Decorating a Christmas tree is no mean feat, especially for the perfectionists among us (baubles, ornaments and lights need to be perfectly coordinated in a festive and stylish scheme), but if your home is your pride and joy and the tree is the centrepiece of your living room this festive season, we've got you covered.
We've spoken to a range of style and decorating experts, including the team at Balsam Hill – whose artificial Christmas trees have graced the TV sets of The X Factor, Good Morning Britain and This Morning – about how to decorate your Christmas tree to make it look like you hired a professional, plus how to choose the right Christmas tree decorations to suit your theme.
But before we begin, like any task, you need to have the right tools to ensure the safe and proper set up of your Christmas tree. This includes cotton gloves for shaping branches (to prevents scratches), scissors with safety handles for materials, packaging or equipment, and a sturdy ladder or step stool for installing toppers and arranging décor on taller trees.
So now you're all set up, fancy getting that Insta-worthy look with very little effort? Read on for tips from the pros...
1. Invest in a high-quality artificial tree
Christmas trees crafted from premium materials provide sturdy and reliable support for decorations. You'll find that high-quality trees are generally more durable and can stand up to repeated use year after year, all while maintaining its beautiful look.
Opt for a traditional tree rather than a trend-led one so that it doesn't go 'out of date' after a few years, plus a traditional design gives you the perfect base to layer and decorate as you wish.
Pre-lit Christmas trees are a firm household favourite because it saves time in untangling all those lights, however, a benefit of buying an unlit tree is that you can choose whatever style of lights you want. When it comes to size, 7ft Christmas trees are now extremely popular but you should always choose a tree that fits in your space and doesn't leave it feeling too cramped. If you're tight on space, there are some great slim Christmas trees on the market, including narrow pencil designs, which may be a better fit. And remember, to prevent wear and tear on your Christmas tree, consider models with advanced features that offer easy set up and storage.
Tip: When buying your tree, ensure you have the right Christmas tree storage, such as storage bags and boxes, as well as storage for wreaths, garlands and lights, so that you're fully equipped when you take your Christmas tree down and pack everything away.
Alternatively, if you want a real Christmas tree, there's a great selection available to buy from tree farms, markets or home & DIY stores. See all the tree varieties available, including Nordmann Fir and Norway Spruce, in our real Christmas trees guide.
2. Fluff and shape branches
Fluffing the branches helps to make your artificial Christmas tree look fuller and more natural. This can be a very time-consuming task, but trust us, the end result is more than worth it. Separate each branch so they fan out to cover as much area as possible and don't hesitate to bend individual branches to fill in gaps. A properly shaped tree is an appealing sight, however minimal or lavish your embellishments may be. Once again, remember to wear gloves and long sleeves if possible to avoid any grazes on your hands and arms.
3. Design around a theme
A professional-looking Christmas tree has a central look that ties the decorations together. Deciding on a theme before choosing your decorations sets the tone and gives you a clear idea on how to decorate your tree. Need some inspiration? Why not take a look at John Lewis' Christmas themes this year – from Christmas Cottage to Polar Planet, there are six key looks to help you decorate this festive season.
4. Choose the right colours (and materials)
Once you've decided on your theme, curate a colour palette to bring it to life. For example, for a traditional yet opulent look stick to a red and gold colour combination, for a Scandi vibe layer shades of white and soft neutrals, or choose blue and silver for an icy cool aesthetic. Stick to two (definitely no more than three) colours to keep the look contained rather than cluttered. Also think about materials and texture: plush velvet baubles lends itself well to a luxe tree, while paper and wooden decorations are ideal for any Nordic-inspired or minimalist trees.
Less is always more but it is Christmas after all, so above everything else, decorate your tree in whatever way makes you happy! The decorating rulebook is certainly relaxed at Christmastime, so have fun with it.
