We all want to decorate the perfect Christmas tree with baubles, ornaments and lights all perfectly co-ordinated in a festive but stylish scheme. In reality, however, it's easier said than done. Decorating a Christmas tree is no mean feat, especially for the perfectionists among us, but if your home is your pride and joy and the tree is the centrepiece of your home come the festive season, we've got you covered.
We've spoken to a range of style and decorating experts, including the team at Balsam Hill – whose artificial Christmas trees have graced the TV sets of The X Factor, Good Morning Britain and This Morning – about how to decorate your Christmas tree to make it look like you hired a professional, plus how to choose the right Christmas tree decorations to suit your theme.
But before we begin, like any task, you need to have the right tools to ensure the safe and proper set up of your Christmas tree. This includes cotton gloves for shaping branches, scissors with safety handles for materials, packaging or equipment, and a sturdy ladder or step stool for installing toppers and arranging décor on taller trees.
So now you're all set up, fancy getting that Insta-worthy look with very little effort? Read on...
1. Invest in a high-quality artificial tree
Christmas trees crafted from premium materials provide sturdy and reliable support for decorations. You'll find that high-quality trees are generally more durable and can stand up to repeated use every year, all whilst maintaining its beautiful look.
Opt for a traditional tree rather than a trend-led one, so that it doesn't go 'out of date' after a few years, as a traditional design gives you the perfect base to layer and decorate as you wish. Pre-lit Christmas trees are growing in popularity each year, becoming a firm favourite in households. And remember, to prevent wear and tear on your Christmas tree, consider models with advanced features that offer easy set up and storage.
Alternatively, if you want a real Christmas tree, there are many different types and styles available to buy at tree farms, markets or home & DIY stores. See all the tree varieties available, including Nordmann Fir and Norway Spruce, in our real Christmas trees guide.
2. Fluff and shape branches
Fluffing the branches helps to make your Christmas tree look fuller and more natural. This can be a very time-consuming task, but trust us, the end result is more than worth it. Separate each branch so they fan out to cover as much area as possible. And don't hesitate to bend individual branches to fill in gaps. Keep in mind that a properly shaped tree is an appealing sight, however minimal or lavish your embellishments may be.
3. Design around a theme
A professional-looking Christmas tree has a central look that ties the decorations together. Deciding on a theme before choosing your decorations sets the tone for your materials and gives you a clear idea on how to decorate your tree. Need some inspiration? Why not take a look at John Lewis' Christmas themes for this year, from Renaissance to the Art of Japan, there's a total of seven key looks to help you decorate this festive season.
4. Start with the lights first
While pre-lit Christmas trees are popular and will save you time (and money), you'll need Christmas tree lights if you have a plain tree (real or artificial). As a general rule of thumb, the lighting experts at Lights4Fun advise 100 bulbs or 5 metres of lights per 2ft of Christmas tree. So for a 6ft tree, you'd need 300 bulbs or 15 metres of lights.
The first, most important thing you need to do when decorating your Christmas tree, is to always add the lights first – it's more difficult to do this after you've added decorations like baubles and garlands.
Balsam Hill advise that you start with a string of lights with the plug as the starting point, wrapping it around your Christmas tree’s trunk, working your way up from the centre of the base of your tree. Continue wrapping the lights evenly around the branches nearest to the trunk, and then weave it upwards from the middle of the crown.
'When you reach the crown, weave your way back down, arranging the lights further out on the branches,' say Balsam Hill. 'Keep weaving the lights until you reach the tips of the branches.'
And remember, when weaving, the bulb should be positioned under a branch and the next light over a branch.
5. Choose the right decorations
Choosing accents that fit your theme helps you achieve a cohesive design. Whether it's hanging tree decorations, garlands, ribbons, or floral picks, opt for Christmas tree decorations that will complement the overall appearance of your tree. Many bauble sets include different shapes, sizes, finishes and designs. Combining these with traditional baubles will give you more freedom to play up your theme.
6. Cluster your baubles
Balsam Hill's design consultant, Brad Schmidt, recommends clustering three baubles of different sizes to add flair and visual appeal. You can either put the same pieces together or choose contrasting ones.
The White Company echoes this suggestion. They say to create a balanced, visually pleasing tree, buy baubles in threes, sixes, or twelves, and add these on first in a 'Z' shape. You should hang larger baubles closer to the centre of the tree to give it more depth, and use small ones towards the end of the branches.
Dangle delicate glass baubles at the top of the tree to prevent any breakages, and add special ones last to ensure they are in the perfect position.
And how much baubles will you need? The White Company recommends 80 baubles for a 7.5ft tree.
7. Layer and style ribbons
Another expert tip is to layer your Christmas tree with decorative ribbons, which will elevate your tree's aesthetic. You may use one type of ribbon or pair ribbons of contrasting textures and different widths to create more impact.
Brad Schmidt recommends using ribbons with wired edges, as these are easier to sculpt into loops or rolls, and they hold shape better than non-wired ribbons. Follow these simple techniques for arranging ribbons on your tree.
8. Use tree picks
Tree picks and floral sprays come in many forms, such as decorated branches, twigs, berries, or even pinecones – use them as subtle accents to complement the entire look of your tree. Grouping picks together using floral wire is a creative way to elevate the visual appeal of your tree without overpowering other decorations.
They are great for adding lively splashes of colour, not only to Christmas trees, but to wreaths and garlands too. Make sure to choose picks with bendable stems to make shaping easier.
9. Choose the right tree topper
A eye-catching Christmas tree topper is a beautiful way to complete the designer look of your tree. Make sure to choose one that best fits your theme and the proportion of your tree, and take into consideration the height of your ceiling too. You can also choose an alternative design, like a giant bow rather than a gold star, or you could make your own topper.
10. Balance the décor
Given the many decorations on your tree, you have to ensure that everything is well-balanced and spread out to your liking. Arrange embellishments from the top of the tree and then work towards the bottom. This way, you can easily check your design as you dress up your tree.
11. Finish off with a tree skirt
Often overlooked, a Christmas tree skirt is the finishing touch to your decorations and serves to balance the overall design of your Christmas tree. Tree skirts have many benefits too, from covering the unsightly 'legs', trunk or stand of a tree, to protecting your floors and carpets from any fallen pine needles (if you have a real tree).
It naturally draws attention to the tree's lower portion and helps to produce a complete, harmonious look. Plus, it's the perfect backdrop for beautifully wrapped Christmas presents. Alternatively, if you have a potted Christmas tree or one that comes in a basket, opt for a tree rug instead.