WORDS Donna Blaber First published in Renovate magazine
Decorating a Christmas tree is a time-honoured tradition in most homes and like most time-honoured traditions there’s no right or wrong way to do it.
Whether you’re a devotee of real or artificial trees, green or gold, eclectic or traditional, personalised or polished, it all comes down to personal taste – with a big dose of compromise when you’re combining different family traditions and a range of individual preferences in one tree!
There are a few basic guidelines however that can help ensure your tree best expresses your household’s unique history and ever-evolving art forms, and fits well in your home environment. Here’s a sampling of tips from the experts.
Once the tree is firmly erected in its chosen spot, check your lights and make sure they are in good working order. For the best lighting effects put the lights on first, beginning at the base of the trunk and working your way up, weaving strings of lights evenly around all the major branches starting with the inside branches and working your way outwards towards the tips, then back inwards again and on to the next branch.
Once all the lights are in place, check again to make sure they are all still working. It’s easiest to make changes before the rest of the decorations go on.
Then, beginning at the top of tree and working downwards, drape the garlands. Hang thin beaded garlands from branch to branch, and loosely wrap tinsel around the tree from top to bottom. Alternatively you can run the garlands in a circle around the trunk area only, or in a circle around the outside like a barber’s pole.
Next, sort your ornaments into two piles, one containing plain ornaments and the second containing favourite ‘heirloom’ ornaments. Begin by using the larger ornaments from the plain pile as fillers, placing them evenly within the tree’s interior to add depth and interest. Step back periodically to view your progress and make adjustments. Once completed it’s time to showcase your heirloom ornaments, placing each one in a prime position, spaced evenly around the tree. Finish off your tree with a tree topper. Traditionally a star or an angel is used, but you can also choose to finish off with a Santa, or even a giant bow.
· Tiny bouquets of fresh flowers provide an old-fashioned look.
· Ribbons and bows of satin and velvet add glamour.
· Shells left au natural or sprayed in silver and gold add shades of a Kiwi summer.
· Natural elements like pine cones, dried grapevine and unusually shaped seed pods work to bring the outdoors in.
· Bake gingerbread stars and hang by threading wire around the indents between the pointers. Alternatively you can wrap each star in cellophane and attach to your tree with ribbons.
· Remember Christmas trees should be filled with memories so consider purchasing or making a new ornament every year to remind you of something special.
· For extra design flair coordinate coloured gift wrap to match your tree. Alternatively, use brown craft paper topped off with colourful ribbons and bows, or recycle your kids’ artwork and use it for a vibrant display of one-off designer wraps.
Tips & Tricks
· Those starting from scratch may like to choose an overall colour scheme and/or theme for their tree. Hot colours this year include navy, sage green, plum and bronze. Ideas for themes are endless and range from angels and Santas, to teddy bears and stars.
· Don’t skimp on lights – trees look amazing when at least 100 mini lights are used for every vertical half metre of tree.
· Lights can be mixed and matched – use a background of white lights on the inside branches and coloured lights on the outer branches, or vice versa.
· Tree lights typically are strung on green or white wire strands – choose strands that match your tree so the wire will be hidden.
· Use a variety of garlands made of paper, ribbon or foil.
· Don't hang all your ornaments on the tips of the branches, for more depth place some on the inner branches of the tree.
Involve the kids:
· Create new decorations every year with your children using a new theme. Use ribbons one year, beads the next. Within a child’s lifetime you’ll have a Christmas treasure trove of memories to share. Don’t forget to add your child’s name and a date to each creation.
· Thread beads or buttons onto thin wire or thick fishing line to create unique decorations which dangle beautifully.
· Revamp old-fashioned ball decorations by gluing on ribbon, glitter, and coloured paper. Or let your kids go wild with sparkling glitter pens and permanent markers.
· Make miniature paper snowflakes by folding coloured or plain paper into four, and cutting out shapes. Open up and hang.
· Bend 20cm lengths of wire into candy cane shapes then thread with soft lollies like goody, goody gumdrops or fruit jellies until the wire is full, then secure by twisting the wire at each end.