How to Decorate a Christmas Tree

By Interior Designer Tracy Svendsen | Published October 25, 2020 | Updated November 04, 2023

How to Decorate a Christmas Tree: Prepare to transform your Christmas tree into a dazzling masterpiece that will leave everyone in awe. Decorating your tree is not just about hanging ornaments and stringing lights; it’s an art form that requires careful thought and creativity. In this ultimate guide, we will take you through the step-by-step process of decorating your Christmas tree like a pro, from choosing the perfect theme and color scheme to arranging ornaments and adding that extra sparkle.

Whether you prefer a traditional, rustic, French country, or modern look, we will provide expert tips and tricks to elevate your tree to the next level. Say goodbye to mediocre decorations and hello to a tree that will be the envy of all your friends and family. So grab your tinsel and get ready to unleash your inner holiday decorator because this guide is your ticket to creating the most stunning Christmas tree ever.

Once you have your tree, it’s time to gather the essential decorations to make it truly shine. Start with a sturdy tree stand that can support the weight of your tree and keep it upright. A tree skirt is also a must-have, as it adds a decorative touch and hides the tree’s base.

Next, gather a variety of ornaments in different shapes, sizes, and colors. Mix and match to create visual interest and depth. Consider using ornaments that reflect your style or have sentimental value. Remember to include a few statement pieces that will catch the eye and serve as focal points.

In addition to ornaments, consider adding other decorative elements such as garlands, ribbons, and bows. Use them to add texture and color to your tree. Choose garlands that complement your color scheme and wrap them around the tree in a spiral or cascading pattern. Use ribbons and bows to create beautiful accents and fill gaps between ornaments. Remember, the key is to strike a balance between simplicity and abundance. Feature image courtesy of Good Housekeeping.

How to Decorate a Christmas Tree

1.  Shape and Fluff

All beautifully decorated Christmas trees start with the foundation. Begin by gently pulling each branch away from the tree’s center to create a full, fluffy look. Once you have all the branches pulled out, take some time to shape them. You can bend them slightly for a more natural look or fan them out for a fuller appearance. You may need extra time fluffing the branches if your tree is artificial. This will help remove any creases or wrinkles that may have formed during storage. Remember, the key to a beautiful Christmas tree is appropriately shaping and fluffing it.

How to Decorate a Christmas Tree

2.  Tree Topper Options and Placement 

The tree topper is your Christmas tree’s crowning jewel, so choosing one that complements your overall theme and style is essential. There are various options to choose from, depending on your personal preference. One classic option is the traditional star or angel topper. These timeless toppers add a touch of elegance and symbolism to your tree. Opt for a gold or silver star for a traditional look, or choose a beautifully crafted angel with intricate details. If you prefer a more modern and unique look, consider using a statement topper such as a large bow, a floral arrangement, or even a mini Christmas tree. These unconventional toppers will make your tree stand out and reflect your style.

Gently place it on top of the tree, ensuring it is secure and centered. Step back and admire your masterpiece, making any necessary adjustments to achieve the perfect balance and symmetry. Consider incorporating additional embellishments and personal touches to make your Christmas tree shine. These can include decorative picks, floral sprays, and even themed ornaments that reflect your hobbies or interests.

3.  Adding Lights to Your Christmas Tree

Lights are an essential part of any well-decorated Christmas tree. They add warmth, sparkle, and a magical glow. When it comes to lights, there are a few things to consider. First, choose between traditional incandescent lights and energy-efficient LED lights. LED lights consume less energy and last longer, making them popular. However, if you prefer traditional lights’ warm and nostalgic glow, go for incandescent lights.

Next, decide on the color and type of lights. White lights are classic and versatile, while colored lights add a festive and playful touch. You can also opt for novelty lights, such as twinkle or icicle lights, to create a unique look.

When hanging the lights, start at the top of the tree and work your way down in a zigzag pattern. Weave the lights in and out of the branches, focusing on the inner and outer sections of the tree to create depth. Make sure to distribute the lights evenly and avoid overcrowding. Consider wrapping a few strands of tinsel or garland around the lights to add a sparkle. This will create a beautiful shimmering effect and enhance the overall look of your tree.

