18 Creative Ways to Decorate Your Christmas Tree This Season
Decorating the Christmas tree is more than just knowing how to put lights on a Christmas tree and digging into the assortment of decorations from years past. Figuring out Christmas tree decorations sets a tone for your entire approach to the holiday season. If you feel your time and energy would be better put toward something else, you can ignore all this and carry on with your delightfully understated celebrations; but if you want to make Christmas a Big Deal, with lots of decorations, a picture-perfect tree, and stacks of freshly baked cookies, this guide to decorations and decorating ideas can help you make it happen.
Even among those planning on making a big deal out of their Christmas festivities, there are different approaches to decorating the Christmas tree. Alternative Christmas trees are increasingly popular, and people have their pick of a live Christmas tree, an artificial one, or a colored one—even upside-down Christmas trees have had their moment. Whatever your personal style, your holiday personality, your budget, and your space constraints, we have some decorating ideas for you. The hardest part, even more challenging than learning how to put ribbon on a Christmas tree, might be committing to just one theme or idea.
Click through these inspiration shots of Christmas tree decorations and take stock. There’s probably at least one tree decorating idea that you can accomplish using ornaments and other decorations you already have. If you’re itching to buy new ornaments—those homemade ones aren’t going to last forever—these ideas can help you make those purchases, too.
What’s important is that you focus on the decorating ideas that suit you and your family. All-glass ornaments may look elegant and sophisticated, but if you have a household of pets and small children, it’s not a practical move. (The kids would probably appreciate stuffed ornaments more, anyway.) From casual to classy, there’s a Christmas tree decorating idea here for you.
Color Burst, Katie Kime
“Bright, nontraditional embellishments add funky flair to your holiday decor.” —Katie Kime, designer in Austin, Texas
Various shapes and textures combine to form a lively and energetic arrangement. Bright yarn tassels offer an unexpected color pop, while metallic, mirrored, and iridescent accents reflect those vibrant shades. Use multiglobe branches to strategically fill out your design for a lush effect.
Casual Contemporary, Justina Blakeney
“Instead of an evergreen, dress up a tall cactus, euphorbia, or other sturdy houseplant for a quirky twist on tradition.” —Justina Blakeney, designer in Los Angeles
With a smaller footprint than a standard spruce, a potted plant is a great alternative for small-space dwellers. It also requires fewer decorations. Keep the embellishments consistent, using primarily brass and gold charms, then soften the overall look with a pom-pom garland or plush patterned fabric around the base.
Updated Classic, Rebecca Atwood
“Balance sophisticated, artsy, and personal elements to create something that’s both stylish and meaningful.” —Rebecca Atwood, designer in Brooklyn, New York
Start with silver, gold, and blush baubles, then weave in sentimental mementos (Atwood opted for a lobster ornament to recall her New England roots). Finish with a traditional faux-cranberry garland. To tone down the formality of the look, arrange a few yards of indigo-dyed shibori fabric around the tree stand, tucking the hem under to form a rounded edge.
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This fresh, modern combo lends itself to ornaments in unexpected shapes, sizes, and textures. Consider soft balls and pom poms because not all dazzling and eye-catching ornaments need to be fragile.
A theme that is whimsical and untraditional can be totally appropriate. Keep the ornament assortment soft, fluffy, and unbreakable. For the topper, a pretty bird is a natural choice.
Small space dwellers can have just as much creativity when decorating a mini tree. Focus on a palette that's rich and unpredictable like gold, royal blue, and yellow.
Think out of the box when it comes to the ornaments. Beautiful baubles that were made for the mantel or credenza can easily take center stage on the branches.
Dare to do something different on top: Give the angel the year off and choose a classic bow.
How to Decorate With Garland
A Christmas tree garland instantly adds pops of color and rich texture to trees, banisters, even mantels. These festive strands can also act as miracle workers concealing those inevitable bare spots that you swore weren't there when you picked out the tree. Start by committing to one color palette. Choose something with depth, like a deep crimson, and then soften it up with complementary tones in pale pink, charcoal grey, and creamy ivory. As long as you stick within the same color family, you can play up the fun, unexpected factor like wrapping branches with pom poms, mittens, and mini ornaments. When it comes to the technique, it's all in the wrist: softly drape (note: avoid firmly stuffing) the strands along the branches.
How to Mix the Old With New
For starters, remember this is not a competition of old versus new. Thankfully, these ornaments can hang in harmony. In order for this to look just right, you'll need to decide which favorites complement—don’t compete with—one another. Take it slow and go through your selection one by one. Start with a vintage pick like a beautiful golden owl, and then work in a modern find like the hot pink filial to balance it off. Continue with this process until your tree is complete.
How to Decorate With Pets in the Home
You might have to make a few concessions when you’ve got pets and kids, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be as festive. Consider a tabletop tree that can stand out of harm’s way. (For the record, tabletop trees can be just as beautiful as their seven–foot siblings.) Shop for ornaments that are shatter–resistant (cotton, felt, wool) and made of non-toxic materials because there’s no telling when someone—who shall remain nameless—will go in for a licking. If one small tabletop tree isn’t enough for you, group a few together on a console table or mantel.
How to Decorate on a Budget
Here’s a trick: Skip the classic evergreen and pick a tree in an unexpected color like a winter white. The more untraditional the color, the bigger the impact it will make, which gives you the flexibility to go a little smaller on the size. When it comes to the ornaments, your existing collection should more than cover what this tree needs. Stick to one bold color so it really pops like red, magenta, or turquoise.
How to Edit Your Collection
Start sorting. Empty the boxes and bins and organize the ornaments into categories: must-hang; maybe next year; never again. Once you’ve pared down to the tried–and–true favorites, find the palette that speaks to you. And it’s OK if it isn’t red or green. Dare to be a little different with a shocking lime green paired with shimmery neutrals. Then, focus on scale. Choose larger ornaments or ones with more unique shapes to hang first. Not only will these picks add more depth to the tree, they'll also take up more space, which means fewer ornaments will be required.