Decorate a Christmas Tree Like the Pros
When it comes to Christmas... many people would say I tend to go "slightly" overboard... What can I say? I love all things Christmas!
If you're looking for decorating tips, inspiration, some comic relief, and a step-by-step tutorial on decorating a Christmas tree like the professionals, you've come to the right place!
Typically I would place our Christmas tree next to the fireplace (making it easy for Santa to unload his presents, clearly...), but since we didn't have room in our very narrow fireplace room, we had to think outside the box. By placing our tree in the adjoining room, we made Santa work off those extra cookies.
Here's a quick sneak peek before we get started #keeptheendinmind
Before we begin, I should probably make a somewhat controversial admission. But before I do that, let me assure you, I am a huge fan of all things autumn! So much that we even planned a special trip this year to take advantage of the breathtaking fall colors and foliage in the gorgeous New England states. Check out our trip, scenery, and some of our beautiful photos on my Travel page, 10 States in 10 Days: Fall Foliage Adventure, (coming soon)! Now that we have that cleared up, as much as I truly do love fall and everything autumn related, there is something uniquely special about the Christmas season that just can't be expressed in words.
For the confession... Let the record show that on October 31st, my husband and I rounded out the fall season with a plethora of fall activities including but not limited to enjoying a brisk autumn hike while taking in the fall foliage, enjoying one too many PSL's, carving pumpkins while listening to Halloween jams, eating roasted pumpkins seeds, handing out candy to eager, costume-clad little munchkins, and sipping spiced hot apple cider...
Slightly before midnight though, I may or may not admit to the fact that I somehow convinced my hubs to pull the Christmas tree out of storage as soon as the clock struck 12... So yes, I'm "one of those" where November 1st starts the Christmas season early for me... Not that I go hog wild with decorating right on Nov. 1st (this is eventually inevitable come mid-to-late November) or forget about Thanksgiving, this just means that starting November 1st, planning for the Christmas season begins! And if you happen to stop by our home, Christmas music may be blasting along with way too much hot chocolate drinking and fireplace lounging! There's something about Christmas that just puts me in a good mood, regardless of freezing cold temperatures, parking lot mayhem, the occasional Scrooge encounter, and crazy, long lines.
On to the Christmas tree!
I'll start with saying that this Christmas tree was a true test of patience in more than one way... I originally purchased this tree a few years back when I strategically planned my Christmas decor game plan while remaining patient until the after-Christmas sales were at their prime. I love a good deal just as much as the next person! Since I'm a Hobby Lobby regular (so much that I'm on a first-name basis with a few of the employees), I was privy to know in advance the day when the trees and Christmas decor were discounted to 80 and then 90% off... you better believe those dates were marked on my calendar as HIGH priority! :) After convincing my mother to be my shopping sidekick for the day, we were the first to arrive at Hobby Lobby when the stores opened. Since I had already planned out my theme and colors, I knew just what to purchase to complete my Christmas look. Two hours and 3 Christmas trees later... I had just what I needed, all at a fraction of the cost! Now the problem was I had to wait another year to enjoy my treasure finds!
A year came and a year went by and amidst all of the excitement and unpredictable life events, I opted to keep my tree in its box and instead use my old tree (which looked very similar to my new tree, except missing a few sections of lights...) while waiting patiently for the next Christmas to roll around. I did break out my new ornaments though as I just couldn't wait another year to test the waters on those!
The second year came and the second year went...this time I had previously gotten married and moved to North Carolina but hadn't officially made the big move with my household items (including Christmas decor), so my Christmas tree once again had to sit on the sidelines for another year...
Finally, 3 years later, November 1st rolled around, and I could hardly contain my excitement! This is why my discussion points (to be in favor of setting up the Christmas tree early) proved to be an easy argument since my 3 years of patience finally paid off!
My last test of patience (as if 3 years wasn't enough)...came after I had taken a couple of hours to set up and carefully "fluff" the tree (aka fill out the tree by spreading out its branches). The tree originally came with red berries which were fine and dandy, but for the purposes of my creative vision, I knew that I would be removing them to save them for a future project. So I found my wire cutters and went to town snipping off the red berries... At the culmination of my berry hacking, I noticed a section of the lights were out...
Did we miss this the night before when we set up the tree?! This tree was brand new (albeit just short of 3 years old) but still brand new, straight out of the box... so how could it be malfunctioning already?! It was time to put on our best detective hats and get to the bottom of this. After all, it was Nov. 1st and we had a tree to decorate!
