Five Fundamentals of Christmas Tree Design

Five Fundamentals of Christmas Tree Design

Five Fundamentals of Christmas Tree Design


The "O" in "O Christmas Tree" must stand for Orlando, because our creative director's tree is pure magic. See his tips for holiday perfection.

Photos by Tessa Neustadt.

There’s a first time for everything. And the first time you decorate a Christmas tree on your own is definitely a learning experience. The thing that surprises most people is the number of ornaments you need to make the tree look full and balanced. (Hint: whatever you think you’ll need, triple it.) But there are a lot of other lessons to learn about tree trimming.

Today, I’ll be sharing my tips for creating a festive tree that looks balanced, considered, personal, and (most importantly of all) beautiful. This year, I opted for a giant, white tree from Wayfair. And don’t judge me for having a fake tree! I have a theory about them. Artificial trees should look intentionally fake. Meaning they should be some sort of stylized take on a tree shape, not trying to look like a real tree. My one caveat here is if you have allergies or some other reason barring you from having a real tree in your house, by all means go fake (just make sure it looks as real as possible).

Okay, onto my tips for creating the perfect tree, real or artificial!


The first thing I think about when coming up with a tree decorating plan is color. In fact, I wrote about creating a cohesive color story for your home last year. Creating a clear-cut color scheme gives your tree a pulled-together look. This doesn’t mean you have to get rid of all your heirloom ornaments. Just make sure that you pick up some ornaments, garlands, and décor that give a nod to your Christmas color scheme.



Another way to make the tree look cohesive is to purchase (or make) a few ornaments that repeat throughout the tree, creating a pattern. I had a lot of tree to cover, so I made gingerbread cookies and paper horses (based on a traditional Swedish design) to scatter throughout the tree. Yes, I know I’m insane. I also used gold, silver, and white globe ornaments throughout the tree for even more color cohesion. Globe ornaments have the added benefit of being less expensive than most other types of glass ornaments and give your tree a classic look. They also help reflect the lights on the tree, giving it that beautiful glow.


Coordinated Wrap

If you have presents out before Christmas, make sure you wrap them in paper that fits with the overall décor scheme. It lends that extra considered look. This year, I chose some black/charcoal accents to tie in with the black accents throughout my home. I sprinkled in white, gold, and grey wrapping paper so all the gifts below the tree added to the warm, sophisticated feel of the tree’s décor.


An Illuminated Topper

The star (or whatever you choose to place at the top of your tree… an angel, Mickey Mouse, an image of Beyoncé’s face…) should be a show stopper. An easy way to insure it remains a focal point is to illuminate it. I found a simple cut paper star and filled it with LED wire lights to give it an extra glow and make sure to draw peoples’ eyes to the top of the tree.


Personal Touches

Christmas trees are meant to be representative of the spirit of the season AND YOU! So the ornaments you choose should have sentimental value (or at least the ability to accrue it over time). When I shop for ornaments, I look for things I think are cute and have some relationship to me and my family. For example, the house I grew up in had a giant pine tree in the front yard that used to drop pine cones all over the lawn, so I love any pine cone shaped ornaments I find. Think of ornaments like a keepsake you get to get to put out once a year to remind you of things in your life that you love.


And there you have it! Five tips for making your tree beautiful and sophisticated, so go out there and tackle that tree! And if you need more inspo, check out my crazy pom-pom tree from last year.

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