Designer Christmas Tree: Deconstructed

The Holiday Season is upon us, friends! (I'm clapping and grinning like a little kid on Christmas morning) : ) I know it's a little premature, being the week before Thanksgiving and all, but I wanted to go ahead and put this post together for all the folks out there who will decorate next week as soon as Thanksgiving leftovers have been put in the fridge!

Confession: I. LOVE. CHRISTMAS. TREES. Like, so much. For years now I have wanted to start a Christmas tree decorating business for the selfish, sole purpose of designing trees that wouldn't really go in my own home. (i.e. nautical, beach themed, rustic, all gold, all black, whimsical, music themed, the newest vintage pastels trend, etc. I could go on forever!) One day, I'd love to have a showroom full of them for clients to point to and say, "Do that one in my house!" Until then... I'll share what I know about creating designer trees so that you can create your own this Christmas!

First things first- Here's my 2017 living room tree! (My main, focal point tree. I have a few others around the house.) : ) This is the one I'll deconstruct for you today.

I've chosen to do a white and silver tree for several years now because I have consistently had solid turquoise colored walls in my living room and I needed to choose a theme that wouldn't conflict with my cool-toned palette of turquoise, pear and teal. So let's start there- Choosing a theme for your tree.

1) Choose the right tree theme for your space. You're gonna have this tree up in your space for like, a solid month basically, so if you're wanting to maintain a designer, cohesive look in your living space, you should choose a tree theme that works well with your existing palette. In other words, if you have a coral and aqua themed living room, traditional red and green Christmas decor isn't gonna look so hot in your space.

If you don't have a polished, designed look in your living space to begin with (nothing wrong with that), then the world's your oyster, do whatever the heck you want! There are so many fun directions you can go with themes/colors. Look around online, look around at what stores are selling, what color themes are trending-- inspiration is everywhere! Stores I have collected decorations from over the years include Michael's, Hobby Lobby, At Home, Target, Walmart, Big Lots, HomeGoods and JoAnn. I haven't had recent access to wholesale/trade-only vendors, but I know there is amazing stuff out there, so if you have a way in, go for it!

I also want to add here that if you want to go for a designer tree look, but have little ones and family, kid-made ornaments, there's nothing wrong with putting up another tree with all of those items on display. Put it in the dining room, foyer, a landing, office, etc. Your kids will still appreciate that you're proudly displaying their works of art and you'll still get to see those ornaments you cherish as well. To the left is a photo of our "Catch-all Tree" that's on a table in one of our stairwell landings. It has Bill's collectible Star Wars ornaments, Packers ornaments and "World's Best Dad" ornaments from his two boys. I secretly get a kick out of turning this tree on every night because most of these Star Wars ornaments make noises and play audio clips from the movies. : )

2) Choose a tree. Real? Artificial? Flocked? White? Black? There are so many options to choose from! Choosing a real tree is pretty simple, there are only a couple of varieties available to you according to where you are, so choose a healthy, pretty one and you're doing good. I have read that buying a real tree early in the season is one key to finding a long-lasting, healthy tree that won't start shedding a week later. The reasoning is that early season trees are cut, shipped straight to retailers and you're getting the freshest product out there. The longer you wait to buy a real tree, the longer that tree has been sitting in a lot or on trucks somewhere and has already started living out its Christmas tree lifespan. I bought early last year (November 17th to be exact) and my tree barely shed any needles and stayed healthy looking all the way to New Years Eve Day! Last year was the first year I ever had a fresh tree (like in my whole lifetime!) and I LOVED the smell and the look of it! Here's a photo of last year's tree in stages while I decorated it.

I bought this 8 ft. tall beauty from Lowe's the first day they were selling live trees, stuffed it into the back of my SUV, hauled it up a flight of stairs, got it upright in its tree stand and lit the heck out of it with about 1500 lights. (I'll get to why lights are VERY important in a minute) Then, I flocked it, which is messy business, but oh so pretty. I really, really liked the finished product! But this year... I decided to make life a little easier and go with a pre-lit artificial tree.

