How to Decorate a Christmas Tree Like a Pro

You know that “wow” moment, when you walk into a department store decked to the nines for Christmas and the holiday season? It’s almost like the trees — each perfectly themed — are calling to you for a closer look. They’re lush, unique and beautiful… true works of art! Wish you could recreate that magic and whimsy? This post details the tricks interior designers use during the holiday season. In fact, it will have you decorating your Christmas tree like a pro.

Trimming the Christmas tree is my favorite holiday activity, and our family takes our trees seriously!

Where does that passion come from? Well, one of my mom’s first postcollege jobs involved creating department store displays and doing their holiday decorating. Consequently, she knows ALL the secrets to achieving a professional tree look. We have done all kinds of themes over the years and joke that we’d deck trees full-time if the job existed!

So, pull out your favorite Christmas album [anyone else adore Amy Grant’s Home for Christmas] and let’s get started… Still need the tree? Here are a few top-rated faux options:


Decorate a Christmas Tree Like a Pro


Pro Tip #1 – Don’t skimp on the lights

You will always need more lights than you anticipate. The twinkle is where the magic rests! Take your time during this step and really weave those lights into the branches. Professional designers distribute lights inside the tree, in addition to stringing them on surface-level branches. This gives the tree more dimension.

It’s also important to disguise the light’s cording as much as possible. Don’t be afraid to twist and manipulate the branches to cover up any wiring or light connections. You can also cover up connections with an ornament later on. I use LED lights on my tree, but only LEDs that are labeled “warm white.” The bluish tinge that standard LEDs exude really take away from the cozy glow we’re seeking.

how to decorate a Christmas tree like a pro

Pro Tip #2 – Wrap a Ribbon ‘Round It

Once you’ve got the lights, it’s time to add the ribbon. By far, ribbon is the most cost-effective way to add fullness and glitz to your tree. Wired ribbon is the easiest to work with. Look for ribbons that have a bit of sparkle or sheen. My favorites are slightly sheer because they allow the glow from your Christmas lights to pass through. It creates such a beautiful effect!

Adding ribbon to your tree is a bit like sculpting. Start by following the ribbon’s natural curl, then weave it in and out of the branches to create interesting curves and dips. Try an arrangement, then step back to gaze at it from a distance. It’s completely normal if it takes a few iterations until you’re satisfied! Another tip: Ribbon is much easier to handle if you cut it into sections, rather than trying to weave one long piece through. I used 3 strands, connecting them to each other and the tree with green floral wire.

   

how to decorate a Christmas tree like a pro

Pro Tip #3 – Larger ornaments on bottom, smaller on top

You want your ornaments to grow with your tree. Utilize your largest bulbs at the bottom. These should fill in the tree’s natural holes. Next, gradually allow them to decrease in size as you work your way up the tree. When I buy ornaments, I intentionally seek out a mix of sizes and shapes. This variation is what adds interest and impact.

Also, everything on my tree is “unbreakable” this year. With a two-year-old, the thought of glass is a bit scary right now. We might have glitter everywhere, but at least it’s all safe.

Pro Tip #4 – Place your favorite ornaments and long dangly ones first

It’s always a good idea to position your favorite, and most visual, ornaments first. The same goes for those long, dangly pieces that take up a lot of real estate. You want to make sure your tree has ample room for them to shine. Therefore, it’s always smart to start with your most beloved pieces.

Pro Tip #5 – Visit the floral aisle

Want to decorate a Christmas tree like a pro? Make sure you venture outside the holiday aisle when looking for tree decor. I find the most stately and elegant trees are those that enhance the dimension of their branches with floral sprays. Think berries, glittered leaves, flowers, even feathers or a bird. These all look great popping out of the branches, particularly toward the top of your tree.

These days, some sprays come with a clip at the bottom to fasten them. However, I’ve found the clip isn’t really enough to hold the weight, you will likely need to secure these pieces with floral wire. [Especially, if you’re like me and have a cat/toddler attacking the tree!]

I like to use floral sprays to create my tree topper. In fact, I haven’t ever purchased a tree topper because it’s so easy to craft your own by bunching floral sprays, ornaments or ribbon together. For this tree, I utilized a snowflake ornament with glitter “feather” sprays fanning out around it. You can use twist ties or floral wire to secure your design.

Sweater Dress 

Pro Tip #6 – Choose a Theme and Edit as You Go

Yes, there’s always a place for a sentimental Christmas tree… and homemade ornaments are awesome! I love making pieces for my tree. However, if you are going for that “designer look” it helps to choose a specific theme and edit as you go. Typically, this is a mix of several colors, plus a metallic accent. Red and green are beautiful, but these days you can create an equally festive design using fuschia, teal, coastal references, plaid, etc. The last couple of years I used orange, red and magenta. Sounds odd, but looked beautiful!

Unsure on your direction? I love browsing for ideas at my favorite home goods stores.

  • Pottery Barn – has a stunning Christmas Shop & loads of online photos to jump start your imagination. Also everything is 40 percent off as part of its pre-Black Friday sale! Code: FREESHIP gets you free shipping.
  • Pier One – might have the best inspo section of all. It has tons of blog-style articles with gorgeous photograpy, as well as helpful holiday style checklists to get you started.
  • Wayfair – is another idea generator. It has a holiday shop with examples for all kinds of themes, aesthetics and tastes. Additionally, it offers early access to Black Friday blowout deals (up to 80 percent off).
  • At Home – is where I found most of my ornaments. It also has a huge pre-Black Friday sale with lots of decor up to 60 percent off.

Pro Tip #7 – Don’t forget the chandelier!

While this isn’t exactly tree-trimming, I wanted to wrap up these pro tree tips with a way to extend your aesthetic vision beyond the pine. When it comes to the holidays, interior designers rarely stop at the tree. Once you settle on a theme, you can very easily carry that look to your fireplace mantle, stairway, or chandelier. Save a few ornaments and floral sprays, tuck them here and there, and you’ll have another festive focal point.

Finally, choose wrapping paper that complements your tree. You can also DIY it! I love recycling paper bags to wrap my boxes and using my leftover tree ribbon to link the packages to my overall design scheme.

Side note: I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the cozy sweater dress I was wearing above, so here’s a closer look. It’s another Chicwish find. The style is very relaxed and a heavy, warm knit. Been living in this one for all those casual holiday gatherings!

Happy Decorating Friends!

Sweater Dress | Earrings

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