How to Decorate a Christmas Tree

4.  Create a Focal Point

Target a few spots on the tree to group ornaments, picks, flowers, and ribbons for dimension. This step will create focal points providing your eye a place to rest. To add depth and interest, vary ornament sizes and shapes. For a cohesive design, try matching the color of these designated areas to the topper.

How to Decorate a Christmas Tree

5.  Garland & Ribbon Placement Techniques

Garlands and ribbons are versatile decorations that can add texture, movement, and color to your Christmas tree. There are several placement techniques you can use to achieve different effects. One popular technique is the spiral method, where you wrap the garland or ribbon around the tree in a spiral pattern from top to bottom to create a cohesive and uniform look that draws the eye upward.

Another technique is the cascading method, where you drape the garland or ribbon from the top of the tree down to the bottom in a cascading fashion to create a sense of movement and adds visual interest. Mix and match different textures and widths for garlands and ribbons to add depth and visual appeal to your tree. Consider using a combination of metallic garlands, velvet ribbons, and sheer ribbons to create a stunning display.

6.  Ornament Placing & Spacing

Once you’ve added the garlands and ribbons, it’s time to move on to the main event: the ornaments. Ornament placement is an art form that requires careful consideration to achieve a balanced and harmonious look. Start by placing the larger and more prominent ornaments first. These will serve as anchor points and focal points for your tree. Space them evenly around the tree, considering the balance and visual weight.

Next, move on to the medium-sized ornaments. These can be placed between the larger ornaments, filling in gaps and creating depth. Make sure to vary the placement and spacing to create a sense of movement and visual interest.

Finally, add miniature ornaments. These can be clustered in groups of three or five to create visual impact. Place them strategically around the tree, focusing on areas that need extra sparkle or color. When it comes to ornament placement, the key is to achieve a balanced and cohesive look. Step back frequently to assess your progress and make adjustments as needed. Feel free to experiment and try different arrangements until you find the perfect balance.

Hanging some ornaments closer to the trunk will create depth and interest. They reflect the light to make your tree sparkle from the inside. Stand back and study your tree from various angles to determine if empty areas need filling.

7.  Place the Tree Skirt

A tree skirt is essential to any Christmas tree setup as it sets the stage for beautifully wrapped presents. Not only does it add a decorative touch to the overall look of the tree, but it also serves a practical purpose. A good tree skirt can protect your floors from the pine needles and sap that inevitably fall from the tree. It also provides a convenient place to collect fallen ornaments or tinsel, making cleanup easier. A tree skirt can also help anchor the tree and prevent it from tipping over if it is bumped or jostled.

How to Decorate a Christmas Tree

Choosing a Color Scheme for Your Tree

A well-coordinated color scheme can take your Christmas tree to the next level. Start by selecting a primary color that will serve as the foundation of your design. Use this as the dominant color for the majority of your ornaments. Popular choices include red, gold, silver, and green. Once you’ve chosen your primary color, select one or two complementary colors to add depth and contrast.

When choosing a color scheme, consider your style and the overall aesthetic you want to achieve. Stick to classic Christmas colors like red, green, and gold for a traditional look. If you prefer a more modern and minimalistic look, opt for a monochromatic color scheme using shades of white, silver, or blue. For a rustic feel, incorporate natural elements like pinecones, burlap, and twine, and use earthy tones like brown and cream.
Remember, the key to a cohesive color scheme is consistency. Use your chosen colors throughout the tree, from the ornaments to the ribbons and garlands, to create a harmonious and visually pleasing look that ties everything together.

Colorful Christmas Tree Ideas
Colorful Christmas Tree Ideas

Colorful Christmas Tree 
Image courtesy of Architectural Digest

Christmas Ornament Sets

Christmas ornament sets are a popular choice for many reasons. Not only do they provide a cohesive look for your tree, but they also save time and money. Instead of purchasing individual ornaments, sets typically include a variety of designs that complement each other. This eliminates the need to spend countless hours searching for matching ornaments and ensures your tree looks polished and put together. Additionally, buying a set can be more cost-effective than purchasing ornaments separately. So not only do you save time, but you also save money. Choosing a Christmas ornament set is a smart and practical decision for anyone looking to decorate their tree with ease and style.

