Decorating your Condo for the Holidays: A Quick Guide


They’re coming: Now that school is almost over and we’ve had our first few days of real fall weather, the New-Year-Christmas-Hanukkah trifecta is on its way.  And if you’re a committed celebrator, that means breaking out the blinky lights and decorative gourds to get your space into that seasonal mood.  However, decorating in a condo unit has its own quirks, rules, and pitfalls to look out for.

So here’s what you need to know before busting out the decorations in your condo unit.

Check out your condo’s rules on outside décor

Not all buildings have the same position on decorating outside parts of your unit, like front doors, windows, or balconies—or on specific kinds of in-unit holiday cheer.

There are solid reasons for why some condo buildings aren’t so keen on holiday decorations: Pine needles from Christmas trees or wreaths can slip down in the gaps between elevator cars and doors, potentially clogging the mechanisms; they can create a cleanup task for building staff in the common areas; they can be a real fire hazard; and religious decorations—of whatever faith—in what’s functionally a common area, like a hallway, can be alienating for neighbours who don’t share your beliefs.

If you decide to go for it and hang decorations anyway, responses might range from getting a letter asking you to take down the decorations to a fine from your condo board.

Either way, like anything in a community, it’s worth first checking what’s okay and what’s not on, keeping that in mind when you plan your holiday spread, and focusing on the inside of your unit.

Think vertical, not horizontal

Decorations are no fun if they interfere substantially with your ability to use your space.  Overall, in a condo, anything you can hang will trump anything you have to clear floor space to roll out.  Think wreaths and boughs, not full-grown trees.

Holiday decoration is, in many ways, a lot like regular decoration: the same sense of what your space can handle and how much is enough applies.  Look at how you’ve currently decorated for everyday use, and take your cues from there.  What works now is a great guidepost for what’ll work later.

Think about storage

Your holiday decorations will be up for one month of the year, max—unless you’re the type to keep them up a full month later, in which case, fly that fun flag.  Either way, pick up decorations with an eye to where they’re going to live when they’re not on active duty.

If your condo comes with a storage locker on-site, a sturdy, waterproof bin and some wrapping paper for the fragile items should be able to handle the issue.  But if not, decorations that don’t just display well but store compactly in your closets can be a real help for the dark, fallow times between holiday fun.  Think cloth or ribbons, which roll right back up for next year; strings of paper cut-outs, which can be folded and stored in a file drawer; and any decoration that repurposes something you already have on display, like a vase or bowl.

Sometimes it’s as easy as a few paper-mache skulls on sticks in your flower vase, or switching up your usual colours for orange and black.

Consider your neighbours

While you’re kicking it, think about next door, especially when it comes to sound or smells that could leak between units.  If you’re into burning frankincense for Christmas or have a hanukiah for Chanukah, keep your space decently ventilated, consider how much your incense or candles smoke, and think about where the vents are.  Sharing a faceful of smoke is not festive fun.

Find out about building-wide celebrations before investing in holiday handouts

Some condo buildings will consolidate activities like trick-or-treating into a building-wide Halloween party, where all the kids (and, ahem, grown candy enthusiasts) can gather for activities, social time, and candy from a communal stash.

If your building’s one that’s down on individual trick-or-treating and more into holiday togetherness, find out before investing in Halloween candy or other favours, and ask what’s expected for a contribution.  It’ll save you the cash—and, most likely, save your waistline from multiple bags of homeless Halloween candy.

If your building does trick-or-treating, ask a neighbour or the concierge just how busy it gets.  Even a family-rich building will only have so many trick-or-treaters, and knowing what kind of numbers to prep for will really help you plan your evening and your supplies.

Know how you’re going to dispose of it

Not all decorations are forever, and lots of our holiday activities produce waste.  If you’re going to find yourself in possession of large amounts of wrapping paper, defunct decorations, boxes, small Christmas trees, or other plant matter, have a plan going in for how you’re going to send it to the big holiday décor section in the sky.

Talk to your concierge or property manager about the best days for recycling large loads, and take them down right before the trucks arrive so they’re not cluttering your garbage or recycling room for a full week.  If you’ve got real gourds or greenery, find out whether they fall under your building’s organics program, and make sure they end their lives in the right place.

Happy holidays!

Five Creative Uses for That Condo Den

Condo Den

It’s more common right now to see a Toronto condo listing for a one bedroom-plus-den than a regular one-bedroom.  While there can be a lot of cynicism around why den spaces are included when a condo building is designed, those compact rooms are full of potential to be more than an extra storage space.

Here are five creative ideas to turn that den into a cozy, comfortable, functional room and get the most out of your one-bedroom-plus.

The library

The big problem with condos when you’re a big reader is finding space for books—and a den is the perfect place to not just show off your books, but relax and read.  If you’re a fiction fan, grad student, journalist, or anyone else who likes to have their library at hand, turning that den into a reading space can be a Pinterest-perfect solution.

Concentrate your bookshelves in your condo den, put down a nice warm area rug, and add a comfortable chair, a lamp, or even just a nest of throw pillows, and that extra room will turn into a cozy, laid-back reading space with absolutely minimal effort.

Puppy’s first bedroom

If you’re in a unit and building that allows pets, turning your den into a dedicated space for your dog, cat, rabbit, or the animal friend of your choice can be a great way to both use that space and make condo living that much easier on your pet—most animals are happy to have a little space that’s their own.

If you’re a dog owner, your den can be a great home for your crate, dog bed, toy box, extra pet food, and a rack for your leash and plastic bags.  If you’ve got cats, you can set up Cat Wonderland with a kitty condo, toys, extra food and litter, and maybe even your litterbox if your cats are solidly litter-trained and you’ve got a mat beneath it.

It’s the same drill for pets who are cage-bound or swimmers: Setting up a dedicated space for them can help keep your condo clean, reduce potential damage, and make them more comfortable in their own homes.

The project lab

If you’re crafty—a maker, a knitter, designer, or artist—that den can morph into your dedicated project space.  Most condo dens are just large enough to accommodate a sewing machine, pattern table, and fabric stash, an easel, or a set of tools and some hardware.

Hook yourself up with a sturdy table, some storage shelves, a work lamp, and some laminate or plastic mats laid down on the floors to catch spills, and congratulations: you’ve turned your den space into home base for most any creative project you’ve got on the go.

A warning, though: Be careful with any projects that involve paint, solvents, or other things that aren’t great to breathe.  While painting in small doses isn’t right out for a condo unit—and with the proper protection for the walls and floors—it’s not great for your health, and ventilation is always key.

The nursery

If you’re looking to start a family, but not ready to upgrade into a larger space, the den in a one-bedroom-plus can make a solid nursery for baby’s first year or two—all the time before they start needing a little privacy of their own.

Separate your den space off with a paper screen or other portable divider—well-anchored to keep it out of prying toddler hands!—to give yourself some changing-time privacy, and you can treat your condo den just like any other newborn’s room.  Just large enough for a crib, changing table, mobile, and toys, condo dens frequently have a closet included, and that can be ground zero for the onesies, towels, and diapers you’ll need to have at hand.

Laundry room

While it’s not the most glamorous use for your den, it’s one of the most practical: Set up your den with some great lighting, your ironing board, a table for folding and sorting your clothes, and a few laundry storage baskets, and kiss the days of hanging wet clothes over your shower pole goodbye.

If your den’s near your washer and dryer, setting up a laundry room in that space can keep your bedroom and bathroom much tidier by taking all the laundry tasks into their own special place.  It also means not having to maneuver around the rest of your life to fold and put away clothes, and while it may seem small, has the potential to make a lot of your life that much easier.

Happy decorating!