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Decorate Your Tree Like a Designer

Decorate Your Tree Like a Designer
by Stephanie Platt, Interior Designer at A Goode Start

I wanted to re- post this great blog again!  I just decorated my tree today, and I thought it would be good to re-read this advice again!

I would have to say that Christmas is my favorite time of year.  I love to decorate the house and tree.  For me decorating the tree is an art and I always get a lot of compliments on it. So how do you take your tree to the next level and make it look like you hired a professional- the key is layers.  Each element on the tree from the lights to the ornaments are important.  Here is my step-by-step guide to help you:

 Step 1: Prep your tree - When you pull out your artificial tree from its box it will be thoroughly flattened.  It is important to take your time to straighten out the branches and really arrange them to make the tree full.  This is a tedious task and you will likely not get any volunteers to help.  If you have a real tree, it is important to let it “fall” before starting.  After you get it set up and level, let it sit so that gravity can work its magic. I recommend letting it sit for a couple hours before stringing the lights.

Step 2: String the lights - The inclination is to wrap the lights all the way around the tree like a maypole.  But the best way is to section off the tree into quadrants, if your tree is really wide you may want to use more sections. (This way also makes it a lot easier to remove the lights).  Run an extension cord to the tree, preferably a plug bar, you will need to plug in each section.  Plug in the first string of lights and start weaving the lights in section 1.  You want to zig zag back and forth as you go up the tree.  You will need several strings of lights, check the package to see how many you can connect together safely. Continue all the way to the top, making sure to get the inside of the tree as well and not just the outside perimeter.  After the section is complete, un-plug it and move on to the next section. Keeping the lights lit as you work will help you see if you are adding enough lights.

How many lights do you need? A good rule of thumb is to use a 100 bulb string of lights for every foot of tree height.  So if you have a 7 ft tree you will need 7 strings of lights.  Of course if you use bigger bulbs you may want to use less. Even if your tree is pre-lit you may want to consider adding extra lights. On my tree I use the mini lights and set them to twinkle and then use larger lights as another layer to add more interest.

Step 3: Add the garland - this can be anything from beads, fabric, ribbon or even popcorn.  You really have to choose a garland that works with your design style. If your style is more traditional a beaded garland that resembles strung cranberries might be a nice touch.  If your style is more rustic then you might want to opt for burlap. Of course you don’t have to choose just one.  You can really enhance the look of your tree by adding another garland.  Beads or crystals work really well with ribbon.

The most common way to treat garland is to wrap it around the tree.  Start at the top and secure the end with floral wire to one of the branches, and wrap the garland around the tree, not too tight, you want to be able to adjust it if you need to later on. You can also have it cascade down the tree from the top. Secure a long strip of ribbon to the top of the tree (try to attach it to the branch that the star or angel will be on, that way the end is hidden) and let it cascade down the tree at varying lengths.  The ribbon with the wire in it works really well for this effect because you can manipulate it.

Step 4: Okay, so we have gotten to the ornaments and this is where the layering principle really takes shape.  The tendency when decorating is to hang the ornaments on the ends of the branches, and while this looks fine, it will make your tree feel empty.  The key is to start with the big ornaments and hang them on the interior of the tree near the trunk.  This will help fill in gaps and add depth and pops of color.  Then work your way around the tree and fill in.  You can hang ornaments on hooks but I find that this is difficult to get them to line up the way you want.  I like to take floral wire and attach them to the branches, especially the ones on the inside of the tree.  The ornaments that hang on the end of the branches can be on hooks if you like that look. If you are going to use the hooks, I would invest in special ornament hooks, they can really elevate even the most ordinary Christmas ball ornament to designer status.

It is important to use a variety of ornaments when decorating.  You can really use anything that you want on your tree as long as it works with your style. 

Happy Decorating, everyone!


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