth to this wintery scene. Complete the look with a decorative bowl filled with complementing baubles and foliage for a showstopping centerpiece to admire.'

And we can't ignore the display of paper decorations suspended from the ceiling. Such a simple idea that would be really easy to recreate but looks so impressive, the perfect way to make a Christmas table even more of a focal point. 

7. Create a cohesive theme throughout the house 

Christmas bedroom with vase of silver branches on a chest of drawers

(Image credit: James Merrell)

Once you've decided on your theme and color scheme, bring that into every room, or every room you spend a lot of time in over the festive season at least. Take those same colors used on your tree into a garland that snakes around the banister, hang some of the same decorations or sprigs of greenery on your door handles, bring the decor upstairs too by hanging subtle decor above mirrors or from the light fixtures. Ensure there's a pop of Christmas cheer in each room, creating a lovely cohesive festive theme that runs through the whole house.

'Decorations look fabulous wrapped and draped around the normal household objects like chandeliers, banisters, mirrors, mantle pieces, and front doors. So work out how many decorative items you need and then keep the tree in the same color and theme to connect them.' continues Juliette.

Take home tip: 'It’s quite difficult shopping online for Christmas decorations. In my opinion, it's better to go out and shop for real, giving you the opportunity to touch and feel but more importantly, a real shop will give inspiration guide you very well to get the look you want. Many shops do have amazing Christmas decoration displays. So go and see for yourself. Copying them is easy. Take lots of photos of the things you like. The shops usually have the same decorations for sale or you can easily find them online. And keep all the boxes so you can safely pack away for next year.'

8. Wreaths aren't just for doors

Blue living room decorated for Christmas with oversized wreath

(Image credit: Oliver Perrott)

Supersized wreaths seem to be a bit of a trend this year, and rather than banish them to the door to only be enjoyed by guests and passers-by, bring all that lovely decorative greenery into your home too. An oversized wreath makes the perfect festive but simple, backdrop for a Christmas table, or bring it into your living room for a festive touch, alternatively hang a large wreath in your hallway to make an impact as soon as guests enter your home. 

Festive foliage will work with any scheme too and you could always add extra sparkle by nestling in some decorating and winding fairy lights in and around the wreath. Plus you can pick greenery that's going to suit your style best, so for a more traditional look you might want to stick with fire, ivy, and holly but for a more contemporary look try eucalyptus or large waxy magnolia leaves. 

9. Overflow a bannister with an ornate garland

Evergreen garland on white staircase

(Image credit: Future)

No banister should be left bare at Christmas. They were made to be draped in foliage and lights and baubles and it's a Christmas decorating idea you can DIY too and potential to forage everything you need from your garden too. The best looks always have lots of depth to them, forget a sad green string of artificial fir winding through the spindles, you want your banister to almost be sagging with the weight of all that greenery. 

Out top advice for creating the best Christmas garland is to make your own, but start out with a really nice quality fake one to give you the structure then you can add to it with plenty of real greenery and decorations.

Take home tip: don't just stick with traditional 'Christmas' themes, look closely at this garland and you'll see it's filled with birds and butterflies nestled into all the leaves. It's quirky and an unusual theme yes, but it feels suitably festive.

10. Create a tablescape to remember

Christmas dining room with greenery

(Image credit: James Merrell)

The dining table is where all the action happens over the holidays, so give its decor as much consideration you would your tree. And we say don't wait till the big day to adorn your table, especially if it's a space you use daily, start introducing a few festive flourishes like a Christmas table cloth, some elegant taper candles, and a large vase of foraged evergreen. 

'Our favorite part of Christmas is getting family and friends around the table to feast. Whether you live in a small rental flat or a spacious country home, whether you're entertaining for 20 or 2, table decor is an absolute must, as well as a fun way to experiment with and infuse creativity into your home.' says designer and co-founder of Wicklewood Rosie Axford

'Remember to layer up – start with a beautiful, eye-catching tablecloth and layer up from there, adding texture, pattern, and color via items that aren’t going to be removed from the table by the end of the meal like placemats, bud vases and ceramic tea lights. Be playful – a Christmas tablescape should be playful, creative, and relaxed. Think one-of-a-kind accessories and unexpected pieces, as they make great conversation starters too.'

11. Keep it simple with foraged mantel decor

Blue living room by Annie Sloan with Christmas decor

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

A mantelpiece really comes into its own over the festive season, these spaces were made to be adorned with evergreen, covered in twinkling lights, and crowded with stockings. But there's a lot to be said for keeping Christmas fireplace decor simple, especially if you've been blessed with a beautiful, ornate surround. 

