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Ask Jennifer Adams: Festive holiday lighting for condos and apartments

Decorating an apartment or condo with festive holiday lights.

String lights, such as the Edison lights from World Market, add ambiance and softness to small outdoor spaces.
String lights, such as the Edison lights from World Market, add ambiance and softness to small outdoor spaces.Read moreWorld Market

Q: When I was a kid I loved helping my parents string up the Christmas lights outside and on the tree. Every year I so looked forward to seeing everyone’s Christmas lights. We would drive around the neighborhoods taking it all in. The lights just made everything feel like Christmas. The trouble is that this year is my first year in a place that isn’t a house because I bought a condo in a tall building. What are some ways I can decorate with Christmas lights to capture at least some of that childhood feeling from?

A: The holidays are such a wonderful time, and having traditions such as your family’s holiday lights experience certainly amplify the magic. Just because you have a condo without eaves, a yard, or outdoor plants to decorate doesn’t mean you can’t capture the holiday spirit you love in your own home.

Today’s technology in holiday lighting — between the energy-efficient LED bulbs and endless variety of sizes, styles, colors, and special computerized effects — means you can create whatever mood you want. Stock up now, while the selections are good. Remember though, the bulb sizes that look great on the eaves of a house might look too big for an apartment or condo.

Before you plan anything outside your condo, check with your homeowners’ association or the building management for rules. Then, if allowed, start with some battery-operated strings and decorate the outside of your front door, complete with a lighted wreath. And fake a little yard with large potted plants or trees, one on each side of your door or one big one and one smaller on the same side. Add lights, of course. Consider faux plants, which are just as fabulous and won’t dry out or make a mess.

Outline the inside of your windows or even along the ceilings with your favorite lights. Get that retro midcentury Christmas-light look with multicolored classic football shaped bulbs in larger sizes, or go more modern with white or clear bulbs in two or three different sizes from tiny to a bit larger. Having just the smallest bulbs twinkle adds extra sparkle in a way that isn’t overwhelming.

For a consistent look, choose one type of lights for your windows, and amp it up on the tree and your front door with more colors or special effects if that’s your thing.

When you don’t have room for a tree, don’t want the hassle of a real one, or can’t store something faux, outline the shape of a tree on a wall with bright lights, and fill it in with smaller green lights.

If you have a terrace, create your own private winter wonderland. Using only products rated for outdoors — from timers to extension cords and the strings themselves — string lights along the railing, the windows, and overhang if possible, and decorate the plants. Line the perimeter with battery-operated (and outdoor-rated) flameless candles or gather them in arrangements of varying sizes in the corners.

Leave up some of the clear lights to capture a little bit of the festive glow year round, and save yourself the extra work and storage space. And take notes on what worked best for you this year, stock up or replace for next year with sales after the holidays.

Have a design dilemma? Jennifer Adams is an award-winning designer, TV personality and author of the books “Love Coming Home: Transform Your Environment. Transform Your Life.” and “How High Can You Soar — 8 Powers to Lift You to Your Full Potential.” Send your questions to or for more design ideas, visit Jennifer’s blog on her website at