Saturday, December 3, 2011

Decorate your Christmas tree like a PRO

There are a lot of things I don’t know how to do. I can’t read music, quilting is beyond my capability, and power tools scare the bejeebies out of me. I can do only one thing on the sewing machine, and that’s push the foot pedal to make it go. Ask me to do a special stitch or thread the stupid thing and you are sure to get a look of blank terror.

But there is one thing I CAN do. And that’s decorate a Christmas tree. With my very first tree I made the decision that just because my home doesn’t look like it belongs in a magazine (yet!), there is no reason my Christmas tree can’t! I love to sit by the tree and smile at how beautiful it is, it’s one of the main reasons I love Christmas. But every time I see someone else’s tree being done all wrong, I just get this itching to go fix it. A little rearranging is all it needs… surely they won’t mind if I help… what? No, of course I wasn’t moving your ornaments…

You know what? You don’t have to buy fancy, expensive ornaments to make your tree look fab, anyone can do it. A lot of my décor is actually from Dollar Tree, and 95% of the rest was purchased during the post-Christmas sales. Making your tree look great isn’t about what’s ON it, but about how and where you place each item. And it’s all about dimensions!

So here is a long list of DO’s and DON’Ts on how to make your tree look absolutely amazing.
First and foremost, let’s start with the basics.

1. Location location location!

DON’T put your tree in the center of the room (unless you have a ridiculously huge room. I’m talking ballroom huge), or anywhere it will block the flow of traffic. Yes your tree can and should be the “centerpiece” of the room and the highlight of your home, but it should look as if it belongs there. It shouldn’t look like you just dropped a random tree in the center of your living room.

white house tree
If you lived here, you could definitely get away with a random tree in the middle of the room.
Yes, this is the White House.
DO move furniture around to find the perfect spot! Make sure you evaluate the room size and height and buy your tree accordingly. If it’s too tall and wide it will overwhelm the room and look all wrong, but if it’s too short and skinny it won’t look right either.

sm tree
This tree is a SHOWSTOPPER in its elegant simplicity, even though its nestled into a corner.

2. Lights!

DON’T just wrap the lights around the tree by draping them on the branches. Who wants to look at those wires when they are trying to admire the tree?

lighting dont

DO take the time to wrap each and every branch with your light strands, and make sure the wires are the same color as your branches!.


Yes, this will take a lot longer and you will probably use 4-5x as many light strands, but the end result will be so worth it! Instead of having an all too obvious strand of lights, the tree will glow as if the lights are blooming from the branches themselves. Check out Better Homes and Gardens for more detailed tips on how to properly light your tree, including estimates on just how many boxes you will need!

3. Color and style!

DON’T go into your holiday decorating without a plan. If you want the tree to look amazing you will need to decide on a theme or a color scheme. This can be anything from traditional red and gold colors, to all things homemade, to a winter wonderland. You need to tie all your décor together somehow, so it doesn’t look like a mish-mash of random holiday things scattered around your house.

colors 2
This tree is extravagant and ornate, just like the home its surrounded by,
and the colors blend beautifully with the rest of the decor!
DO match your color scheme or theme to your everyday décor. A tree full of lovely blue and white décor might look a little odd next to dark red curtains. Either incorporate your home’s color scheme into your holiday décor, or choose holiday décor to match your home’s color scheme.


You should use the same rule of thumb with your holiday color scheme as you use with your home décor: 60-30-10. 60% of a dominant color, 30% of a secondary, and 10% accent. It doesn’t matter if your tree is green or white, it will probably be the most dominant color. Decide upon another color as your secondary, this will be the color you use the most in your holiday décor. You can have as many accent colors as you want, but less is definitely more in this situation.

{To read more about the 60-30-10 rule, visit HGTV}

Of course, you can always change your entire home over for the holidays. If you are absolutely set on a pink, purple, and turqoise holiday, pack up those gold curtains and pillows and replace them with something that matches.

small tree
Use colors in your furniture and decor as a jumping off point for your holiday decorating!
Well, folks, those are the basics. Now on to the nitty gritty!

4. Garland to finish it off...

DON’T forget the garland, it will tie all your décor together! You can use popcorn chains, ribbon, beads, or even paper garland made by your kiddos. Just make sure it matches your theme.

