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!

Making the Most of Your Condo Common Space for the Holidays

Condo Common Space

Now that Thanksgiving’s officially in the rearview, the giant meal of your choice is packed away (in Tupperware or your belly) and fall is truly on, we have a long string of holidays, both secular and religious, to look forward to as the winter moves in. With a season of get-togethers on the horizon—and the outdoors becoming less of an option—it’s a great time to check out your condo common space and amenities.

Know what you’ve got

It’s occasionally surprising—and yet perfectly explainable—how many of us don’t actually know which amenities our condo has, and what we can use.  While building amenities are often listed as perks when we’re signing a lease or buying, the responsibilities and requirements of everyday life can put those visions of swimming every day or a new workout regime out of mind pretty quickly.

First and foremost, refresh yourself on what your condo building offers and what procedure you should follow to get in on that action.  You might discover that floor you never go to has a fully-equipped TV room, complete with cinema seating, for a huge Halloween movie night, or that yes, your common dining room does have enough seating to have your family over for the first night of Chanukah—and a kitchen well-equipped enough to cater it right then and there.

Do your shopping all over again, and you’ll find ideas for entertaining—and great uses for those spaces—will suggest themselves just as quickly as you forgot them the first time.

Check out the rules

It’s the first step, always, when it comes to using common spaces in a condo building: Check out what your bylaws say about the number of people you can have over, the times of usage, and any responsibilities you might have to the space before and after you use it.

This is especially important for ideas like a pool party, which is probably one of the most fun events in theory—and most tricky in practice—for a condo renter or owner to pull off.  Does your pool have lifeguard hours?  Does it allow private parties?  (Many don’t.)  What’s the upper limit of people allowed in the pool area, and how many of them can be non-resident guests?

While the needs for a dinner or night in the TV room will be much more laid-back, check out what you’ll need to consider for cleaning the space after using it, the number of guests, the alcohol policy, and a potential deposit in case of damage to the furniture or fixtures.  Your condo will likely have a condo party room agreement that outlines all these details: Make sure you read it carefully and stick to it once it’s signed.

Book early—and before you send the invites

Toronto’ s a diverse city, and even if you’re not celebrating one of the holidays that get the most play in malls and commercials, there’s very likely to be at least one neighbour in your condo building who will have a use for a common amenity that night.

If you’re looking to entertain in a common dining room, kitchen area, or TV lounge, make sure you get that reservation in early with your concierge or property manager.  There’s nothing less fun than having to move an already-confirmed shindig because of a prior reservation.

Extra equipment means extra options

Remember that while your condo’s party room, TV room, yoga studio, or pool may have only certain equipment available, that doesn’t necessarily limit what you can do with the space.  It’s easy to bring a Playstation up to that TV room, expand your party room’s collection of 25 glasses with rentals or cheap buys if you’d really love to host 40, or pop your home steamer up into the dining room kitchen if you’d really love to do dim sum.

Remember that what your condo common areas have on offer in terms of stuff is only the base you work from.  You can rent, buy, or borrow anything you need to have the event you’d like, as long as it doesn’t damage the room or make the kind of mess that’ll have your property manager talking to you about your party room deposit.

Think outside of the box

Frequently, the most fun events are the ones that do the most with what you have.  Put on your party glasses (no, not the alcoholic kind) and look at your common spaces as canvases, with potential.  What event would they be suited to?  What kind of party fits here?  And does that sound like fun to you?

If you design the event to fit the space, you’ll not only have fewer logistical issues, but find yourself in the middle of some surprisingly inventive parties—the kind they’ll still be talking about when you start planning for next year.

Best of luck!