13 Creative Ways to Decorate Your Christmas Tree This Season

Photo: Getty Images

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 your Christmas tree decorations helps you set a tone, and gives you holiday decorating ideas for the rest of your space.

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 become popular for people with smaller spaces (or kids and pets who mess with their Christmas tree). Whatever your personal style, your holiday personality, your budget, and your space constraints, we have some great holiday decorating ideas for you. The hardest part might be committing to just one theme or idea.

Click through these inspirational tips for 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 DIY homemade ones aren't going to last forever—these ideas can help you make smart decor 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.

01 of 13

How to Give Your Tree a Burst of Color

Color burst Christmas tree
Courtesy of Katie Kime

To give your tree decorating a little extra oomph, opt for a mix of shapes and textures to form a lively and energetic arrangement. "Bright, nontraditional embellishments add funky flair to your holiday decor," says Katie Kime, designer in Austin, Texas. Colorful yarn tassels offer an unexpected pop, while metallic, mirrored, and iridescent decorative accents reflect those vibrant shades. Use multiglobe branches to strategically fill out your Christmas tree design for a lush effect.

02 of 13

How to Give a Potted Plant a Christmas Design Makeover

Casual cactus Christmas tree
Courtesy of Justina Blakeney

"Dress up a tall cactus, euphorbia, or other sturdy houseplant for a quirky twist on tradition," says 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—and 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.

03 of 13

How to Give Your Classic Christmas Tree Decorations an Update

Updated classic Christmas tree
Courtesy of Rebecca Atwood

"Balance sophisticated, artsy, and personal elements to create something that's both stylish and meaningful," says Rebecca Atwood, designer in Brooklyn, N.Y. 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.

04 of 13

How to Make a Monochromatic Christmas Tree Shine

Silver Christmas tree
Mark Lund; Styling: Ed Gallagher

If you're sticking with a certain color scheme for your Christmas decorations, then have some fun with the ornament shapes. Work in unexpected charmers like letters, fun shapes, and unusual objects like glittery insects or shells.

05 of 13

How to Find a Cool (and Colorful) Decorating Idea

Orange ornaments
Mark Lund; Styling: Ed Gallagher

Red and green will always be the signature colors of the season, but it's okay to experiment with a new palette. Welcome tangerine and charcoal grey—and consider soft balls and pom poms, which are sturdy enough to stand up to pets and kids (yet still look really stylish on your Christmas tree).

06 of 13

How to Design a Kid-Friendly Christmas Tree

Kid Christmas tree
Mark Lund; Styling: Ed Gallagher

For a playful approach, call on the kids to trim the tree. Choose ornaments that are super sturdy, and a decorating theme kids might love—like this tree decked out with tiny stuffed animal ornaments. The bird tree topper is the perfect addition to this tree decorating idea.

07 of 13

How to Dream Up a Sophisticated Tree Decorating Idea

Blue and gold Christmas tree
Mark Lund; Styling: Ed Gallagher

For sophisticated style—even with a Christmas tree meant for a small space—limit your color palette. Focus on a color scheme that's bold and bright, like gold, royal blue, and yellow. And don't be limited by the traditional Christmas colors—strands of faux berries and baubles can add a festive touch to a small Christmas tree.

08 of 13

How to Pack a Visual Punch With a Tiny Tree

Feather Christmas tree
Mark Lund; Styling: Ed Gallagher

While petite in size, this tree is bursting with loads of color and holiday cheer. Choose a bold color for the tree itself, and a limited color scheme for the garland and other ornaments.

09 of 13

How to Decorate With Garland

Garland Tree
Nicole Hill Gerulat; Styling: Lauren Shields

A Christmas tree garland instantly adds pops of color and rich texture to trees, banisters, even mantels. These festive strands can also hide 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.

10 of 13

How to Mix the Old With New on Your Tree

Color Palette Tree
Nicole Hill Gerulat; Styling: Lauren Shields

Your favorite vintage ornaments can hang in harmony with some newer picks. 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 a hot pink finial to balance it off. Continue with this process until your tree is complete.

11 of 13

How to Decorate With Pets in the Home

Kids and Babies Tree
Nicole Hill Gerulat; Styling: Lauren Shields

You might have to make a few concessions when you've got pets, 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 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.

12 of 13

How to Decorate on a Budget

White Tree
Nicole Hill Gerulat; Styling: Lauren Shields

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, stick to one bold color so it really pops like red, magenta, or turquoise.

13 of 13

How to Edit Your Ornament Collection

Mix and Match Tree
Nicole Hill Gerulat; Styling: Lauren Shields

If you already have too many ornaments for your tree, 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 your Christmas decorations 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.

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