1.  Nordic Christmas Ornament Set

Scandinavian Christmas Ornaments
Scandinavian Christmas Ornaments

Ornament Set Shown Above Nordic Christmas Ornaments

A NOD TO SCANDINAVIAN DESIGN

Celebrate Christmas with understated European elegance. Mix and match sets to create a charming decorating theme, or choose one design for a cohesive holiday look.

2.  Winter Wishes Ornament Set

Winter Wishes Ornaments | Blush Christmas Tree
Winter Wishes Ornaments | Blush Christmas Tree

How to Decorate a Christmas Tree: Ornament Set Shown Above Winter Wishes Ornaments

DREAMS OF A WINTER WONDERLAND

This stunning Christmas Tree was designed using the Winter Wishes Ornament Set in gold, blush, and ivory accents. Complete the enchanting look by pairing this collection with holiday floral picks for a touch of romantic elegance.

3.  French Country Christmas Ornament Set

French Country Christmas Ornaments
French Country Christmas Ornaments

Ornament Set Shown Above French Country Ornaments

UNDERSTATED ELEGANCE

Inspired by antique French baubles, these handcrafted ornaments are reminiscent of the subtlety and sophistication of French design.

Artificial Poinsettia Christmas Ornament

Editor’s Note: I recently purchased two sets of the Poinsettia Glitter Flowers in white, and they are gorgeous! They arrived individually wrapped, and it was very easy to spread and gently curve the petals of the flower.  They were a bit larger than what I had expected, but will fill out my tree perfectly.  For a larger tree, I’d recommend 3 packages.  They’d also look lovely displayed in a vase on a mantel, or added to a wreath.  Each package contains 6 poinsettia’s and they are available in pink, gold, silver, red and white.  They did lose a bit of glitter while I was re-shaping the form and so I would recommend setting them out on a table.

4.  Farmhouse Christmas Ornament Set

Farmhouse Christmas Ornaments
Farmhouse Christmas Ornaments

Ornament Set Shown Above Farmhouse Christmas Ornaments

A REFRESHING TAKE ON A CHRISTMAS CLASSIC

This exclusive set offers an eclectic mix of traditional designs to spruce up your Christmas tree with rustic charm. This collection includes assorted glass ornaments hand-painted in an updated Christmas color palette of sage green, burgundy, and blue. The mixed materials ornaments include miniature sleds and ice skates, fabric reindeer, and vintage sleigh bells, charming pieces that evoke the cozy look of a wintry countryside cottage.

5.  Burnished Metal Christmas Ornament Set

Metallic Ornaments
Metallic Ornaments

Ornament Set Shown Above Burnished Metals Christmas Ornaments

A TOUCH OF VINTAGE

Create stunning contrast with earthy tones and hints of gold. Add luster to your tree with the glittery glamour and old-world elegance of these metallic ornaments.

6.  Christmas Cheer Ornament Set

Christmas Cheer Tree
Christmas Cheer Tree

Ornament Set Shown Above Christmas Cheer Ornaments

OLD-WORLD TREASURES

Pay homage to Christmases past by decorating with vintage-style ornaments. Choose one design for a unified theme or mix and match to create a festive holiday display.

7.  Silver & Gold Christmas Ornament Set

Silver & Gold Ornaments
Silver & Gold Ornaments

Ornament Set Shown Above Silver & Gold Christmas Ornaments

THE GLITTER OF HOLIDAY JEWELS

Inspired by finely crafted jewelry, this exclusive collection features highly decorated glass Christmas ornaments. These heirloom-quality ornaments’ varied shapes and sizes add depth to your holiday décor, while elegant tones of gold, silver, and platinum lend a lustrous touch to your tree.

