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9 Easy Holiday Decorating Ideas For Renters (AKA Easy To Store And Damage Free Decor)

On our Monday Zoom call, I was showing the team all of the Christmas decorating I did the day before, boasting about a couple of new and really EASY things I tried and thought turned out great. Em pretty quickly suggested that a post about Christmas decorating for renters would be fun! DONE. Of course, nothing I do or have done in the past are “renter only” decorating tips. However, I did realize this year that I do have a pretty dialed-in system that consists of space-efficient decor that’s easy to install with zero wall damage and is also real pretty. Ha. And to think I almost didn’t decorate this past weekend out of sheer laziness. But I’m so happy I did because while I still need to get a tree this weekend, my apartment is CHEERFUL!

Garland Tension Rod

If you have been on TikTok or Instagram recently, you’ve likely seen the tension rod garland trend (I’m sure people have been doing this for a long time but it’s currently all the rage). Now, I wouldn’t say I’m someone who tends to try viral trends…actually, this might be my first. But when I saw this hack, it was an immediate, “OOOOH I want to try this!” Luckily, I had a tension rod I wasn’t using (YES), some battery-operated fairy lights (my favorite), and some velvet ribbon I’ve used for the past four years. All I needed was some greenery so I hopped over to Trader Joe’s and picked up three of their cedar garland strands for $12.99 each (two for the tension rod and one for my mantle). The price and quality are the best.

In the video I linked, Wendy used a brass shower tension rod which might work better size-wise for a larger opening. Just be sure to check the measurements. The brass color is also much prettier than the white pole I have showing but I already owned it and didn’t care enough to spray paint it a different color. Maybe next year. I also happened to have green floral wire to easily attach the bows I made but I don’t think it’s necessary.

look at that pretty afternoon light:)

Here is a picture with the lights on later in the day! I LOVE using battery-operated fairy lights because they are delicate, pretty, and can be put on a timer. The timer is perfect here because the last thing I want to do towards the end of the day is get up on a chair or ladder to turn the lights on daily. Oh, I also wrapped the lights on after the greenery was on the rod. That made it easier to place and secure the battery packs before I hoisted the rod up.

And the best part is that no walls were damaged in this experiment. I think EVERYONE who likes to decorate for the holidays should try this.

Battery-Operated Fairy Lights

As I’ve already stated, I LOVE LOVE LOVE my battery-operated fairy lights. I put them everywhere and on a timer. They go on my garland (seen above), on shelves, on my tree! Well, this year for my tree I’m buying an extra long strand that plugs in. I like this one but maybe should get the green one?

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | styling by jess bunge (me!) and julie rose | from: jess’ bold berry-infused, cozy modern holiday apartment

These smaller strands just add so much ambiance that won’t add to your electricity bill:)

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | styling by jess bunge (me!) and julie rose | from: jess’ bold berry-infused, cozy modern holiday apartment

See it peeking out on my kitchen shelf from a few years ago? Even washing dishes was better with them. Also, they don’t take up a ton of space since they are way skinnier than traditional Christmas lights.

Bulbs On Chandelier

This was another new thing I tried (because I saw it on Instagram? Ugh, sorry I can’t find the video!), putting ornaments on my chandelier. In the past, I may have thought it was a little kitschy but joke’s on me because I LOVE IT and now welcome the potential kitschy-ness. I also LOVE that my beautiful glass ornaments, that I think sorta get lost in the chaos of my tree usually, are centerstage…where they belong.

I know not everyone has a chandelier but think a little outside the box when it comes to places to hang ornaments This is also a great hack if you have kids or dogs and don’t want to put your fragile ornaments on your tree where they could get to them easier:)

Mini Decor On Frames

Mini Trees (similar)

The trick that Sara and Erik taught me. Put little mini decor on picture frames! This is so quick and easy. I got these mini bottle brush trees from Target and this year thought I would sprinkle a few on some picture frames. A fun surprise that’ll make you look cool…or at least I will think you’re cool:) Also, mini = doesn’t need lots of storage space. Renter-friendly!

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | styling by jess bunge (me!) and julie rose | from: jess’ bold berry-infused, cozy modern holiday apartment

But you don’t need to use trees if that’s not your style! You can also get a delicate sprig and put it on a frame. I really loved how that cedar sprig looked on my old gallery wall. Simple but visually impactful, if I do say so myself.

Ribbon Is Your Friend

styled by emily henderson | photo by kaitlin green | from: the official first farmhouse christmas!

In case you missed Emily’s first official farmhouse Christmas reveal, this was the year of the ribbon and I couldn’t have loved it more. Em’s budget-friendly hack is to go get fabric by the yard instead of spools of ribbon that end up adding up so fast! This way you can also cut to your preferred size.

Wreaths are a key place for ribbon. Emily played with a few different kinds on her kitchen wreaths and they are perfect. Notice the Command hooks that the wreaths are attached to. No damage!

But if you have a curtain rod you don’t even need a Command hook! Just throw that ribbon over the pole to your desired length and tie the knot behind the wreath like Arlyn did. I have also done this in past apartments and loved the look. Easy peasy and looks very chic.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | styling by jess bunge (me!) and julie rose | from: jess’ bold berry-infused, cozy modern holiday apartment

I clearly like to drape ribbon anywhere that needs some holiday cheer…like on a wall mirror:)

styled by emily henderson | photo by kaitlin green | from: the official first farmhouse christmas!

