Thanksgiving Decor Ideas for a Tiny Space and an Even Tinier Budget

Living in a small space should not mean total deprivation. Which is why I firmly believe that our decision to quit our day jobs and leave New York City to explore the world in an RV trailer does not mean that we have to give up life’s little pleasures. The big ones, like a flip-flop-free full-sized private shower? Those comforts are gone. But I won’t give up the joy of holiday decorating because of space or budget.

However, as I’ve learned since we hit the road, there’s no room in a small living space for cute. Everything must be practical or it just gets in the way, with three exceptions: my faux flora (because even fake plants give life to a space); my piles of pillows (there can never be too many pillows, because there’s no such thing as too cozy); and lastly, holiday decorations (because these heartwarming days only happen once a year).

Thanksgiving celebrates the bounty of nature, and luckily, materials that set a perfect seasonal vibe don’t fall far from the tree and don’t cost a thing (thank you, Mother Nature!). So, parking our roving residence in nature’s backyard is a Thanksgiving decorator’s advantage because an abundance of falling acorns, leaves and twigs pile up right outside our trailer door this time of year.

But not everything required to morph these natural treasures into a festively inspired scene can be found for free within a ten foot radius of where we park our home. A local farm market is needed for the mini pumpkins or gourds, while a few inexpensive items — like burlap, twine, mason jars, colored paper, spray paint and a hot glue gun — require a trip to the craft store.

If there are no trees or parks in your vicinity, you’ll need to add fake maple leaves and pine cones to your craft store shopping list to make the five crafts below, but everything should come in under $30 — less than one night in a campground (the new measuring stick by which we count our cash)!

This year, I set about creating a simple and classy autumnal mood in our little RV trailer that would make us feel at home. Shimmering metallic pumpkins line our stairs and a mobile of cascading golden and silver leaves dangle delicately over our couch. But the majority of my focus was on our leaf-lined little Thanksgiving dinner table, where burlap bunting, a glowing foliage table lantern and rustic twig and twine napkin rings complete the look.


Five simple but beautiful ideas that leverage nature’s free bounty to create a festive and classy holiday atmosphere.


Because decorations should be cohesive in such a small space, I repeated materials; twine, and golden and silver acorns, maple and oak leaves grace almost every one of these pieces to tie together our Thanksgiving decoration this year. So to save time and prepare for most of the projects at once, I began my crafternoon by spray painting all of my acorns gold (if you don’t have acorns, pinecones would work just as well and are usually available at a craft store this time of year, if they don't fall in your backyard).

Then I sprayed one third of my leaves gold and another third silver. While I completely covered most of the leaves with spray paint, I did allow glimpses of the most vibrant reds or oranges to peek through here and there. I left one third of my leaves au natural in the glory of their reds, oranges and golden yellows to decorate my table.

While I had the spray paint out, I also used it to cover my pumpkins. The most simple to create of my five DIY Thanksgiving crafts, these little pumpkins really set the tone as you enter our trailer.


Shimmering Metallic Pumpkins

Collect your materials:

  • Mini pumpkins of varying sizes
  • Aluminum foil
  • Gold and silver spray paint
  • Gold puff paint (or glitter)

Get to work!

  1. Cover the stems of the pumpkins with aluminum foil.
  2. Spray the pumpkins gold or silver (you can choose how many of each).
  3. Once the spray paint has dried, remove the aluminum foil and decorate the stems with gold glitter puff paint, or glue and traditional glitter.
  4. Arrange them as desired (I lined the staircase of our trailer with some leaves for contrast).

While I waited for the acorns, leaves and pumpkins to dry, I set up the rest of my materials for the other four DIY Thanksgiving crafts that would complete my classy autumn look.


Cascading Fall Foliage

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Collect your materials:

  • Gold and silver spray paint
  • A mix of maple and oak leaves of various shapes and sizes
  • A photo clip mobile, or:
  • Clear fishing line (if you are hanging from a chandelier or other table lighting fixture, as opposed to a mobile)
  • Hot glue/gun (again, only if you are hanging from a chandelier or other table lighting fixture, as opposed to a mobile)

Get to work!

  1. Determine how many leaves you need based on how many (or how many strands of) leaves you will be hanging, and select as many from the collection of leaves you spray painted at the beginning (reserve 5-10 of your leaves for the burlap bunting, below). Chose a variety of sizes and shapes, and an even number of gold and silver leaves.
  2. Arrange and hang them! In my case, I arranged my leaves on a photo clip mobile, pinching the ends of the stems with the clips to hold each leaf hanging in place. The natural currents inside the trailer blow them around gently, creating a beautiful shimmery ambiance.
  3. If you will be hanging the leaves from clear fishing line instead of a mobile, then cover a work surface with newspaper and tape either end of your fishing line to opposing sides of your surface. Glue your leaves — in varying sizes, types and colors — at intervals down the fishing line. Put the largest and heaviest leaves toward the bottom. Repeat for as many strands of leaves as you want to hang from your light fixture or chandelier and then hang them!

