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A pot of seasonal greenery on a kitchen countertop.

Every home deserves some holiday TLC, no matter its age, style, or square footage, and the winter months provide plenty of opportunities to gather at home. This year, choose to decorate yours with some extra joy and cheer.

If you’re looking around your living space and thinking, Where do I even begin? don’t worry — we’ve got some ideas. It can be a challenge to figure out where to focus your décor efforts so it’s intentional and not overwhelming or cluttered, particularly if you live in an apartment or smaller home. So we asked Elaine Van Someren, senior interior designer for Life Time, to help guide us.

“When decorating for the holidays, I would encourage you to look to the senses,” says Van Someren. “Pick at least one thing that’s going to engage each of your five senses.” She offers these suggestions.

Satisfying Scents

Make loved ones feel at home with aromas that incite a sense of the season.

1. Aromatherapy. Use a diffuser to release essential oils with scents such as peppermint, cinnamon, clove, or fir needle. (Find DIY holiday blends and instructions for how to make a reed diffuser here.)

2. Candles. Light a scented, seasonal candle — just be sure to opt for healthier options that are made with beeswax or are soy-based. Traditional candles can emit a range of volatile organic compounds that can cause headaches and even respiratory problems.

3. Nature. Bring outside in by decorating with branches, pinecones, cinnamon sticks, rosemary wreaths, and eucalyptus. They not only look good but also smell fantastic.

Pleasant to the Ear

Sounds can elevate our moods and promote relaxation. Tailor the ambiance to your preferences.

4. Holiday music. Cue up a playlist of holiday classics. From “White Christmas” to “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” fill your home with the sounds of these seasonal tunes.

5. Fireplace illusion. Don’t have a fireplace? Project a faux one on your TV or laptop via streaming options such as Fireplace for Your Home on Netflix and fill your space with realistic, crackling sounds of a fire.

Mouthwatering Tastes

Many gatherings, especially this time of year, revolve around food. Serve healthy eats full of holiday flavors — and smells.

6. Baking. With a few simple substitutions, you can increase the health quotient of your favorite holiday baked goods. Spend time making treats to enjoy (their enticing aromas are an added sensory bonus). Consider these healthy(ish) holiday cookies.

7. Beverages. A beautifully crafted beverage poured in a purposely selected glass or mug is a decoration in and of itself. Set them on a coffee table for guests or spruce up a drink bar or cart with prepared drinks such as mulled cider with hibiscus, maca mint cocoa, spiced nog, or any of these other winter mocktails.

8. Meals. Start your day off with a candy cane or cinnamon roll protein shake, snack from a holiday charcuterie board or bowl of spiced nuts, or enjoy festive dishes such as maple-apple meatballs, green bean casserole, or sweet potato mash with pomegranate.

Cozy to the Touch

Snuggle up in materials made to comfort.

9. Blankets. Decorate your couch, accent chairs, and bed with throw blankets with festive designs or colors, or ones made of materials that are perfect to wrap up in during the colder weather months.

10. Slippers. Don’t underestimate the power of a comfortable pair of slippers. Wear around the house or even toss in a bag to bring to friends and families’ homes for some transportable coziness.

Appealing to the Eye

This is the most obvious form of decorating that people focus on — and it is an important one for bringing an attractive, festive feel to your home.

11. Lighting. Illuminate your space with a string of lights. Hang from kitchen cabinets or staircases, around centerpieces, or on fireplace mantels or decks or balconies. You can even wrap around a greenery garland before hanging. Also, consider dimmable lights and lamps to add ambiance to any room.

12. Wrapped presents. If you’re planning on exchanging gifts, why not wrap them in advance to use as décor? (These zero-waste gift wrapping ideas are fun alternatives to traditional paper.)

13. Holiday cards. Instead of adding to a mail pile, hang cards you receive on the fridge, door, wall, or bulletin board. This is an easy way to decorate that other family members and guests will enjoy looking at, too.

14. Staple décor. Choose certain items to switch out by season to bring a holiday feel to your home without adding additional decoration. These pieces could include rugs, throw pillows, wall décor, hand towels, placemats, dishes, or centerpieces.

Along with embracing the five senses, Van Someren also advises sticking to a color scheme to promote a sense of unity and wholeness throughout your home. “I recommend choosing a color theme, like silver or gold, and have that be your anchor,” says Van Someren. “I’d also say that if you want to forgo all these tips and simply cover your whole place in tinsel, go for it. It’s your space and you should do whatever will bring you joy.”

Callie Chase
Callie Fredrickson

Callie Fredrickson is a content editor at Life Time.

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