I had to include this shot of the farmhouse because it’s SO PRETYY. This ribbon look could easily be achieved on the tension rod garland too.

Lastly, ribbon is SO easy to store because it takes up almost no room. Renters with storage issues rejoice:)

Little Vignettes

Over the past handful of years, I have collected some fun figurines. Well, almost exclusively trees of all shapes, sizes, and materials. But all in a color palette that works seamlessly together. That way each year I grab my bin of decor and play with new little vignette configurations. Mostly it’s because I don’t remember what I did the year before but also to see what new life I can bring out of not new decor.

Now, the challenge as a renter can be surface space, right?! So get creative. Window sills, desks, open shelving, etc. are all great places for a small Christmas moment. A little goes a long way.

Then as taught by Em, I almost always work in odd numbers. Mostly threes but as you can see on the right, sometimes fives. Just vary the heights, colors, and materials and you’ll easily have a very cute Christmas decor vignette. Add some greenery for extra points.

Colorful Taper Candles

Candle Set

I have been singing the praises of colorful candles for a minute now but until this year haven’t embraced the multi-colored candle look in my favorite vintage candelabra! It’s almost stupid how fun and good these look with my Christmas decor. They just look cool and intentional yet unexpected and I can’t recommend trying some for yourself! Plus as a renter, you can buy a few each year and light them so they burn down meaning you don’t have to store them! Here’s a post with more shoppable options.

HOT TIP: See those accordion cream trees in the fireplace? They fold up flat making them SO easy to store since they take up almost zero room. Plus they are awesome.

Nostalgic Holiday Decor

As known, storage is almost always an issue with apartments so you need to be strategic about which decor is most important to you. Now, it took me a while to realize this but having a few decorations from childhood makes everything feel more special. Most of you might be saying, “DUH, JESS!” but I was so caught up in collecting things that were more “my style” that I didn’t take the time to dig through the old stuff (it’s been in storage so not easy to access either). Maybe in the back of my mind, I thought I would do that when I bought my first house and could store everything. Well, homeownership is still in the distant future for me, so grabbing my mom’s family’s old creepy carolers and our little nutcrackers makes my home feel more connected to my family. Oh, the creepy Santas on my mantle were also my mom’s:)

Well, that’s it from me today. Hope it was a decorating post that inspired not overwhelmed. This time of year should be happy and maybe even a little magical if we’re lucky so just do as much or as little as you want<3 No pressure here!

Love you, mean it.

Opening Image Credits: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | Styling by Jess Bunge (me!) and Julie Rose | From: Jess’ Bold Berry-Infused, Cozy Modern Holiday Apartment

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2 months ago

The tension rod hack is genius! I’m totally trying that.
Haha, the creepy carolers! Those Byers Choice figures are (were? I still see them everywhere!) so popular. They’re made in PA (Bucks County), and I’m convinced M Night Shyamalan used them as inspiration for some of his movie characters!

2 months ago
Reply to  Kate

Such a great idea! I wandered the house the other night trying to figure out what to do with a garland. This is perfect!!

Amy Sparks
2 months ago

Renters always struggle with decorating small spaces. It can be frustrating, especially before the Christmas holidays 🙂 The idea of mini decor on frames is adorable. I have to try it. I also love the lights on the kitchen shelf. It creates a perfect ambiance! Thanks for the inspiration!

Mary Robideaux
2 months ago

I was so excited for the tension rod hack, but all my doorways are arched

2 months ago
Reply to  Mary Robideaux

Is any part of your doorframe smooth? I have used these Command Strip Cord Bundlers with success

2 months ago

Does anyone else remember making paper trees from Readers Digests?

2 months ago
Reply to  patty

And spray painting them gold or silver!

2 months ago

We are not renters, but still do not want extra holes in the walls. A good tip is to use flat thumbtacks and push them into the tops of door or window frames. The wood of the frame holds much better than drywall and you cannot see the hole. I have a front door wreath that hangs from a ribbon attached similarly (flat thumbtack into to the top of the door). Door still closes and wreath has never come down.

2 months ago

Your fireplace tiles are beautiful, they look like Batchelder which were made in Pasadena. The paper trees look great inside!

emily jane
2 months ago

Jess! Even though I haven’t celebrated Christmas in years (2 holiday-timed family deaths in concurrent years will do that -or at least did that to me..?) and I have space to store larger items, I nonetheless clicked a link in every section of your post and immediately searched ebay for “creepy holiday caroling figurines” (as I had never seen anything quite like them -insert surprised, googly eyed emoji : ) but absolutely MUST have one (who knows, you may have given me the nudge I needed to haul out my family’s ‘creepy holiday’ decor and celebrate the holiday again..?).

2 months ago

Hello! I love your holiday decor suggestions! There are ideas for every budget and some very simple ideas that can make a huge impact without breaking the budget. I love Wendy, and have recently started following her. Arlyn’s suggestions basically hack the holiday decor code! Thank you for all of the wonderful ideas this year!