Design a Christmas Tree in 11 Simple Steps

As the holiday season approaches, our family conversations start to center around one common theme – the Christmas tree. While some families decorate their tree starting with Halloween, we focus on our tradition of designing an amazing tree for Christmas that celebrates our journey as a family. 
Decorating our tree together is one of our most meaningful family traditions, and our tree serves as a well-decorated storybook, complete with personalized Christmas ornaments that celebrate every milestone and special occasion. 

We love to have small traditions that lead up to decorating the Christmas tree. Before tree decorating begins, we move our Christmas mugs to the cabinet by the coffee maker and use some of our favorite Christmas serving pieces for display as home décor. We want our holiday mugs and plates close at hand so we can enjoy our hot beverages and plates of cookies with an extra helping of Christmas spirit. 
We love our traditions so much that we were inspired to share these 11 simple steps to decorating a breathtaking tree so you can spend more time celebrating the moments of the holiday season with your family. 


11 Simple Steps for Decorating the Perfect Christmas Tree   

  1. Choose the tree’s location

  2. Gather the materials

  3. Choose your tree

  4. Prepare the branches

  5. Add the lights

  6. Place the tree topper

  7. Fill out the design with picks and sprays

  8. Use interior ornaments for effect (smaller, reflect lights)

  9. Include the children to place their favorite ornaments 

  10. Wrap tree garland strategically (we also love ribbon)

  11. Personalized Christmas ornaments get prime placement


1. Decide where the Christmas tree will spend the season

In the excitement of getting a Christmas tree, you don’t want to skip over this important step. Consider the flow of your home, the gatherings you will have during the season, and the placement of furniture around the room where you want your tree. Is it a comfortable space that can accommodate the size tree you are imagining? 

Considerations for Choosing the Perfect Spot for a Christmas Tree 
  • Height of ceiling 

  • Width of space 

  • Clearance from fireplace 

  • Flow of traffic 

The best place for a Christmas tree is in a room with great sight lines. This way, you can enjoy the view of your beautifully designed tree from wherever you are - preparing a meal or snuggling on the couch to watch a holiday classic movie. Your guests will also appreciate a well-placed tree during your holiday gatherings. Not just for the design, but for their ability to move around without squeezing past the tree. 


2. Gather all the materials you will need to design your tree

If you are like us, you’ve been collecting holiday décor for years. This is an ideal opportunity to look over the décor you have and decide if you need to add or replace any holiday trimmings. As much as we want to pause and reminisce through all the Christmas ornament boxes, let’s save that for later when the family gathers to hang Christmas ornaments together. 


Christmas Décor to Gather 

  • Tree garland 

  • Tree topper 

  • Christmas ornaments 

  • Lights 

  • Tree skirt 

These materials can be coordinated into one theme or a mix and match collection that reflects the journey of your life as a family. We love a tree that mixes colors, textures, and lights. If you have enough decorations of all one color or theme, design a smaller tree for your all-seasons room or kid’s play area to carry the holiday joy throughout your home. 


3. Choose the perfect type of tree for your home

There are those who say nothing beats the look and smell of a fresh Fraser fir at Christmas time! And for others, the look of a tinsel tree is what brings back old memories of Christmases past. Choosing between a real tree and an artificial tree is all about personal preference. 

A tinsel tree is an ideal solution for those who prefer less fuss and mess or to add the modern look and feel that you can’t quite capture with a real tree. A tinsel tree will make a stunning addition to your home for the holidays, and many of the suggestions that follow will apply to creating your festive tinsel tree display. 

4. Prepare the branches 

When looking for the ideal live Christmas tree to fill the space you have chosen, look for a tree with extra weight so you can prune out some of the branches as needed. After bringing the tree home and placing it in the stand, allow the tree to rest and settle into its natural shape. Pruning the branches will allow you to create space where needed for your design – as an added perk, you’ll have fresh-cut trimmings for fantastic smelling décor around your home. 
Places for Extra Trimmings 
  • Wreaths 

  • Mantle 

  • Chandelier 

  • Windowsills 

With a tinsel tree, branches can be inserted and then fluffed out to fill space and create a natural branch look. Tinsel trees and other artificial Christmas trees are built to last, so creating a design for your Christmas tree each year can be a breeze. You can build the tree of your dreams year after year as you add to your personalized Christmas ornament collection and change up the details, like the tree topper, tree garland, or tree skirt. 


5. Light it up 

When you are choosing the right tree for your space, keep in mind that the Golden Rule for Christmas lights is 100 bulbs per two feet of tree. As you are placing the strings of light around the tree, you will want to put them towards the interior of the tree to illuminate the branches from the inside out and from the bottom to the top. For extra sparkle, double up on lights or mix and match styles to get just the right amount of twinkle for a look you’ll love. 


Lighting Styles 

  • Traditional incandescent 

  • LED 

  • Globe 

  • Bubble 

Using the plug as a starting point, wrap lights around the tree’s trunk and continue up through the center of the tree. When you reach the top, weave your way back down the tree, arranging lights further out on the branches. The placement of the lights will allow all the Christmas ornaments and décor on your tree to sparkle as the pieces reflect the light! 