If you are using garland, want to make sure to drape the strands from branch to branch. You don’t want it to look like you wrapped circles around your tree. And don’t be afraid to put some of the loops closer than others, it will make it look more natural.

garland 4

When using ribbon it’s also important not to just wrap circles around your tree. It will look un-natural and fake. Instead, drape the ribbon casually from branch to branch. Twist and tuck some of the ribbon into the tree to break it up so it doesn’t become too monotonous.


5. Ahhh the ornaments...

DON’T just stick your ornaments on the tree as you pull them out of the box. Use your 60-30-10 plan!

DO put everything on in order. Start with your garland or ribbon. At this point some people would put up their favorite "special" ornaments. I do the opposite; I prefer to begin with my primary color (usually white) to use as a base. Once the tree has enough of your primary color, move on to your secondary colors. Add your fun-shaped, multi-colored accents last.

pretty 3
It took careful planning to make sure all the garland and decor went on the this tree right!

DON’T hang ornaments on the very ends of your tree branches. This will make your ornaments look haphazard and out of place. I don’t think I’ve EVER had a reason to hang an ornament on the very tip of a branch, they always look better at least a few inches in.

red pretty
Make sure to put ornaments at all depths, and avoid the edges!
DO utilize your Entire tree! Starting with your primary color, make sure to place ornaments near the trunk. Staggering ornaments from the inside-out will give your tree amazing depth and dimension, similar to the effect we achieved by wrapping each branch with lights. If you don’t believe me, try it and then step back. Your tree will look fuller and more beautiful, while allowing you to use more ornaments without overcrowding.

pretty 2

DON’T forget the back of the tree! I can’t count how many times I’ve been to someone’s home and they decorated the front and sides of the tree… but left the back bare. And you can usually tell when you walk past, it’s like there’s a line where the décor stops. So make sure to use a few ornaments to decorate the back. It doesn’t have to be as full and beautiful as the front and sides, but having some back there in the visible spots will make your tree seem more finished. Plus, you will still be able to see some of the back décor when you are looking through the branches from the front. That means more dimension!

DO use fun and interesting items as décor. This can be anything from your baby’s first mittens, to holly berries, to antique silverware. Having unique pieces here and there will make great conversation starters, and also add a touch of personalization.

Using fun and unexpected items on your tree makes it more personal, so go for it!
DON’T rest your ornaments on the branches unless they are MEANT to rest on the branches (like the starfish in the image above). Most ornaments are meant to hang freely and when branches prevent that, it makes them look un-natural. If you know you want the ornament hanging in a specific spot but there’s a loose branch in the way, try hooks of different lengths to make it work. Move the little branches so it can hang better (that’s a lot easier if you have a fake tree). If you can’t make it work in that spot, then just put the ornament somewhere else.

It’s okay to move your ornaments! Just because you thought you wanted it in one place, doesn’t mean it won’t work somewhere else. Experiment!

BHG fruit tree

DO get rid of those horrid little ties attached to your "special" ornaments and use hooks that are the same color as your tree (they sell packages at all the dollar stores, and you will be able to use them forever). It is so hard to loop one of those little ties around a branch and make the ornament hang properly, plus, it just looks cheap. I have green hooks that match my tree, and they blend so well you can barely see them. It makes the ornament the center of attention.

Keep in mind that you CAN use pretty little ribbons, twine, rope, or pretty much anything you want to attach your ornaments. Just remember that you WILL be able to see it, so make sure it fits in with your theme.

ribbon ornament

DON’T put your big ornaments at the top of the tree and little ones at the bottom. In order for your tree to remain visually balanced, the smallest ornaments belong at the top and the largest ornaments belong at the bottom. The middle is a place for mingling  ,  with some of each.

Some of these items are so huge they really shouldn't be on this tree at all,
let alone hanging out at the top. Where is the beautiful green of the tree???
DO put ornaments where they will be shown off to their best advantage. It’s a bit of a waste to put two blue ornaments right next to each other – unless of course your color scheme is all blue – but a blue ornament next to a white one would look beautiful. Also, make sure to stagger your colors so you don’t have all your blue ornaments three feet off the ground and the white ones four feet, unless you are specifically going for a rainbow type theme.