Hubs did his best by googling potential solutions and being my support system nearby (along with our sidekick Miya).
To land this LONG plane ride of a story, I'll suffice it to say that after 3 days of intense light bulb testing and analyzing (with the Light Keeper Pro), followed by hubs carrying the top of the tree into Hobby Lobby with the hopes of coming out with a replacement, but with no luck (while our tree sadly waited for its missing piece to return), then hubs being on phone support for over 2 hours (only to find out they stopped making that tree last year so no warranty would work...) I finally called my brilliant step-dad (who happens to own an electrical company) and asked him for help...
Needless to say, within minutes, the problem was solved... Let's just say that I may or may not have been a little too aggressive with my wire cutters as I discovered a clipped wire that was the cause of the lighting malfunction...
Have no fear, Bill to the rescue! He told me just what to buy and do, and in no time, the tree was just as good as new again! #Billforthewin!
If this has ever happened to you (or if you see this happening in the foreseeable future), you might want to earmark this page for future reference... In a nutshell, we purchased these plastic wire connectors from our local hardware store for $2.58 per packet of 25.
Then, we cut the plastic insulation down to expose the wires. Next, we twisted the wires (from each snipped side) around each other.
Lastly, we placed the plastic wire connector onto the wires and twisted it to secure the wires. Easy peasy, tree is fixed!
DECORATE LIKE THE PROFESSIONALS:
Now back to the fun part of decorating. To keep things simple, I'll break down the process into easy-to-follow steps. Go ahead and set up your tree, and let's get started!
1.) FLUFF YOUR TREE: After setting up your tree, "fluff" your tree (coined by my step-dad) to spread out the branches and fill in the gaps and spaces. Since our tree was artificial and stored in the box for 3 years, lots of "fluffing" was required to bring this tree back to life!
Here are the "Before" (pre-fluffing) and the "After" (post-fluffing) pictures:
2.) PRUNE YOUR TREE (OPTIONAL): If needed, carefully prune your tree. Keep in mind my lesson from earlier and be careful what you snip! Also, whatever you snip now, will forever be snipped! For our tree, I pruned off the red berries to stick with the gold, champagne, and silver theme.
3.) ADD LIGHTS (IF NEEDED): If you have a real tree, adding lights is the next step. If you have an artificial tree, adding extra lights can add greatly to your tree, especially when you include bulbs of the same color but differing size. This can really make your tree "pop" and create even more dimension and depth in your tree.
TIP: Continue decorating with the lights on your tree as this will help you see the end result and give you a better idea of depth and placement.
4.) ADD FILLERS: Add any fillers such as decorative stems, branch inserts, etc. For our tree, I added these silver glittered ball branches throughout the tree to fill out some of the space as well as add some extra sparkle to our tree.
The addition of these silver glittered stems took the place of the previously hacked red berries.
5.) ADD RIBBON: Using wired ribbon, start with the top of the tree and drape ribbon around and down your tree. You can either wrap ribbon around the tree in circles, or just let it flow from the top to the bottom. You can always reshape the ribbon as well to suit your tastes.
For our tree, I added a wired champagne-clored ribbon. I coiled it up first by wrapping it around a few fingers and then gently placed the ribbon on the top while letting the natural twists and turns fall into the tree to create dimension.
Since the coils were a little too tight for my taste, I gently loosened the rings to make them wider and larger.
6.) ADD BOWS (OPTIONAL): Add coordinating bows to your tree to fill in more of the gaps as well as create a unique look with varied texture and shapes. Place the bows throughout the trees and zig zag them around the tree. I used wired ribbon with gold and silver glittered designs for the bows.
7.) ADD ORNAMENTS: Before we start adding ornaments, check out the tip below about storing Christmas ornaments.
TIP: Depending on how you store your ornaments, this tip is helpful for those that keep the ornaments in their original boxes/packaging. Before I actually remove the ornaments from the boxes, I draw a quick sketch of the ornament on the box with a short description so that I can quickly locate the right box when its time to put the tree and ornaments away at the end of the season. I have found this saves a ton of time instead of trying to fit and refit ornaments in a certain box since many of the boxes and plastic openings are similar in size, but just a hair difference in size. #squarepegroundhole
Before I start placing ornaments in any which way on the tree, I begin with a plan. Start by organizing ornaments by grouping the same style and type of ornaments together so you know what you have to work with and how many of each type you have. See below for example.