8.  Grand Forest Ornament Set

Grand Forest Ornaments
Grand Forest Ornaments

Ornament Set Shown Above Grand Forest Christmas Ornaments

INTO THE WOODS

Bring a playful yet polished look to your holiday décor. Glass ornaments in gleaming earth tones fill your Christmas tree with woodland warmth and elegance.

8.  Gilded Gold Ornament Set

Gilded Gold Ornaments
Gilded Gold Ornaments

Ornament Set Shown Above Christmas Cheer Ornaments

FESTIVE & ELEGANT

Decorate with luxurious ornaments that echo the richness of the season. Layer your Christmas tree or use as bowl fillers to elevate the look of your tablescapes.

9.  Gilded Royal Blush Christmas Ornament Set

Winter Blush Ornaments
Winter Blush Ornaments

Royal Blush Christmas Ornament Set

FEMININE LUXE

Dress your tree in a dream-like collection featuring hand-painted chinoiserie designs, pottery-inspired shapes, and opalescent and dew-kissed finishes. Despite its whisper-soft palette, this collection of mouth-blown glass ornaments captivates with hand-applied gemstones, trim, sequins, and beading.

Decorative Picks 

Decorative picks are a great way to add texture and visual interest to your tree. Choose picks that complement your color scheme and theme. Place them strategically throughout the tree, focusing on areas that need extra sparkle or fill.

Floral sprays are another beautiful addition that can add a touch of elegance and natural beauty to your tree. Opt for artificial floral sprays that mimic the look of real flowers. Choose colors and styles that complement your overall design and arrange them throughout the tree.
Lastly, consider incorporating themed ornaments that reflect your interests or hobbies. Whether you’re a sports enthusiast, a music lover, or a beachgoer, ornaments are available to suit every interest. These themed ornaments will add a personal touch and make your tree unique.

Selecting the Perfect Christmas Tree

The first step in decorating your Christmas tree like a pro is selecting the perfect tree. There are a few things to consider whether you choose a natural or artificial tree. Real trees offer a fresh pine scent and a natural look, while artificial trees are more convenient and can be reused year after year. Whichever you choose, make sure it fits the size and space of your home. Measure the height and width of the area where you plan to place your tree to ensure a perfect fit.

Next, consider the type of tree you want. There are various species to choose from, each with its unique characteristics. Some popular options include the classic Douglas fir, the elegant Fraser fir, and the sturdy Blue spruce. Research the different types to find one that suits your preferences and needs.

Lastly, inspect the tree for quality. Look for a tree with vibrant, healthy-looking needles firmly attached to the branches. Avoid trees with brown or wilted needles, as they are likely to dry out quickly and shed.

Tips for Maintaining and Storing Your Decorated Tree

Once your Christmas tree is fully decorated, it’s important to take proper care of it to ensure it looks beautiful throughout the holiday season. Here are a few tips for maintaining and storing your decorated tree.

First, keep your tree hydrated by watering it regularly. If you have a real tree, ensure the water level in the tree stand is consistently above the base of the trunk to prevent the tree from drying out and shedding needles.

Next, be mindful of heat sources near your tree, such as radiators or fireplaces. These can cause the tree to dry quickly and become a fire hazard. Keep your tree away from direct heat sources to ensure its longevity.

When it’s time to take down your tree, do it carefully. Remove the ornaments and decorations gently, starting from the top and working your way down. Avoid pulling or yanking on the branches, which can damage the tree.

If you have an artificial tree, carefully disassemble and store it in a dry, cool place. Use a tree storage bag or box to protect it from dust and damage. Check with your local recycling center for proper disposal options if you have a real tree.

Conclusion

Decorating your Christmas tree like a pro is about attention to detail, creativity, and personal style. By following the step-by-step process outlined in this ultimate guide, you can transform your tree into a stunning masterpiece that will be the envy of all. Every aspect of tree decoration has been covered, from selecting the perfect tree to choosing a color scheme, arranging ornaments, and adding lights and embellishments. Remember to have fun and let your creativity shine through. Happy decorating!

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