5. Start with the lights first
While pre-lit Christmas trees are popular and will save you time (and money), you'll need Christmas tree lights if you have a plain tree. As a general rule of thumb, the lighting experts at Lights4fun advise 100 bulbs or 5 metres of lights per 2ft of Christmas tree. So for a 6ft tree, you'd need 300 bulbs or 15 metres of lights.
The first, most important thing you need to do when decorating your Christmas tree, is to always add the lights first – it's more difficult to do this after you've added decorations like baubles and garlands.
The experts at Balsam Hill suggest using the plug as the starting point, wrapping the lights around your Christmas tree's trunk, and working your way up from the centre of the base of your tree. Continue wrapping the lights evenly around the branches nearest to the trunk, and then weave it upwards from the middle of the crown.
'When you reach the crown, weave your way back down, arranging the lights further out on the branches,' Balsam Hill advise. 'Keep weaving the lights until you reach the tips of the branches.'
And remember, when weaving, the bulb should be positioned under a branch and the next bulb over a branch, and so forth.
6. Balance the décor
Given the many Christmas tree decorations you're likely to have, you have to ensure that everything is well-balanced and spread out to your liking. Arrange embellishments from the top of the tree and then work towards the bottom. This way, you can easily check your design as you dress up your tree.
7. Cluster your baubles
Balsam Hill's design consultant, Brad Schmidt, recommends clustering three baubles of different sizes to add flair and visual appeal. You can either put the same pieces together or choose contrasting ones.
The White Company echo this suggestion – to create a balanced, visually pleasing tree, buy baubles in threes, sixes, or twelves, and add these on first in a 'Z' shape. You should hang larger baubles closer to the centre of the tree to give it more depth, and use small ones towards the end of the branches.
Dangle delicate glass baubles at the top of the tree to prevent any breakages, and add special ones last to ensure they are in the perfect position.
And how much baubles will you need? The White Company recommend 80 baubles for a 7.5ft tree.
8. Layer and style ribbons
Another expert tip is to layer your Christmas tree with decorative ribbons, which will elevate your tree's aesthetic. You may use one type of ribbon or pair ribbons of contrasting textures and different widths to create more impact.
Brad recommends using ribbons with wired edges, as these are easier to sculpt into loops, rolls or bows, and they hold shape better than non-wired ribbons.
9. Use tree picks
Tree picks and floral sprays come in many forms, such as decorated branches, twigs, berries, or even pine cones – use them as subtle accents to complement the entire look of your tree. Grouping picks together using floral wire is a creative way to elevate the visual appeal of your tree without overpowering other decorations.
They are great for adding lively splashes of colour, not only to Christmas trees, but to wreaths and garlands, too. Make sure to choose picks with bendable stems to make shaping easier.
10. Add scented ornaments
Now you can get your artificial Christmas tree to smell like a real one thanks to scented ornaments – it'll fill your whole room with the magic of Christmas. Buy a bottle of the Scentsicles scented paper tube sticks (with hooks included) and nestle them amongst the decorations in your tree for that freshly cut scent. You'll have a fresh fragrance in an instant with scents including cinnamon, berry or winter fir. You can also buy scented decorations from The White Company to match with your tree theme.
11. Choose the right tree topper
A statement tree topper is a beautiful way to complete the designer look of your tree. Make sure to choose one that best fits your theme and the proportion of your tree, and take into consideration the height of your ceiling too. Star tree toppers or angels are traditionally the most popular, but there are lots of alternative designs to choose from, including personalised designs, or you could make your own topper.
12. Finish off with a tree skirt
Often overlooked, a Christmas tree skirt is the finishing touch to your decorations and serves to balance the overall design of your Christmas tree. Tree skirts have many benefits too, from covering the unsightly 'legs', trunk or stand of a tree, to protecting your floors and carpets from any fallen pine needles (if you have a real tree).
It naturally draws attention to the tree's lower portion and helps to produce a complete, harmonious look. Plus, it's the perfect backdrop for beautifully wrapped Christmas presents. Alternatively, you may want to invest in a tree rug or mat, especially useful if you have a potted Christmas tree or one that comes in a basket.
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