O Tannenbaum - 10 steps to a beautiful tree

As the most distinctive symbol of the season, the Christmas tree plays an important role in most people's holiday decor. Below, find some tips for making your tree equal parts professional and personal.

1. Decide on a theme. Select color and style.  Going with the traditional red and green? Try variations with cranberry & moss, crimson & lime or burgundy & forest green.  Or, consider breaking from tradition. Try gold & rose, royal blue & purple, silver & icy blue.
Determine whether or not you want your tree to be modern, traditional, whimsical, natural, nostalgic or something else entirely.  Try using ideas that reflect your personality (unless you don't have one. In that case, borrow someone else's.)

2. Organize. Lay out your ornaments to establish what you have and what you need. Organize by color, size or style - whatever inspires you.

3. Power and Protect.  Place a power strip at the bottom of the tree. Remember to check the wattage of the lights you're using and make sure that the amount is compatible with the fuse that you are plugging into. 

4.  Lighten Up.  Lights should always be the first thing on your tree.  A good rule of thumb is that you should use 100 lights for every foot of tree.  Starting as close to the trunk as possible and working outward to the tips of the bows, string lights in blocks (as opposed to wrapping them around).  This gives the light depth and is far easier than working the other way around.
Tip: While 100+ light strands are common, working with strands of 50 lights is far easier to put on, take off, and store.  

 5. Take a good hard look.  Once your lights are on the tree, plug them in, and take a step back.  To ensure that your  lights are on evenly, squint your eyes.  If any spots appear darker, rearrange the light strands to fill the gaps.

6. Garlands aplenty.  If you plan to decorate with garlands, or ribbons now is the time.  Get creative with the way you drape: allow slack for swagging, attach the ribbons or garland at the top of the tree and hang vertically, or wrap the tree in more whimsical loops.  For a rich look, try using several garlands or ribbon in varying widths and textures, overlapping them like a scrapbook.

7. You've got balls.  Well, you do.  Most of us have plenty of traditional Christmas balls that intermingle with our more unique and personal ornaments.  Use these first.  Hang shiny ornaments inside the tree. This provides depth and will also reflect light.

8. Size really does matter.  While you want your ornaments to be spread evenly around the tree, in general, the larger ones should stay toward the middle and bottom of the tree, while the smaller ones should start at the top and work their way down. This prevents smaller ones from getting lost in the shuffle, and the larger ones from overwhelming the top of the tree.

9. Get Personal.  Now it's time to break out the personal and unique ornaments.  Hang them toward the tips of the branches.  Group two or three for impact.  In my family, we buy an ornament to represent something significant that happened that year.  This creates a sort of yearbook for your tree and sparks great conversation for visitors.

10. Skirting the issue: A tree skirt needn't be an expensive purchase from a department store.  Use a beautiful throw, table cloth, tapestry or fabric sample to soften up the bottom of the tree.  To give it some texture and structure, place the tissue paper you store your ornaments in under the cloth.  This also expedites the tree disassembling process after the holidays are over and you're ready to reclaim your living room!

Other ideas: Try including a few decorations that are different from what's traditional.  Consider using dried or silk flowers, feathers, jewelry, scarves and hats and glasses, old toys, baseball cards, pictures of family and friends, sheet music or poetry wrapped into cones... anything that reflects your personality can give your tree a unique flavor for the season.

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