These 5 Movies Are My Inspo for Making Home Cozier Than Ever for the Holidays

You really can’t go wrong with twinkling lights and pillow forts

Illustration of a family watching holiday movies by the fireplace

The Spruce / Lara Antal

I won’t sugarcoat it: the holidays this year will be wildly different in almost every way. But one thing I’m absolutely sure of is that the morning after Thanksgiving will be dedicated to decking our halls. I don’t know if there will be boughs of holly, but it is the season to be jolly.

Let my research for Operation: A Very Cozy Cottagecore Christmas commence. The events of 2020 have nothing on my Christmas cheer!

The news of another lockdown has hit the UK, and while we never entertained the possibility of flying back to the US this season, it feels like an underline and an exclamation point for something we already knew. But there are perks, too. I now have plenty of time to seek out inspiration for the comfy Christmas décor of my dreams, for example.

Our first national lockdown introduced me to the small joys of cottagecore, and now, I see it everywhere. This time around, I’m using all this added Netflix time to binge watch some of my old holiday faves and suss out what I need to make sure this season doesn’t spiral into the Blue Christmas it has the potential to be.

Here’s what I’ve discovered so far.

  • 01 of 05

    'Little Women'

    Image from 'Little Woman' from 1994

    Inspo scene

    The March sisters get a letter from their father, who can’t be there for Christmas because he’s serving in the Civil War. Thank you for this bit of perspective, Louisa May.

    My plans

    Orchard House looks particularly beautiful at Christmas, and my eye goes straight to all of the lush, green garlands. I’ve already sourced some faux greenery to lay across the top of my bookshelves (in lieu of the mantle I truly wish I had), and my next must-have will be wreaths.

    I’m also coveting the shawls on each girls’ shoulders and that little bow headband Meg is sporting. I am here for this reminder to accessorize, even in your nightgown. One detail I’m not so sure about is the Christmas tree adorned in real candles. It’s a fire hazard I can’t risk in a rental with two children under five, even if it does add that extra bit of cottagecore magic.

  • 02 of 05

    'The Holiday'

    Inspo scene

    When Amanda (Cameron Diaz) meets Graham (Jude Law)’s daughters, they show her their magical fairytale tent, made for storytime.

    My plans

    There’s a lot to love about Mill House’s simple, child-focused Christmas décor—the string of popcorn and cranberry fastened above the AGA stove in the kitchen is my personal fave and has been added to the list of fun, festive projects to tackle with my daughter.

    But nothing is as magical as the girls’ tent. From the bunting wrapped around the top to the piles of pillows and blankets nestled inside, it’s the exact feel I want my entire home to have until 2021.

    We can’t build a giant, semi-permanent blanket fort (...can we?), but I can keep this cream and rose color palette very much in mind as I decorate, and I plan to. I also am head over heels for the lace, the pattern mixing, and the homemade paper stars strung up inside the “ceiling” of the tent. All of these ideas will be very easy to add to our cozy, homey Christmas aesthetic.

  • 03 of 05

    'Downton Abbey'

    Downton Abbey


    Inspo scene

    Every Downton Abbey Christmas special, but especially the Christmas dinner scenes in the servants’ quarters.

    My plans

    Let’s be honest, if I could choose between the servants’ quarters or the main dining hall with a seat next to the Dowager Countess, I’d pick the Dowager. (And can my storyline involve a fling with Henry Talbot? Sorry, Lady Mary). But for the sake of cottagecore and in the spirit of being realistic about what I can pull off in my own home, give me the sweet and simple scenes from the servants’ Christmas table. I love the single tapered candles, the bits of greenery strewn about, and most importantly: the Christmas crackers. You can bet my family of four will have our own this year, and everyone will be required to wear their crowns through dessert.

  • 04 of 05

    'The Secret Garden'

    The Secret Garden (1993) still via YouTube


    Until my recent re-watch, I actually forgot how dark this story is. Mary Lennox is an orphan of the Indian earthquake and she gets sent to England to live with an estranged uncle and his mean old housekeeper at the decidedly creepy Misselthwaite Manor. None of it is particularly warm or cozy, so seeking Christmas inspiration might seem like an odd choice. But! The set and costumes are a cottagecore lovers’ dream. (There’s also a whole timely thing with anyone wearing masks when they’re around Colin (clip below). It really is worth a re-watch.)

    My plans

    While there’s no true Christmas scene, much of the film is set in winter and Mary’s wardrobe holds all of the inspiration. I have specific memories of wanting every outfit as a kid and… yeah, I kind of still want them all. But instead of dressing myself like a life-sized American Girl doll (Mary is a total Samantha), I love the idea of a Christmas table set with the color palette the costume designer used for Mary. Muted garnet and violet and emerald jewel tones set against cream and lace with some velvet bows to match? Yep, cottagecore Christmas tablescaping dreams: complete.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone'

    Harry Potter and Ron Weasley's first Christmas together

    Wizarding World via YouTube


    While almost all of the Harry Potter movies have some sort of Christmas scene, none feel quite as cozy as Harry and Ron’s first Christmas together in the Gryffindor common room. Complete with poorly sized homemade knit sweaters, courtesy of Mrs. Weasley, of course. 

    My plans

    Never underestimate the power of some serious mood lighting. Lit only by the fireplace and the Christmas tree, the common room’s entire ambiance is perfection. But because I don’t have a fireplace, lots of candles and extra twinkle lights will have to do. Also, please join me in my appreciation for those little handmade brooms and gold cauldron ornaments hanging on the tree. BRB, off to scour Pinterest for DIY instructions on making my very own.

    It’s easy to get bogged down in the sadness of this upcoming holiday season and think about all we’ll be missing, but there are some silver linings, too. In our home, I can’t wait to soak in the small and simple family moments, which, thanks to these scenes, will most certainly include cozy decor to last the whole season through.