Lit Crystal Garland Bedazzle a tree or pretty up a masculine fireplace with silver beads and crystals that catch the glow of tiny white bulbs. To buy: $29 (50 lights, 6 feet), potterybarn.com.
G40 Globe Party Bright, vivid hues (including sort-of-shocking hot pink) make the bold marquee-light shape even more fun and unexpected. To buy: $23.50 (25 lights, 25 feet), sivallighting.com.
Best Retro Update
Holiday Living Clear C7 Light Set Feeling sentimental? These plastic models are less fragile replicas of classic glass lights. Indoor-outdoor. To buy: $27 (4 sets of 25 lights, 25 feet each), homedepot.com.
White Dove Lights Imagine these birds nested in the branches among colored lights, or as the stars of the show on an all-white tree. You can connect up to three sets. To buy:Unfortunately, this item is not available, but find other styles atbronners.com.
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Most Like Candlelight
Amber Mini Lights Understated but with incredible warmth, these twinkle lights offer the magic of firelight even where there’s no hearth. Indoor-outdoor. To buy: $6.50 (50 lights, 251⁄2 feet), christmaslightsetc.com.
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Best Break From Tradition
Red and White Lanterns This alterna-garland looks just as pretty on a tree as it does draped across the top of a doorway or a window, where the lanterns have space to hang. To buy: $25 (10 lights, 11 feet), bronners.com.
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Best Vintage Feel
Retro Christmas String #EB6075 Thick textured glass gives off a muted glow in a soft palette that feels cozy and Victorian. Indoor-outdoor. To buy: $36 (20 lights, 12 feet), christmastraditions.com.
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Warm White C7 LED Lights Most of the eco-friendly lights we tried were harsh. If a truly “green” tree is important to you, these are the warmest and the least headache-inducing. To buy:This item is currently unavailable, but look for similar lights atbronners.com.
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Say Good-Bye to Tangled Lights
Think how much merrier holiday decorating could be with this tangle-defying contraption. The handy reel comes with 50 feet of lights (two 200-bulb strands, enough for an eight-foot tree). When it’s time to put things away, store the wheel in a lawn bag to protect the bulbs from dust. Come next season, check to make sure there are no frayed cords, cracked sockets, or loose wires, all of which can be dangerous. To buy: $67.50 for a case of 3 light sets with reels, homedepot.com.
How Many Strings Do I Need?Not all strands have the same bulb count, so think in terms of number of lights rather than number of strings. An eight-foot tree needs 125 to 150 large bulbs or 400 small ones (500, if you like your lights dense). Some decorative strands have only 10 bulbs, so consider them add-ons to your base count. Cluster spare twinkle lights in a nonworking fireplace, on a shiny wood floor, or around the bottom of a houseplant.