If you have a lot of the same color ornaments, half shiny and half matte, try putting most of the shiny ones inside the tree near its trunk. This is where the tree glows the most and your shiny ornaments will reflect that light, adding more dimension.

Glitter ornaments are also important. You bought (or made) them because you love that glitter look, make sure you show it off! Instead of putting it below a branch where it catches nothing but shadows, put it in an open spot where the lights will reflect off that glitter and make it sparkle! (Hmm… anyone else just get a Twilight flashback?)

red sparkles

DON’T use all your ornaments! Just because you have them doesn’t mean they need to go on the tree. I will never understand people that put so many things on their tree that you can’t even see the greenery. It’s overkill, people, and makes it look like Christmas threw up all over it. Show off that beautiful tree you worked so hard to pick out instead of covering it up!

I think Santa's Workshop might have exploded on this tree...

Instead of killing your tree (and my eyes) with Christmas overload, use your extra ornaments all over the house! Accent your centerpieces, wreaths, or garland. Fill bowls and vases or hang them from the chandeliers. Use those ornaments to bring your holiday theme into the rest of your home.


DO let your kids help! Sure they might not put the ornaments where you want them and might just hang them all on one branch. But they will feel soooo important and get such a sense of accomplishment when they are “done.” Besides, you can always fix the decorations after they go to bed.

One of my favorite moments from the holiday so far this year has been watching two year old C fumble to figure out an ornament hook before just shoving it the whole thing into a branch, throwing his little arms in the air, fists clenched, as he shouted with a huge grin “I DID IT!!!”

These are the days you won’t get back. The holidays don’t last very long, so let your kids help and have fun. Relax and try not to stress too much. Take your time when decorating your Christmas tree, instead of rushing to get it over with. In the end you will have a beautiful conversation piece that makes you smile when you walk by.

Those are my tips. What do you think? Are there any you disagree with, or did I leave anything out? I am so excited to finish up my tree and update my blog with decor pics of my own. I may even think of more "tips" to share!


Linked to:


  1. Great tips...and it was funny to read as well! :)

  2. Beautiful trees! I love the one in the ornate room and the puffy tree in the wash basin! Gorgeous!

  3. Very helpful! Lol, I think you better not come over to my house.:) I have done lots of wrong things.:)

  4. Great tree decoration advice and decoration! The cutest decoration you have is in the last picture!

    So happy to hear that you plan to link to Potpourri Friday! Remember the Tree Party this Friday!

    I am happily following you too!

  5. Hi AJ, thanks for stopping by my blog and for your kind words :-). Love your post and can't wait to see your tree! I'll be posting mine in a couple days too...boy the holidays are going fast!! It feels like it's on warp speed this year! Following along with you now as well!

  6. I never really thought about purposefully designing my tree. Your ideas are great!

  7. Looks so charming and beautiful. My gosh every photos is fabulous. Enjoy seeing those Christmas Trees. So much lighter and brighter. Amazing differences. Great ideas too.

    condo in Philippines

  8. Although my mom refuses to let me decorate my own tree, I can't stop decorating trees in my head now. Thanks for all the info

    Nikki @

  9. I love it! Although, with my own tree, fragile ornaments go at the top and the dollar store ones at the bottom.....I have pets who usually cause breakage every year ;-)

  10. Christine, that's a good point I forgot to mention! I actually have all my "non-breakables" at the bottom as well, with a 2 year old and a puppy we have the same issue.

  11. fantastic tips!!!!

    would love it if you could share this on my link party Serenity Saturday at

    Natasha xx

  12. Thanks everyone, for your kind words! I'm having so much fun with this blog, and it's only month 2! I can't wait to see how my house changes by this time next year!


  13. Congrats - your post was one of the top three most clicked at my party this week :) Thanks for joining!

    Jennifer Juniper

  14. you've got some great tips! thanks for linking up to tip-toe thru tuesday! hope to see you again this week!!

  15. What a fantastic tutorial! I loved all of the holiday inspiration photos. How fun!

  16. Thanks ladies! This post was SO much fun, I loved picking out all the pics. Of course now that I've finished it I keep thinking of all these tips I should've added... maybe I will update it next year! ;)

  17. Thanks for sharing on Serenity Saturday!
    Hope to see you there again tomorrow

    Natasha xxx

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