Our top tips to decorate a Christmas tree like a professional

Danish Christmas Tree with Traditional Decorations
How to style a Christmas tree like a professionalSolStock - Getty Images

A perfectly styled Christmas tree is a thing of beauty. Unfortunately, though, our attempts to recreate the magical looks found in a department store window often fall flat — our own fir looking a little sparse or haphazard in comparison.

But don’t worry. With a little planning and an organised approach, decorating a tree like the pros isn’t all that difficult. We’ve put together an easy step-by-step guide to creating a Pinterest-worthy festive display in your own home.

Decide on real or faux

Ultimately, it’s a matter of taste, but there are pros and cons to each. Despite what you might think, a real spruce is still a more environmentally-friendly option than going artificial. The Carbon Trust say that you’d have to reuse your faux fir for seven to 20 years to make it a greener choice.

But plumping for the genuine article is pricier as you have to replace them every year — and they can be difficult to dispose of when the festivities are over. Check RecycleNow to find your local recycling point.

A fake tree won’t fill your living room with that wonderful wintery scent of pine, but nor will it shower your floor with needles. They can also be easily packed away at the end of the season. Plus, if your tastes don’t run especially traditional, there are faux options in a variety of non-green hues that may suit you better.

If you’re using a real tree, let it stand for a couple of hours to allow the branches to drop into position. For those with an artificial tree, spend some time fluffing and bending the boughs to ensure its final form is as full as possible.

Choose a theme

Reusing family heirloom decorations adds a nostalgic touch, but piling on a complete mish-mash of ornaments in different colours and styles can leave things feeling muddled.

To create the tree of your dreams, Selfridges' Home Buying Manager, Eleanor Gregory, suggests deciding on a palette of three colours that will sit comfortably within your home’s general decor, complemented by a few statement baubles for a final flourish.

Sticking to one scheme should help your tree feel more cohesive overall. Be selective in your choices, but if your old baubles don’t fit with last year's design, don’t throw them away — use them to adorn your Christmas table, mantelpiece or just keep them for future use.

Add the lights

If you haven’t got a pre-lit tree, now is the time to add your lights. Most modern strings will use LEDs, but just double check when purchasing, as these are far more environmentally-friendly than traditional bulbs and are cheaper to run. They also stay cool to the touch, reducing the risk of fire.

Choose lights that will complement your overall scheme — if you’ve gone for a blue and silver design, cool LEDs will be best. For golds, reds and greens, copper or warm white will be more suitable.

A good rule of thumb is around 100 lights for every foot and a half of tree, or at least 300 lights (15 metres) for a 6ft tree. Frankly, though, for a finish with real wow-factor, we say the more the merrier!

To hang the lights, start at the bottom and weave them around in a spiral, keeping them close to the front of the boughs so they don’t get lost in the branches. Most fairy lights have two or three wires twisted together — keep them in place by fixing a strand over and under each branch.

Time for baubles

Once you’ve chosen your colour scheme, invest in a few bumper packs of baubles in various sizes to provide a good base and evenly hang these around the tree.

Positioning larger baubles towards the back will create the illusion of more depth and putting little ones on the tips will create a full finish. Pick one colour at a time and start from the inside out, working towards the edges. Stop regularly and stand back to check that everything looks balanced.

Admiral has a calculator to help you pin down the number of baubles you’ll need. For a bushy 6ft tree with a full finish, aim for around 70 decorations minimum.

Once you’ve added all of your base baubles, then it’s time for the novelty or larger final finishes. Using three of each can help the tree feel more balanced overall.

Consider sustainability where you can. Christmas can be a wasteful time, so Eleanor suggests avoiding plastic where possible. Make sure to pack baubles away carefully after Christmas to prevent breakages.

Final touches

To tie everything together, add a statement topper. “Faux trees will often carry more weight if you’d prefer to go for something more ornate,” says Eleanor. “A large bauble at the top is also a good way to add a finishing touch.”

Don’t forget a tree skirt or collar to cover unsightly stands. Some of the larger ones also make good bases for presents — and stop pine needles from getting on your floors.

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