Leaf and Acorn Burlap Bunting

Collect your materials:

  • Twine
  • Burlap bags
  • Gold and silver spray paint
  • 10-20 acorns or pinecones
  • 5-10 leaves
  • Hot glue/gun
  See Steps 2 and 5, right

See Steps 2 and 5, right

  See Step 6, right

See Step 6, right

Get to work!

  1. Measure the length of twine that you will need to create your bunting (mine was 60”, so that it hung loosely from a large 54” window outlining our dinette area). Make sure to include enough twine in your measurement to tie up the bunting/attach it at the ends.
  2. Determine how many triangles you would like to hang from your bunting and how far apart you would like them to be (for example, I wanted five triangles hanging about a foot apart from each other). Mark those distances on the twine with a Sharpie or pen.
  3. Select as many leaves as you have triangles from the collection you spray painted at the beginning, and arrange the order you would like to place them on top of each triangle (do you want to alternate between maple and oak leaves, or silver and gold leaves, or both)?
  4. Select twice as many golden acorns (or pinecones) as you have triangles — enough to place one on top of each leaf, plus one in between triangles — and set all of them aside.
  5. Cut your burlap triangles along a seam (fold over your burlap if need be), so that the two sides of the triangle fold over the middle.
  6. Line the seam with the hot glue gun and place your twine, with the first of your markings centered along the triangle seam. Glue the other two sides of the triangle together. Repeat for as many burlap triangles as you’ve planned for.
  7. Glue one leaf on top of each triangle as you arranged them.
  8. Glue one acorn in the top center of each leaf, and one to the twine in between the triangles.
  9. Allow it to dry, swag across a window or wall, and impress your friends and family!

Glowing Foliage Table Lanterns

Collect your materials:

  • Mason jar(s)
  • Leaves, unpainted and of various colors and sizes
  • Hodge podge and its acrylic sealer
  • Twine
  • Acorns (enough to line the bottom of the jar)
  • A tealight-sized LED candle (no one needs a fire in a small space!)

Get to work!

  1. Cover the mason jar(s) with Hodge Podge.
  2. Choose one of the larger leaves and paint the back of it with Hodge Podge. Stick it to the jar (note: this is trickier with real leaves than with fake craft store leaves, because they do not lay down as flat. However, it does work once they are all dry).
  3. Repeat all the way around the jar, from larger and lighter (yellow) leaves on the base layer to smaller and darker (red) leaves on the top layers until it is covered.
  4. Spray the entire jar with acrylic sealer and allow to dry.
  5. Wrap twine around the neck of the jar, and tie with a bow.
  6. Line the bottom of the jar with golden acorns and nest your small LED candle (turned on) in the acorns.
  7. Enjoy the glow of the “fire” through the warm colors of fall foliage!

Note: While our small table only permits one centerpiece, you could create and place multiple lanterns across your Thanksgiving dinner table for an even greater glow.


Rustic Twig & Twine Napkin Rings

Collect your materials:

  • Toilet paper rolls or paper towel rolls
  • 30-40 thin twigs per roll, broken into pieces the width of the rolls
  • Hot glue/gun
  • Twine
  • One golden acorn cap for each place setting

Get to work!

  1. Cut the toilet paper rolls in half (or the paper towel rolls into fourths) until you have as many place settings as you’ll be seating.

    For each roll:

  1. Cut a strip of colored paper the width of the roll and glue it all the way around, and repeat for each roll. Note that you can use a neutral tan or beige, or encourage the napkin rings to pop with a bold colored paper.
  2. Use the hot glue gun to place the twigs tightly side by side all the way around the roll. Leave a small section of the roll without twigs to make a flat bottom side that it can lay on securely.
  3. Wrap twine multiple times around the center of the twigs/napkin ring.
  4. Hot glue the ends of the twine on the twig-free back section of the rings.
  5. Hot glue a golden acorn cap to the front and center of the twigs/ring, on top of the twine.
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Step 1

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With that, the table is set and so is the mood.


Creating a festive atmosphere in a tiny space on an even tinier budget is precisely the nomadic life challenge I signed up for with this lifestyle. Thanksgiving is the perfect time to test my mettle and show that living in an RV trailer is anything but trash. It’s pure trailer class.

What's your favorite of these ideas? How do you plan to decorate for Thanksgiving this year? And if you live in a tiny space — whether that's a studio apartment downtown or an RV trailer — how do you make the most of your space while celebrating the season? If you make one of these ideas, please show me how it looks in your space! Share on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #burbsandtheholidays. Can't wait to see what you make, too. Happy Thanksgiving!