Get into the garden and forage for the best evergreen you can find and just effortlessly trail it along your mantle. Fill in any gaps with taper candles at varying heights and if you want a full look add in some fir or holly. For a twist on the traditional, throw in something unexpected like this oversized houseplant. It adds that all-important height and throws off the symmetry to give this classic look a more contemporary feel.  

12. Bring in pops of zesty hues

Dining room decorated for Christmas with hanging garland

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

While red and green may ever reign as the colors of Christmas, every year a new color palette creeps through as a twist on the original combo. For 2021 we've been seeing a rise in more vibrant tangerine tones. They still work as part of a more traditional scheme, so don't be worried about bringing orange into your greens and reds, as can be seen in this dining space, those zesty shades just give the richer tones and lift creating a more contemporary look. 

'Everyone is looking to put the magic back into Christmas this year as they look at cosseting friends and family and surrounding those they love with the sheer beauty of the festive season. Zesty Colours such as orange and yellow are joining the two major winter palettes of wintry white and green or more traditional red and gold.' says Sue Barnes, Founder and Creative Director Lavender Green Flowers. 'These color accents modernize the traditional and add warmth and vitality to the frosted winterscape.'

13. Decorate with vases filled with berries and fir

festive foliage in blue and white jars

(Image credit: Marie Flanigan)

In rooms where a tree wouldn't be practical like in a kitchen or a hallway, big vases of evergreen and winter berries can have a similar effect on a smaller scale. In this kitchen designed by Marie Flanigan a group of antique jars provides the perfect home for wintery foliage, and we love how the blue looks with green and the small pops of red from the berries. This would make for a beautiful Christmas table centerpiece too or as an alternative to a garland on a mantel. 

'I love keeping holiday décor organic with soft touches of metallic. Beautiful greenery, branches, and berries are a wonderful way to pay homage to the season and when you add fun lacquered brass or oil-rubbed bronze, it creates a wonderfully subtle contrast.' says Maries.

“Don’t forget to look up too! Sometimes the most magical decorations, like snowflakes, wreaths, bells, and mistletoe, are hung from chandeliers, light fixtures or doorways. Wire-edged ribbon is a must-use for any holiday ribbons or bows that you plan to incorporate. The ability to manipulate the bow loops and tails creates wonderful texture and keeps the décor in place.”

14. Layer up textures to create a wintery escape

White dining room decorated for Christmas

(Image credit: Paul Raeside)

How beautiful is this Christmas mantelpiece idea? All those textures and shapes creating a dreamy wintery landscape. The key to this look is layers, that lovely mix of materials, and plenty of depth. The detailed metallic gold wings used on the mantle and in the hearth create an instant focal point, and the huge spray of eucalyptus adds another layer of natural shapes, there's the snowy brush trees too which add yet more texture and vertical shape to the design. 

15. Go overboard with lighting

Christmas decor

(Image credit: Future)

One of the easiest Christmas decorating ideas is just to introduce plenty of festive lighting. String fairy lights over anything and it instantly feels more festive, cover surfaces in candles and you're guaranteed to create that warm Christmassy glow. Fill your garlands and wreath with lights, wrap them around door frames and windows or just trail them along shelves or furniture. Honestly, you can never have too many lights at Christmas. 

'Lighting is crucial when trying to create that warm and inviting atmosphere around the festive season, especially with the cold weather you want to make a real effort to create a haven when you walk in the door of your home.' advises designer Sara Cosgrove. 'Some simple ways to do this would be adding fairy lights to your garland along the banister, a festive candle or two on the coffee table, a candelabra on the mantlepiece with red candlesticks and if you’re one of the lucky ones, a roaring open fire to beside to relax after your day.'

Designer Benji Lewis agrees that 'Fairy lights are also a great Christmas addition and bring twinkling warmth to any room. For example, why not loosely arrange them along the mantelpiece or place them over a lemon or orange tree instead of a traditional Christmas tree, and of course – maintained appropriately - a citrus tree will flower and scent your room forever.'

17. Go big with the festive folliage

Christmas living room with decorated mantel piece and blue velvet sofas

(Image credit: Anna Stathaki)

A just like lighting you can never have enough greenery around the house at Christmas. And a mantel is a prime spot for going all out with a really show-stopping garland. The design in this Christmas living room is a beautiful example – oversized, full of texture, and a lovely natural shape the extends beyond the mantel, spraying out in tendrils at either end. And there's height too, rather than just thinking horizontally when designing your garland go vertical too with sprigs of foliage. And note the subtle metallic accents nestled within the greenery too, adding a touch of glamour and sparkle. 

