Decorating a Christmas tree isn’t an intellectual exercise; it’s done from the heart. But we all have moments when we drool over professionally done trees and wonder how they achieve that level of gorgeousness.
I spent several years designing and putting up holiday decor for clients and I’m going to share the designer secrets I’ve learned over the years. Trees are decorated with 4 main layers of decoration. Today’s post will cover lighting and ornaments; check back tomorrow to learn about picks and garlands.
THEMED OR ECLECTIC?
Tree decor can be themed by color – an all red tree, or all white or red and green. The tree could be themed by style – Victorian, traditional, country, western. Or the tree might be themed by type of ornament – Santas, angels, toys, musical instruments, floral, gingerbread men, reindeer, etc. A tree might be designed to coordinate with the colors in the room or stand alone as a testament to the season. Whatever your preference for a tree look, it should reflect your personality, your lifestyle and be a holiday decoration that you love to look at.
Personally, I only put up one tree and it’s theme is……well, I guess you’d call it eclectic. It’s filled with ornaments from my childhood, ornaments that my kids picked out over the years (like ninja turtle ornaments!), ornaments I’ve made and ones I’ve received as gifts. This is a memory tree, filled with years and years of Christmases and with every ornament I hang, I remember friends and family who have added to the beauty of my tree. But, I am a designer and I have added a few things to really make the tree even more special – and here’s how you do it:
LIGHTING TO MAKE YOUR TREE SPARKLE
It’s so important to use plenty of lights but still use good sense. You don’t want the tree so bright that it glares and you can’t see the ornaments. If you own a pre-lit tree, this part is already handled for you. For the rest of us, the main designer tip about lighting is to make sure that the lights are not just on the tips of the branches. You want to run the strands of lights all the way to the center of the tree, then out the adjoining branch to the tip. It will give the tree depth and brighten the inside of the tree. Even if you have a pine tree without much room between branches, shove those lights as far back in there as you can.
If you’re ready for a change in your lights, add a few strands of a different kind of light to add interest. If you’ve got all miniature white lights, add a few strands of colors; or the reverse – if you’ve got colored, add a few strands of white. Or try mixing up sizes – add some strands of the larger bulbs or novelty shaped bulbs. Your standard lights will look that much better by contrast.
USE ORNAMENTS TO SET YOUR TREE APART
Size matters – not the size of the tree, the size of the ornaments. Designers use LARGE ornaments freely to establish the theme and make the initial impact. They are what you’ll see from a distance. Pick up a couple of packages of large balls or ornaments (stars, angels, whatever) – at least 6-8″ diameter. Bigger is better though – the bigger the tree, the bigger the ornament it can handle.
If oversize balls don’t work with your style or theme, look at using stuffed animals, big flowers, angels or Santas (10″ tree topper size), or instruments. If you’re the crafty type, buy some really large Styrofoam balls and decorate them yourself with spray paint, glitter, ribbon and pins. Tuck these great big ornaments into the inner branches of the tree but also bring some outside to make a statement. For a 6′ tree you’ll need at least 8-10 really big ornaments.
Another inexpensive way to create the impression of large scale ornaments is to cluster several balls together. This is an old trick but one that bears repeating. This can be done in several ways depending upon the final look you want. You can use 3-5 of the same ball, all the same size and use a piece of wire or ribbon to string them all together, twist the wire (or knot the ribbon) and use it as a hook to put the cluster on the tree. To make a large ornament use four or five 3-4″ balls. You could also mix up the ornaments using 2 smaller of one color and 3 larger of a different color or pattern – or 2 shiny and 3 matte – there are lots of combinations; the goal is to create a large ornament.
A quick aside: This ornament cluster would work in many places of your decor in addition to the tree. I’ve tied together five or six 1-2″ balls in a mix of shiny and matte and tucked them in a garland, hooked them on greens in a floral arrangement, placed amongst my Santa collection display….anywhere I’d like a change of texture or a little sparkle.
Medium sized ornaments are the “filler” of a tree – you need the most of these and they are the 3-5″ ornaments. To keep a themed tree feeling cohesive, use 2-5 dozen (depending upon tree size) of the same ornament evenly spaced around the tree. Fill in with other medium sized ornaments.
Small novelty ornaments are the jewelry, the “come closer and see me” pieces of the tree. The most important tip here is to hang ornaments from the trunk to the tip – in other words make sure lots of ornaments make it as deep into the middle of the tree as possible. You definitely don’t want to have your ornaments laying just on the outside branches of the tree.
MORE DESIGNER TIPS TOMORROW
Today’s tips and these photos should help you get a good start on your designer tree. Tomorrow I’ll share even more tips and your finished tree will be absolutely stunning. Don’t worry if you don’t have everything you need; that’s what after Christmas sales are for and now you’ll know what to shop for.