Shiny silver and gold, the warm glow of lights, dazzling bursts of color — O Christmas tree, your magic helps fill our homes with laughter and love during this merriest of seasons. And while gathering together to trim the tree is a beloved family tradition for many of us, let's be honest; for others, it’s an intimidating decorating nightmare. But don’t be overwhelmed, it’s easy to go from dazed to dazzling with a few insider tips.
Step one: Find the tree that fits your lifestyle.
Designer John Griffith decorates dozens of trees and leads holiday design seminars for dinnerware giant, Replacements, Ltd. Griffith recognizes since we all live in different spaces, the picture perfect 7-foot tree won’t work for everyone.
“People like myself who live in apartments, condos or smaller living areas often feel stuck having to get a tiny tree because of limited space, when there are so many more options,” Griffith says. “Flat trees, which are very low profile and sit close to the wall, are perfect for tight spaces. Half round trees are another great option because they’re basically half a tree, while corner trees reflect their name because they’re shaped to fit into corners. These types of artificial trees create the impact of having a larger tree that in reality doesn’t take up all that much room.”
Step two: Light it up.
Once you find the perfect tree, figure out how many lights you really need. Griffith suggests using at least 150 lights per foot of tree to decorate just the tips. For more depth, use at least 250 lights per foot.
And consider LED lights. Griffith notes that while upgrading to LEDs may be expensive initially, they’re a good investment in that these lights burn much cooler, last longer and are more energy efficient.
Step three: Think in thirds.
One of Griffith’s best practices: decorate in thirds.
“This is one of the easiest ways to make sure your tree is balanced from a decorating standpoint,” says Griffith. “Start by looking at your tree as what it is, a huge cone, then section it off in thirds around the tree. For example, if you have 1,500 lights, use 500 for one section, 500 for the middle and 500 for the last section. Do the same thing with your ornaments by dividing them into three groups before you start arranging those on the tree.”
Stylize with ornaments.
While lights create seasonal glow, ornaments dazzle and delight, bringing out the child in all of us. Our choice of ornaments reflect more than individual style and taste — they’re distinctively sentimental.
“Annual ornaments are always popular from a nostalgic standpoint because of the special memories connected to each one,” says collectibles specialist Kristen Pulley. “For instance, those made by Lenox China are very dear to me because of my two daughters. I started a collection for each of them when they were born — I began the teddy bear series for one and the gingerbread man for the other. As they got older and started decorating the tree, they liked them so much that now I have to get two of each series every year. It’s become part of our family tradition."
Among Replacements’ most sought after holiday annuals, the Wallace Sleigh Bell and Gorham Snowflake collections remain family favorites, having been in production going on 50 years.
“Blown glass ornaments have really kept their popularity,” adds Pulley. “Production costs have gotten less expensive without compromising the quality making these more affordable to collect. For instance, Merck Family’s Old World Christmas ornaments are huge sellers, because you can find everything from traditional ornaments to fun, off the wall ones such as a piece of sushi or even Chinese takeout boxes.”
What’s hot for 2016?
Griffith says one of this year’s big decorating trends centers on monochromatic, such as using the same color lights (regardless of the hue) with ornaments in either all silver or all gold, but not both.
“One of my favorite techniques is adding bullion to a tree,” Griffith says. “Bullion is a very thin wire you add on the outside tips in geometric shapes that gives the tree a different kind of texture, movement and depth. It really adds richness to the tree, and the way the light reflects off this wire looks very luxe.”
Finally, Griffith notes no tree is complete without an over-the-top tree topper. Really nice bows made from high quality ribbon look lovely, while he favors using feathers, branches, floral stems and other natural elements to put an exclamation point on the top of the tree. With these great tips, it should be easy to find your own flair to kick-off what's sure to be a memorable holiday entertaining season.