18. Embrace a cozy Scandi aesthetic 

Rustic Christmas decorations

(Image credit: Layered Lounge)

Rustic Scandi style really comes into its own at Christmas. Neutral color schemes, simple decor, plenty of natural textures, and all the candlelight, it's an easy look to achieve and is guaranteed to create a warm and welcoming home

Be inspired by the Christmas tree idea in this dining room and keep it minimal with the tree decor, just a few larger decorations with different shapes and textures will create a lovely pared-back look. And don't just stick with one tree, dot smaller firs (fake or real) on window ledges, shelves and tables too for more natural textures. 

As Chrissie Rucker, founder of The White Company, says, 'If you can have more than one tree! When it comes to our main tree, I like to keep it quite simple, white fairy lights go on first and then a mixture of glass and white baubles are always a favorite for me. I’ve collected them over the years, including a few vintage ones and we always do the tree all together with the children.   I also love to use smaller pre-lit faux trees on the windowsills in the kitchen and in guest bedrooms.  They are brilliant for adding an easy but extra special touch of Christmas all around the house and because they are small they are very quick to decorate, they even look beautiful with just our cluster lights on or a single type of dec.'

19. Create a contemporary festive glow with neon lights

Neon Joy sign in a dried flower garland hung above a fireplace

(Image credit: Polly Wreford)

Festive foliage needn't be limited to the usual evergreen, this beautiful floral arrangement created by Titania's Garden is filled with unexpected exotic blooms but still hits with those classic warm, rich Christmassy shades. And all those different textures, it's that mix of really shiny leaves layered with the soft matte eucalyptus, and all the various shapes and sizes too that really make a festive floral arrangement or a garland. You want there to be lots of depth and have a natural shape to it. 

'Be bold this year at Christmas.' says Michael Wareing founder of Titania's Garden. 'At Titania’s Garden, we feel colors and textures need to be explored in the home to brighten up at this festive time. Use a mixture of tropical flowers and foliage to give an electric style. Full of joy!'

And this beautiful setup makes a convincing case for neon at Christmas too. As you can see it's far less garish than it sounds. Neon can be elegant and classic and ensures a lovely warm glow that feels incredibly festive.  

20. Adorn a door frame with a minimalistic garland

Hallway decorating with garland by The White Company

(Image credit: The White Company)

Simple, chic and a really easy look to recreate, draping a garland around a door frame is a nice alternative to a mantel or a staircase. Pinch this look and rather than take the garland all the way around the frame, create a more contemporary, asymmetrical look by hanging it down just one side.

This is a lovely way to add decor into a hallway without having to use up any floor space, adding an instant warm and welcoming feel that leads guests through your rooms.

'When it comes to the entrance hall at Christmas time, you want it to be impactful and inviting. This can be done with garlands, fresh will always give an extra punch of that gorgeous smell of pine that we associate with this time of year. A scented Christmas candle is always good as an entrance hall element as it welcomes people and creates a seasonal vibe.' says Sara Cosgrove.

How can you decorate a house for Christmas?

We always think it's best to start off with a theme in mind. Gather together your inspiration on a Pinterest board or good old school with a mood board and start deciding on the overall look you want to achieve. Some of the most popular themes are traditional, minimalist, rustic, Scandi and more quirky themes like kitsch has been a growing trend for years too. But don't get too stuck on a theme either, make sure your decs are a reflection of your personal style and suit your home.

Then think about colors. Classic green and red? Or do you want to go bold and colorful? A neutral scheme can look lovely too if you are into a more minimalist style. And of course, gold and silvers always look elegant.

Once you've got an idea of your theme and color scheme go room by room, making a plan of what you want to do with each space. Try and have a bit of cohesiveness between each room too whether that's through styles or colors. 

A big Christmas trend we have noticed this year is a return to the traditional, after the last turbulent year, we are looking for comfort in our decor. Familiarity and nostalgia have really shaped the trends this year – retro ornaments, multi-colored fairy lights, TINSEL, are all making a comeback and it's a look we really look and think can be adapted to suit so many styles as you can embrace the look at different levels.

Maximalism is a big look for 2021 too. The baubles just keep getting weirder! This look is all about bold, bright colors and quirky ornaments, the more eclectic the better. 

Hebe Hatton
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.