20 Genius Tricks for Making Your Christmas Tree the Envy of the Block

Deck the halls in style this year.

20 Genius Tricks for Making Your Christmas Tree the Envy of the Block

It's every Christmas lover's dream to have a truly majestic, Rockefeller Center-level masterpiece rising high in their living room—a gilded monument to the holiday season that will make all of your neighbors do a double-take while they're shoveling their driveways. But if you think the only way of getting a drool-worthy tree is to drop $30,000 at Christopher Radko and to enlist Martha Stewart, you've never been more wrong. All you need to do is follow these easy hacks for making your tree look bigger, fuller, shinier, glitzier, and more luxurious than ever before. And if trees aren't really your thing, check out 17 Christmas Tree Alternatives That Will Blow Your Mind.

Keep Your Tree Nourished

Christmas tree basin watering Image via Pinterest

Trees, lest you forget, are living creatures. To keep them looking their best, they need to be fed. According Penn State University's Department of Horticulture, this means placing them within a water basin that holds at least one gallon of water. As long as you have the tree on display in your home, this basin should be kept full at all times.

During the first week after installation, they warn, trees will absorb more water than you might imagine, so it's crucial to be vigilant about keeping the stand filled. With proper care, a fresh-cut tree should last between four and six weeks says Christina Hill, a decoration coordinator at Hassle Free Christmas Tree. Once the needles are dry and brittle, however, it's time to take down that emblem of holiday cheer once and for all.

Make Sure Your Lighting Matches the Tree Color

christmas tree decorating tips

Walk into any big box store and you'll see Christmas lights in a variety of colors—both the lights themselves and their accompanying strings. Before purchasing a set, however, it's important to make sure that they fit into your color scheme. For starters, the string the should blend in, meaning green is best for real trees, while black or white—depending upon the tree itself—works best for artificial ones. Hill recommends "combin[ing] two or three colors which complement well [and] accentuate your tree."

In addition, you can choose between incandescent bulbs or LED ones. While the latter do not heat up, and thus have a lesser chance of starting a fire, the heat from the former will have your tree emitting a wonderful scent of pine throughout the room. Just don't plug in more than five sets of 100-bulb strings into one another, warns Vinny Nicastro at The Christmas Decorators, or you could be setting yourself up for a dangerous situation. 

Use Two Strands of Garland for Every Vertical Foot of Tree

christmas tree decorating tips

Decorating a Christmas tree is all about striking the right balance. This means keeping your evergreen loaded with holiday cheer without burdening it to the point of collapse. While finding a middle ground is ultimately up to personal taste, experts do have recommendations: The Christmas Light Emporium urges the use of 100 mini lights and two strands of garland for every vertical foot of tree. Before splurging on that 15-footer you've always dreamed of, then, you might want to pad your lights budget first. Nobody likes a sad, meekly lit tree, after all. 

Employ Focal Points

christmas decor

In order to make sure your tree-decorating handiwork doesn't go unnoticed, it's best to create some visual highlights on your tree. To do so, employ five to seven focal points within the tree that will naturally draw your visitors' gaze. Whether it's unique pieces, especially large ornaments, or strands of flashing lights interspersed with traditional ones, the use of focal points will make even the most disorganized of trees appear to be well-thought-out masterpieces. 

Layer Your Lights

christmas tree decorating tips

Ornaments aren't the only pieces that can be used to create a sense of depth within your tree. Layering lights can also bring a dimensionality to the table that makes your tree pop.

To do so, wrap white lights somewhat tightly around the interior of your tree—enough to provide illumination, but not so much that they distract from the tree itself. Then, wrap colored lights around the outside of tree, using them sparingly as a highlight. The effect will be a tree that not only shines outward, but appears to be alive on the inside, as well. 

Create Depth

christmas tree decorating tips

With trees and people alike, a little depth goes a long way. To create a sense of depth within your tree, hang ornaments at various distances from the center. While you'll want to keep the best-looking ones on the outside—giving them greater visibility—it'll also serve as a great excuse to hide all those ugly ornaments you received from family and friends that you're just too sentimental to trash.

Bring Nature In

cozy home holiday decor

As much as you may dress up your tree to appear civilized, it is, after all, a wild beast. To help remind visitors of its organic origin, and to boost your home's visual appeal, bring in some natural elements as decorative highlights.

Pine cones, feathers, twigs, and berries are all excellent additions to your existing greenery. Best-case scenario: visitors begin asking how a tree sprung up from under your foundations and grew into your living room. 

Master the Twinkle Effect

holiday decor

This tip is not for those afraid of a little ingenuity. To create a "twinkle effect" in your tree, try placing a string of blinking lights at its base. The light will shine upward, through the branches, and create an ethereal effect reminiscent of the woods outside Rivendell. These can come in various speeds, so it's important to make sure you get a set that replicates the glittering effect of a winter snowfall, not something you'd see at a rave. If done properly, the result is something like being placed in a perpetual fairytale. 

Cluster Spheres

holiday decor

Ah, the sphere: the classic Christmas ornament par excellence. Yet, despite its storied history, the ornamental ball is a little, well, boring. To spice things up a bit, try using wire to cluster three or more spheres together to create a cute bauble. Not only will this help create focal points on your tree, it will also cut down on the time you spend trimming it.