Choosing artificial trees can be overwhelming because there are so many styles out there. Honestly, I've found the best prices on good-looking trees at Walmart and this year was no exception. I went with this particular 7.5 ft. pre-lit, flocked tree after seeing it on display and totally loved how the branches and "needles" were almost like mop strings. I've seen some super expensive trees out there that with a similar look, but this tree was only $159. (Note: I went with a 7.5 ft tree because I have 8 ft. ceilings. If you have 10 ft. ceilings or one of those living rooms that is two stories high, get a tall tree! Tall ceilings can dwarf a short tree and make it look silly) One drawback of this tree is that is only has 450 lights, which isn't nearly enough if you're going for a designer look. I knew I'd have to add lights to it, but I have plenty of lights from my fresh tree last year, so no big deal. Here's a side by side comparison of the tree when I first put it up and fluffed it (left) and then added about 800 more lights (right). (You better fluff that tree, people. A cheap charlie brown artificial tree can look SO much better with a good fluff)

Lights make a big ol' difference! An easy standard to go by is 200 lights per foot of height. And honestly, you can do more. You can't have too many. Also, get WAY into that tree with those lights, dimension is part of what makes a well-lit tree mesmerizing and gaze-worthy. Don't just maypole those lights in a spiral around the tree. Get your arms way in there and wrap branches. The end result is worth it!

*A word of caution when using more lights- don't just daisy chain every strand together, they're not made to handle the current/load of like a thousand lights strung together. Check the warning on the box your lights came in, but usually 3 strands together is the max you should join end to end.

3) Decoration Time. Once I've got my tree all lit up, I place the tree in it's permanent home and move on to decorations. Here are all of mine, splayed out on the floor so I (and you) can see what I'm working with.

Here's a rundown of what you see in this photo, and these are basic elements I use when I decorate any tree.

  • Deco Mesh

  • Balls - different sizes

  • "Fancy ornaments" - the more costly ones you picked out because they were gorgeous

  • Economy packs of figurine ornaments that go with the theme (see reindeer pile above)

  • Personalized ornaments (keepsake photo of me and Bill and a C for our last name)

  • Floral picks (same color as tree, beware of green leaves) I used white and silver poinsettia picks

  • Beaded picks

  • Sparkly/twiggy/nondescript picks - LOTS of these

  • Feathers

  • Floral clips (again, beware of green leaves)

  • Any other clips that match your theme

  • Small hanging acrylic crystals - these can catch and disperse light in pretty ways

  • Extra long, super fun picks for the tree topper, called a "tree explosion"

I apply each elements in a particular order which I'll explain below...

STEP 1) Deco Mesh - Some people like it, some people don't. I like the fullness that it adds to a tree and there are a million different ways you can use it. I went with a spiral wrap-around look last year and liked it, so I chose to do the same this year.

Silver deco mesh on white christmas tree

For this particular tree I used a silver mesh, that I cinched (with ornament hooks) every 18 inches or so. I've seen some really pretty looks that use a criss-cross pattern, horizontal lines, vertical lines, whatever. Be careful how you use it, it can change the dominant "background color" of your tree. If you use a lot of red mesh, the base color of your tree becomes red, not green anymore, so be careful how much you use with each color. I wanted my tree to have a mostly white base color, so I used a lot of it. Look around online to get ideas if you want to use the stuff. If you don't want it, (not every tree warrants it) move on to ornaments.

STEP 2) Balls - These are cheap, but impactful and different sizes, textures and finishes are key here. For this tree in particular I used...

  • 18 matte silver balls -small size

  • 12 shiny pearl balls - small size

  • 8 glittery white foam balls - small size

  • A large multi-pack of medium size ~4 inch balls of assorted faux mercury glass, matte silver, silver glitter, half glitter/half matte

Here's the tree with balls added:

STEP 3) Picks and Clips - I start with my floral picks and clips first since there are still big empty spaces to fill at this point. Then I add the beads, feathers, more obscure stuff. I save the delicate, small twiggy picks for the very end because they can go in anywhere. One key to using picks is to make sure you leave them sticking out pretty far, don't hide them in the tree! The more stuff you have hanging out of the tree, the more glamorous it will look! Here's a photo with most of the picks in place.

STEP 4) Fancy & Personalized Ornaments - this is the stuff you want to catch people's eye when they see your tree up close. I have a lot of jeweled ornaments on this tree, a keepsake ornament, some mercury glass, just pretty details that were my inspiration for doing this tree. Give these ornaments prime locations on the tree so they'll stand out. Here's the tree with my fancy stuff on it and a few more picks.

STEP 5) Tree "Explosion" Topper - the party at the top of the tree. AKA the thing that has replaced the traditional star topper. Every extra tall, fun twiggy, exploding thing you can gather and stick in the top of the tree. Here are the ingredients for mine (left) and another photo of the finished product!

And here's one more photo of the finished product without the lights on:

CHEERS and Happy Tree Decorating!!!

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