Every year we are greeted with a torrent of Christmas tree theme ideas that can ignite ideas and overwhelm in equal measure.
With the help of creative genius Jeff Leatham, artistic director of Paris’ Four Seasons George V and Los Angeles’ Beverly Hills hotels, LuxDeco shares ten bitesize steps for a show-stopping tree. Leatham creates displays for the stars, including Oprah Winfrey, Madonna and the Kardashians, so if anybody is a Christmas tree pro, it’s him!
1. Decide when to put up your Christmas tree
Decorating a tree is arguably one of Christmas’ most magical moments. Savour and enjoy the anticipation by penning a date in the diary, so it’s something to look forward to. Focus the entire day around it, filling the hours with festive baking, Christmas card writing and a Christmas film. This is an activity not to be rushed, or you won’t enjoy it to the fullest.
Many wonder the answer of ‘when to put up a Christmas tree?’ – it is entirely up to you. Just make sure that when you do, you enjoy it!
2. Determine where to place your tree
Some homes have an identifiable spot to position their Christmas tree, but it’s not so clear-cut for some interiors. The size of your tree will be a significant deciding factor. Here are four areas you’ll need to consider:
- Ceiling height – to determine how tall your tree can be.
- Other furniture in the room – so you know how broad the branches can stretch out or if you’ll need to move anything out of the way.
- Traffic – you won’t want your tree in the main thoroughfare of your home so that it becomes a nuisance.
- Stage presence – identify the ideal spot for it to shine and for you to be able to see and appreciate your Christmas tree every day that it’s up.
3. Choose your Christmas tree
Bushy or sparse, wide or skinny, real or artificial – it’s all down to preference. If you decide on a real tree, you’re likely to have the choice of a few variations like:
- Norway spruce – the most classic in the UK since it’s grown here,
- Nordmann fir – more expensive but retains its needles far better,
- Blue spruce – a prickly variety with silvery-blue hued needles,
- Serbian spruce – akin to the Norway variety but with less needle drop.
When it comes to artificial trees, the options are greater still, from coloured varieties, bare branch designs that look closer to a tree without its leaves, and of course, the classic Christmas tree aesthetic.
If you’re unsure whether a real or artificial tree is suitable for you, ask yourself first if you want a classic tree. If yes, consider whether you wish to have one without the issue of falling needles and that you can use year after year. If not, then you can begin scouring through the multitude of faux designs. Just be aware that if you go for something inspired by a current trend, its longevity will be reduced.
4. Select a theme for your Christmas tree
If you’re wondering how to decorate a real Christmas tree, it’s helpful to define a theme for your tree that you’re happy to continue in the rest of your home’s festive scheme.
Jeff suggests using monochromatic Christmas baubles. He explains: “I always suggest that people use two different types. If you’re going to use a colour that’s kind of crazy – like hot pink – then maybe choose another clear glass ornament. I think the days of really mixed together Christmas trees are kind of over and people are, as they are with their flowers, using more monochromatic ornaments that go together on the tree.”
5. Add your Christmas tree lights
Jeff says: “The first thing I ever learned when I started doing trees almost 30 years ago is instead of just laying the lights on the branches; you wrap the lights around every branch. It’s more effort but makes a huge difference. You usually use twice as many lights, but it’s worth it in the end because it makes for a more beautiful tree. When it comes to lights, there can never be too many!”
6. Add a garland or tinsel
Garlands or ribbons will make your tree seem more robust and add another layer of texture and decoration. Thin beaded strands, wire strands adorned with delicate fir cones or stars, and even denser green garlands that you’d keep to mantels and table tops can be used in your tree’s scheme.
If you’re unsure how to use ribbon other than tied as bows, use a long length ribbon and treat it as a continuous garland. Drape ribbons from branch to branch or let them hang more loosely around the entire tree. With garlands, always start at the top of the tree, gradually working your way down, stepping back from time to time to check the spacing.
7. Hang baubles and ornaments
Remember to stick to your colour scheme so that your tree doesn’t lose direction, and try not to use just one style or size of Christmas tree decoration.
“Use different sized baubles so that when you look at your tree, it’s interesting. Maybe start with a 5cm, then an 8cm. Even if your baubles are the same colour, using different sizes adds a little something different,” suggests Jeff.
The size of your decorations will also affect the amount that you use. There’s no rule, although some people like their tree to be busier than others. Whatever your preference, be sure to spread decorations across the entire tree rather than weighting them all to one side. Set some back into the depths of the branches and some dangling from the front.
Should you have older decorations that don’t suit your new look, find a place for them elsewhere in your home. Jeff advises that “if you’re wanting to use an heirloom ornament and they don’t particularly go with your tree, sometimes what I’ve done is put special family ornaments in a garland”.
8. Choose a Christmas tree topper
Traditionally, it’s a choice between a star or an angel – two timeless and worthy contenders that add a captivating celestial presence.
For a traditional slant, find an angel which takes dress tips from the Renaissance like flowing robes, halos and jewel tones. Alternatively, try a star topper of the antiqued mirror variety. You can also try new modern renditions like LED star silhouettes or burnished copper angel figurines.
Or, for something a little different, consider anything from glitter-dusted snowflakes to contemporary resin toppers that look like icicles. If you’re decorating with seasonal floral picks, use a cluster of these atop your tree for a striking finish.
9. Add an optional tree skirt
Jeff advises making this a veritable feature in your tree’s theme by finding a beautiful textile or even an arrangement of decorative vases. He comments: “Be creative. I always feel that a decorative base is a beautiful touch before all the gifts are around it. In the past, I’ve used big vases filled with the same type of Christmas tree balls at the bottom. It really finishes your tree.”
10. Enjoy the festivities
All that’s left to do is begin your Christmas shopping, get everything wrapped and under the tree, and enjoy seeing the twinkle of your Christmas tree lights through the window as you get home every day.