After organizing, start with your largest ornaments first. I started with the large silver and gold glittered ball ornaments as they were the biggest ornaments I had, and I only had a few of them. Next came the large mercury glass ornaments.
Space them out equally on your tree and with a zig-zag sort of strategy.
After you have the large ornaments our of the way, start with the next largest ornaments and continue working down in size. I also try to stick with ornaments of the same shape and color (Ex. large silver glittered spheres, then gold glittered spheres, then white spheres) first so that I can vary their placement and make sure that there aren't too many ornaments of the same shape and color right next to one another.
Continue spreading your ornaments out as evenly as possible and varying the colors, shapes, and sizes of the ornaments in the area (so for example, you aren't placing two similar white ornaments next to one another).
TIP: Make sure to add some ornaments to the back of the tree (even if it's hidden from view) as well as deep inside the tree. This will create extra depth for your eyes and provide that extra "wow" factor instead of just having ornaments on the ends of the branches.
Add your unique ornaments as well as ornaments with various shapes. Make sure to place some of your favorite ornaments in the spotlight or where they are easily noticed. As a simple reminder for the reason for the season, I added some of these cross ornaments to the tree.
Finally, add the smallest ornaments last and space them throughout the tree, remembering to add some deep inside the tree and to the back of the tree as well.
8.) ADD THE TREE-TOPPER: Now it's time to add the tree-topper, whether this is a star, angel, bow, or abstract creation of your liking. Since our star was no where to be found, I opted to create a bow from the two ribbons already used on the tree. I basically created 3 bows and then tied them all together to fill out the top of the tree so that the bow looked good from all angles.
If you are new to making bows, check out my tutorial on making bows as seen in my post, Fireplace Decorating 101.
To keep the color theme and style going, add a tree skirt that matches the overall theme. You can take this one step further by wrapping presents in paper and ribbons that coordinate with the colors and look of your tree.
For our tree, I selected an assortment of wrapping paper and ribbons in various patterns in silver, gold, champagne, and white.
If your tree is like ours and isn't lucky enough to be near the fireplace, position it by a large window or add an element of interest nearby (like a window frame, wreath, picture, etc.) to create its own unique space. We placed our tree by a small window and then added this window frame and wreath on the other wall to balance it out.
To learn how to create a custom wreath of your own, check out my tutorial, Custom Wreath Making in 7 Easy Steps.
At the end of the season, the highly dreaded task of taking down the Christmas decor will eventually arrive. Here are a couple of quick tips to help speed up the process.
If you want extreme fast, then the quickest way to not only put away your tree but have your tree ready for the next year is to keep your tree decorated as is and use a large Christmas tree disposal bag to cover your tree. This tip was provided by my parents who have enjoyed using this secret tip for a few years now. You can find these bags at Bed, Bath, & Beyond (and many other places too) for $1.99. I was lucky enough to be gifted one this year for Christmas. :) Changed my world! The issue here is having the space to store it as well as navigating the tree to the storage room... If you have the space to do this, it can be a life and time saver though. Just wrap your tree in the Christmas tree bag, then use a towel around the tree to help cushion it when moving it in tight spaces like hallways and door frames. The following year, a little re-fluffing of the tree and making small adjustments is all you need to do!
If you're like most of us, and have to undress and undecorate your tree by removing each carefully placed ornament, then the next tip is for you. The next fastest way I have discovered to undecorate your tree in an organized fashion is to first look for and gather all of the ornaments of the same type and group them together. This way you can put all of the like ornaments away at the same time instead of putting away one ornament at a time.
I prefer to store all of my Christmas decor and ornaments in red or green see-through storage bins so that I know exactly which totes contain my Christmas decorative items. If you wait until the day after Christmas, these storage totes normally go on sale at Target.
To see where the items in this post were purchased, read below!
Christmas Tree: Hobby Lobby
Ornaments: (Mostly) Hobby Lobby
Window Frame: Barn Sale
Wreath: Custom Made by Me
Tree Skirt: HomeGoods
Wrapping Paper: HomeGoods, Target
Thanks for reading! Check out my Christmas Decorating page for other ideas and additional "how-to's" including "How to Decorate a Christmas Tree - Like the Pros", creating custom wreaths, and a garland making tutorial, just to name a few!