Employ an Array of Ribbon


Ribbons are an excellent addition to any holiday décor, whether you're tying a bow on your loved one's Christmas gift or adding some visual appeal to your banister. Even better, however, is using a variety of ribbons to accent otherwise visually-lackluster parts of your tree. Whether thin or thick, plaid or plain, silk or burlap, placing numerous, drastically different ribbons in the same tree in place of garland will create some serious visual appeal, keeping the eye intrigued from any angle. And if using ribbon garland isn't your style, you can always create oversized ribbon bows to hang from your tree's branches in place of traditional ornaments. Of course, it's important to make sure the ribbons don't clash—purple argyle next to red plaid is still a definite don't. 

Coordinate Your Wrapping Paper

holiday decor

This isn't about your tree, per se, but it's an important step in making it look the best it can be. Choosing wrapping paper that matches your decorations will ensure that, once the presents are placed under the tree, it won't be overshadowed but accentuated. If it's too difficult to find a match that doesn't clash, try plain brown paper and a colorful bow. Minimalism, lest you forget, is totally in these days. 

Design Around a Theme

christmas tree decorating tips

Like a collection of short stories, a tree can often make the deepest impression when it is designed around a single theme. Whether this be a color, a holiday symbol, or even a specific ornament, choosing a central concern and working outward will give your tree a visible unity it would otherwise lack. And no, "Christmas" or "trees" don't count as themes.

Hang Your Best Ornaments First

Christmas Eve traditions

In the hubbub that is the run up to the holidays, it's easy to become so despairing at all that needs to be done that you decide to place your ornaments willy-nilly and be over with it. This, however, is a mistake you will later regret. Instead, methodically pick out your favorite ornaments and hang them first, making sure they receive prominent and proper placements. After that, hang the rest of your ornaments with an eye to creating a balance around that first group. You always want to put your best foot forward, so why not put your best ornaments forward, too?

Step Back

holiday decor

Chances are, your tree is larger—or at least as large—as you are. If that's the case, it's almost impossible to determine whether or not it's evenly decorated by standing right in front of it. Instead, make sure to occasionally take a step back and size it up from afar, as well as from different angles. Unless your tree is in a corner, it's going to be seen from all sides, so you're going to want to make sure all sides are in tip top shape. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and a tree is only as festive as its ugliest side.

Find the Perfect Location for Your Tree

Christmas Eve traditions

Your neighbors can't envy something they can't see. To show off your holiday artistry, make sure to place your tree near a large, preferably street-facing window. Whether or not you want to stand next to it and glimpse all the jaws it drops is your choice. 

Use Floral Picks

christmas tree decorating tips

Is using floral picks to fill in spaces in your tree cheating? Maybe. Will it make your tree the envy or neighbors far and wide? Definitely. Despite what the au naturale naysayers may tell you, there's nothing artificial about sticking in a few floral picks—those are typically fake flowers adhered to a decorative branch, for the uninitiated—here and there to finish off your tree. The perfect symmetry and beauty achieved thereby, meanwhile, will speak for itself.

Fluff the Branches

holiday decor

This tip mainly applies to trees of the artificial variety, but can be used on the more organic types, as well. Before beginning to hang lights, ornaments, or garlands, it's important to take the time to fluff out each individual branch, making sure any leaves which may have stuck together are separated. Doing so may get your hands all sticky, but it's worth it: your tree will suddenly seem almost twice the size as it spreads to its full potential.

In addition, don't be afraid to twist and turn the branches as well in order to make sure there are no empty spaces between them. Leaving a large section of emptiness—while not wholly immoral—will tend to the draw the viewer's eye to it, taking focus away from the majesty that is the newest conifer in your family.

Get the Right Tree

christmas tree decorating tips

A great artist needs the right canvas. When purchasing your tree, make sure to tailor your choice to fit your decorations. A tree with noticeably separated branches and plenty of empty spaces would be best for displaying large ornaments—giving them the space to breathe—while a more full-looking tree with branches close together is best for plain, garland-heavy decorating. 

Use Multiple Light Sizes

christmas tree decorating tips

Crafting a great tree is all about making subtle contrasts. One easy way to do this is to use lights of multiple sizes. While the majority should be the tiny, twinkly lights that won't turn your living room into light box, you should also throw in a few larger, colored lights for emphasis. Bigger isn't always better, but it is brighter, and more noticeable.

Go Minimal

Plain Christmas Tree Image via iStockphoto

There are two ways to make a tree stand out: great decorations, or the lack thereof. If you can't be trusted with decorating your tree in a non-haphazard manner—or if you haven't collected enough ornaments yet to lend the whole thing a layer of added significance—feel free to go with a "plain Jane" look, sparsely populating your tree to show off its natural beauty. Just don't mistake a tasteful minimality for laziness: this isn't an excuse to loaf off during decorating time. After all, the fewer things being hung on your tree, the longer you should obsess over just how to perfectly hang those items. And to ensure you buy the best tree you can buy, learn all about the 17 Secrets Your Christmas Tree Seller Isn't Telling You.

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