Sunday, November 13, 2011

How to Layer a Christmas Tree

In the Little house we have a tradition, or addiction however you feel like looking at it, of going over the top on Christmas trees. We now have 3 trees.  Last year when I threw an ornament shower for my dear friend Katie, she asked my Mama the simple question "How do you layer decorations on your Christmas tree?" This year we decided to take that question and run with it, creating a "How To" post to share our knowledge with the world. (We photo documented the largest tree and the slim tree, and have finished photos for all.

1) Inspiration, colors and theme
When decorating or deciding to build a Christmas tree the most important thing to do is find your inspiration, colors, and if there's a theme. Last year when starting The Peacock Tree I had the idea of peacocks and the gorgeous colors of purple, blue, aqua, and greens and one day while at Hobby Lobby I found a gorgeous aqua peacock feather ribbon and a few peacock feather picks and the tree was born!

Our other trees are the Copper and Lime tree, which Mama has been putting together and up for almost a decade now, along with the Scarlet tree which has a southern feel with pearls, fleur de lis, magnolias and lives in a Scarlet room. We felt the name was appropriate

2) Choose a tree for the space and fill it with lights and cover with a tree skirt.
We have 3 trees in our house: a skinny pre-lit 7 ft tree in the dining room, a full 7 ft tree in the living room which stands on two gold boxes that my Daddy built to make it taller with 1400 lights on it, and a 6.5 ft pre-lit tree in our upstairs foyer.  Take your time to make it full and to make sure all the lights are operational.  We find tree skirts expensive so we often use fabric: brown and copper window sheers over two gold wooden stands for the copper and green tree, yards of gold sheer fabric on the Scarlet tree, and a cut up round gold table cloth as a skirt for the Peacock tree.

This will turn into the Copper and Green tree
This will become The Scarlet tree
3) Topper goes first
I feel we all know the scene in It's a Wonderful Life when they put the angel on the tree at the end of the decorating but to layer and make a beautiful tree put the topper first to make sure everything else blends together. There are many options for toppers Santa, an angel, leaves, feathers, spirals, again this is one of those things where you find your inspiration and add picks and height to your tree with pretty things.
We top with mixtures of size, shapes and color with 5 green and 15 copper vertical elements. 

This is a side view where you can see the grapes on the back and all the glitter sticks that surround for color and texture

On the Scarlet tree we use 6 gold picks that add different textures along with gold, white and scarlet magnolias

The peacock topper inspiration was the feather we found and then aqua spirals, we also have green tall picks, 5 peacock feathers and 24 gold spirals
4. Big spaces need big things
There are a wide variety of things you can use to create focal points in the larger spaces in the tree.  They are also excellent for cover cords, or blown out lights.  The goal is to minimize being able to see to the other side of the tree (unless it gives a glimpse of something spectacular like our rotating ornament.) Options for focal points: big ornaments, flowers, picks, ribbon (I'll get to this technique next.)
We use large reflective copper ornaments on the copper and lime tree.

While on the Scarlet tree we use the flower technique with two fake poinsettia bushes cut up into about 20 flowers and 5 berry picks

5. Ribbon, ribbon and more ribbon
When picking ribbon you want a variation of colors, sheer and solids, patterns and textures, shiny and glittery. We group two to three pieces of ribbon into groupings and swag them at a slight angle down the tree, tucking along the way.

 Copper-Lime tree has 3-9 ft groupings of 3 pieces ribbon, 2-6 ft groupings of two pieces of ribbon

This is where you use ribbon as the "bones" of the tree, tucking, it in along the way.

This is the best from the back picture I have I think where you can really see the back of the topper
The Scarlet tree has 4-5.5 ft ribbon groupings with 2 pieces of ribbon each.

6. Picks
Picks are complicated, the more random sometimes the prettier they are or the pretty ones off the tree do nothing on the tree. There are a wide range now of picks you always have the flowers but also there are grapes, pine cones and sticks, flashy things like I have on my peacock tree, birds, feathers, berries and I could go on. They are important on a tree to add color and shapes and sparkles and sometimes they become your favorite things.

On each of our trees we average 15-20 per tree but and there are 3 or 4 types that vary in color, size and shape.  Some pick are placed deeper in the tree, others stick out from the tree.

7) Ornaments and Finishers
There are two layers of ornaments: 1) ornaments 2) finishers.
-Ornaments should vary in shape and size.  Use the small balls to cover and help unify the tree.  Many trees stop here and look good.  However, the last layer is what takes it to another level.
-Finishers are the ornaments and garlands that go on top of everything that make the tree look spectacular.

Round 1 Ornaments
To give ideas on sizes the lime ball we consider large, the apple we call medium, and dark green ball is a small
For the Copper and Lime tree we put on 20 large ornaments, 34 medium ornaments, and 57 small ornaments.

Here you can also see Santa's Little Helper, Cindy Bear who gets jealous and anxious when we put up trees because it takes our attention away from her 

For the slimmer Scarlet tree there are 13 large ornaments, 17 medium and 42 small.


The Copper and Lime tree has 132 finishers. Yes the below picture is all finishers, but the finishing ornaments are light and don't take up space and only make the tree prettier.

 The Scarlet Tree again because it's smaller has 90 finishers.

 Once you add the finishers you can truly see how everything blends together and turn into a beautiful Christmas tree.

Now that I have shared with you how to layer and decorate a Christmas tree I have a few tips on how to acquire these items to decorate because if you went out and bought everything today it would not be cheap.

  • Utilize sales, a few days after Christmas.  Sales ads are your best friend 50%  to 90% off is much better than full price.  When you like it and it's a great deal, buy 5 to 10 of them.  
  • Create your own ornaments:  on my peacock tree many of the small balls I have painted the inside or glittered the inside with help of "how to" articles I've found online.
  • Repurpose things you find on sale, the yellow snowflakes you see on the peacock tree were from a garland I bought for $1 at Target last year after Christmas.  I cut the snowflakes off and made 20 snowflake ornaments for $1.
My dad's sister, Carol, and cousin, Regina, started my mother along this journey back in the 1980's and taught us many things about toppers and layering.  We continue to adapt and evolve with the times to make sure that the trees do not become dated.  
    Happy Decorating!