6. Crown your tree with the perfect tree topper

A tree topper can be where your story starts. Whether you have a family heirloom angel tree topper, Gold Beaded Star Tree Topper, or fluffy red satin bow, it’s sure to be the crowning glory of your breathtaking tree design. It is important to get the tree topper into place before all the personalized Christmas ornaments are arranged to reduce the chance your design could be disturbed by an accident. 

While the two most popular tree toppers are the angel and star tree toppers, choose the tree topper that best complements your design. There are many beautiful and unique tree toppers to choose from. Or, like Coton Colors CEO and founding artist Laura Johnson, you can create your own Christmas tree designs when you can’t find the one you want to represent the joy of your family.  

7. Create visual interest and fill space with picks and sprays

Picks and sprays are traditionally nestled in between Christmas tree branches to fill in those vacant spaces. The single stems of leaves, flowers, glittered berries, or other décor can complement your Christmas ornaments and enhance the overall look of your design. The stems are made of bendable wire, allowing you to add instant texture and flair as you desire. 
Other Creative Ways to Use Picks and Sprays 
  • Wreaths and garland 

  • Stocking accent 

  • Gift wrap accessory 

  • Table centerpiece 

Picks and sprays make versatile décor to carry your design through your home. Use the stems as accessories to decorate other seasonal items to coordinate your breathtaking Christmas tree design with your overall décor. From your table centerpiece to the mantel, be inspired to think beyond the tree! 

8. Hang smaller ornaments inside the tree

Every Christmas ornament plays an important part in a breathtaking Christmas tree design! The inside of the tree is an ideal spot for all the smaller, inexpensive Christmas ornaments you have collected over the years. No matter the design or color, they will add to the beauty of your tree by reflecting the lights and making your tree appear fuller. 
It is easier to hang these filler ornaments now instead of after your personalized Christmas ornaments are placed around the outside. Take your time looking through the branches and placing the smaller ornaments to fill up the empty spots inside the tree. Sometimes these smaller Christmas ornaments carry the best memories, so take time to share them and celebrate the story of your family. 

9. Include the children in decorating  

It’s not quite a Christmas tradition unless the kids are helping decorate the tree. Whether they’re placing garlands or barely tall enough to hang ornaments on the lowest branches, it simply wouldn’t be complete without their personal touches on the tree. 

Each year, our families gather the children around and let them unbox their collection of personalized ornaments. We reminisce over their meanings and how much the kids have grown. Then we have them take turns finding a special spot to hang their keepsake for the season. This shared time together is a wonderful way to reflect upon their accomplishments and include them in the design of the tree. From handmade ornaments to beautiful glass bulbs, there’s just something special about the personal flourishes a child adds to the tree.   

10. Wrap your design in tree garland

Every gorgeous tree needs a stylish garland to tie the look. Whether it is the fun and colorful addition of Pom Pom Garland or the sparkly touch of Gold Star Garland, we love wrapping our design with a bit of playful fun or glittery glam. Wrap your tree loosely from top to bottom with the tree garland that represents your family’s style best.  

Tree garland is versatile décor that you can bring out any time of year to create a display that is the life of any party. You can easily create a decorative piece that complements the theme or style of your gatherings with tree garland. We use tree garland as part of the finishing touch on our Christmas tree as well as on some of our home décor year-round, like the fireplace mantle.  

11. Place your personalized Christmas ornaments in places of prominence 

If your family is like ours, this is where we all settle in and take our time placing our personalized Christmas ornaments on the tree. These Christmas ornaments celebrate the story of our lives, and we take our time over coffee and cocoa to relive the achievements and reminisce about each occasion. Each personalized Christmas ornament is placed on an outside branch, prominently displayed so that our tree weaves a story that captures our family celebration. 

Pull out each personalized Christmas ornament and relive the moments, one by one. The sweetest part of Christmas is being with the ones we hold dear, and decorating a Christmas tree is all about being together as a family. The beautiful tree is a little about the design and a lot about the family gathered around it. 

Décor for the Area Surrounding the Christmas Tree 

And just like that, your family Christmas tree is decorated, and the holiday season can officially begin! Spread the seasonal décor from your Christmas tree throughout your home, starting at the base of the tree. A tree skirt is the perfect festive finishing touch to your tree. 

Whether you choose a Gold Star Tree Skirt, Red Stripe Tree Skirt, or Red Stripe Tree Skirt with Pom Poms, you will find a tree skirt that pairs perfectly with both traditional colors and more modern styles. No matter how you decorate, the tree skirt provides the perfect backdrop for presents and an extension of your Christmas tree into the rest of your home. 

Effortlessly carry the theme of your breathtaking tree throughout your home with seasonal serveware. We love displaying our holiday serveware as décor when not in use at a family gathering! Place a holiday platter on your mantle and keep a platter for cookies or candy on hand throughout the season while adding seasonal décor to your space. Display with a plate stand or add to your tablescape every evening throughout the season. 

As the holiday season approaches, remember that time well spent is the time spent with family. Gather your decorations, share your memories, weave your story together, and reminisce with love and laughter. When you look back, these are truly the breathtaking moments of the holiday season. 


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