How To Decorate A Christmas Tree: 4 Simple Tips For A Professional Style

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During the holiday season, the Christmas tree is the focal piece of the home. Wondering how to decorate a Christmas tree in a beautifully stylish way? Use these easy tips and tricks to make yours look like a professional decorated it!

For a long time, I would open up the ornament boxes, hang those ornaments all over the tree, and maybe throw on some garland (or maybe not). Then I’d take a step back and wonder, “Why doesn’t it look better than this?”

Don’t get me wrong. It looked OK.

It worked for looking festive and we had fun with it, but I really wanted to create an eye-catching piece that would stand on its own as a holiday focal point.

That’s when I started learning the art of decorating a tree.

Didn’t know that existed? I didn’t either – but now I do and there’s no going back. And it worked! Instead of trying to follow some formula, I now have a creative sense of tree decorating that yields the beautiful holiday tree I wanted for so long! 

I’m sharing the tips and tricks I didn’t know (but do now) with you so that you can add that long-desired sophistication and style to your Christmas tree! Use these 4 tips and strategies to start decorating your Christmas tree with ribbon – or without!

Real Life Examples of Our Holiday Trees

To show you that you do not need a lot of ornaments, or spend a lot of money to create a lovely tree we’re sharing our last two years of holiday Christmas trees.

This was our Decorated Christmas tree in 2020

it was inexpensive and we made much of the decorations ourselves.

You can find those projects here:

A holiday christmas tree decorated with handmade garlands, gold ornaments.

Update : This was our Christmas tree in 2021

We just moved into our new home and holiday decorating was a blur. Our house is 165 year old Victorian and BIG. We had to have several trees around the house to even make it look a little bit festive. This was our favorite one and the one that was the least expensive!

This tree came together with cheap gold beads from Ikea, gold butterflies from the dollar store, dried orange slices (which we used liberally all over the house), ribbon, and gold ornaments from the prior year!

I also had a box of old chandelier crystal garlands and drops that worked perfectly for the old world victorian theme of this Christmas tree. Keep a look out for those at antique stores or flea markets!

We spent about $50.00 CDN all in to decorate this tree. Everyone loved it!

A victorian styled christmas tree with dried orange slices, gold ornaments and butterflies, with ribbons, beads and crystals.

How to Decorate a Christmas Tree Like a Pro (Easily!)

A few years ago I finally started learning how to turn Christmas tree decor into an art form. If you do a quick search on the internet, you’ll find that there are an almost endless number of Christmas tree decorating styles.

In fact, I did it – and it was overwhelming!

That’s why I’m not going to show you any tree decor styles. Instead, I’m showing you easy tips for breaking down how to decorate a Christmas tree so that you can create your own professional-looking, gorgeous design.

Use these easy strategies to understand how the elements of tree decorating come together and follow my 4 simple steps to tree decorating to enjoy your own swoon-worthy holiday tree this year!

I’m going to share my actual Christmas tree and my step-by-step decorating process so you can see how easy it is to pull together a beautiful holiday focal point.

Style or Theme

Before we get into the steps of decorating a gorgeous tree, I wanted to take a quick moment to say a word about choosing a colour scheme or decorating theme. 

Some people love to use homemade ornaments while others prefer a modern farmhouse look. Still, others might prefer to have all gold, all silver, or another colour tree. Your style may change from year to year or it can stay the same for multiple years.

Before you get into the process of actually decorating your tree, decide your style or theme for the year and get prepared by having your decorations ready to put on the tree.

Once you have that done, the rest will fall into place using the rest of these tips.

Pro Tip: Traditional trees with heirloom ornaments that do not match ARE a theme – my mom does this every single year and her tree is always beautiful and memorable. To pull a theme like this together, be sure to use consistent light color and garlands throughout the entire tree.

Bonus Pro Tip: Give thought to your gift wrapping as well. Paper and ribbon that match your theme elevate your tree decorating to a completely different level. Gift wrapping does not need to be expensive. Keeping wrapping simple with plain paper, and theme-matched colored ribbons can look quite elegant.

Step 1: Fluff Your Tree

Whether you display a real tree or an artificial tree, finding one that’s full and doesn’t have large bare spots is key. After securing your tree in its stand, take a few moments to fill it out and fluff it up so that it looks its best.

And, if you do find a small bare spot that your ornaments or garland won’t entirely hide, turn your tree so that the spot is in a less prominent area of view.

Pro Tip: Fluff a bit, and then stand back about 10 feet, or as far as you can go and take another look at your tree. This gives a different perspective on how the tree looks and you will often see spots that you missed or spots that need a little more fluffing. Branches on the outside get fanned out straight, branches on the inside of the tree get bent upward and downward to fill in gaps.

Step 2: Put Lights on the Tree

After your tree is looking full and beautiful, it’s time to add your lights.

Strands of Christmas tree lights come in white or green varieties. Choose the type of strand that matches your tree so that the wires won’t be noticed. 

The lights themselves may be all white, mixed colours, or a combination, which is an important factor when deciding on your colour scheme or decor theme.

To hang your lights, start down at the base of the trunk and work your way towards the top. Wrap lights around every prominent branch while you also move from the trunk out towards the branch tips and back towards the trunk.

Don’t forget to re-fluff any branches (as needed) as you hang your lights. 

Pro Tips: I like to decorate my Christmas trees at night. As I add my lights, I can shut off the indoor lights and turn on the tree lights to make sure I don’t have gaps or uneven light distribution anywhere on my tree.

How many lights do you put on a Christmas tree?

The general rule of thumb is to put about 100 bulbs for every foot of the Christmas tree. That means a 6ft tree would use 600 Christmas tree light bulbs!

There are 3 common types of Christmas lights that you can use. Here’s a brief rundown of all of them so you can determine which works best for your decor.

Traditional Incandescent Christmas Lights

This style is the most popular! You can find them in a variety of colours and sizes, and they can be used indoors or outdoors. The lights heat up, which releases the pine scent of the tree into the room but can also create a fire hazard on a live, dried-out tree.

LED Lights

A newer style than the traditional incandescents, LED lights don’t produce heat and are usually more expensive. However, they are also very safe to use for decorating because they’re fireproof and flameproof.

Globe Lights

These round lights come in a variety of sizes. They appear softer than mini lights but seem to produce more light thanks to the light from each bulb covering a larger area of the tree.

Pro Tip: Always add lights to the inside of the branches of your tree. Adding lights to the inside of the tree branches adds a magical twinkling effect that creates dimension and depth.

Step 3: Put Garland on the Tree

To garland or not to garland… that is the question.

I am a big fan of using garland to decorate Christmas trees because it makes them look more complete and finished. It is, in my opinion, much more difficult to achieve that professional look to your Christmas tree decor if you don’t use garland (or an equivalent element) to tie all the decor elements together.

When decorating with garland, plan to use 2 garland strands for every vertical foot of your tree. Start at the top of your tree and weave the garland through the branches as you make your way down.

For this year’s tree, I went with a very easy crochet garland for something different.

Pro Tip: If you are going to use different types of garland, or different sizes, be sure they match somehow. Or, at the very least, match your theme. If you use different sizes, colours, and textures, you will create a chaotic look for your tree. Keeping the colours or textures in the same family will add cohesiveness to your tree’s final look.

Decorating a Christmas Tree With Ribbon

Using ribbon to decorate with instead of garland is a popular alternative. Use of one these three different options for decorating your tree with ribbon:

  • Loosely wrap your ribbon around your tree in horizontal bands.
  • Hang it in cascading streams from the top to the bottom of your tree.
  • Tuck your ribbon in toward the tree trunk to create a billowy effect.

Step 4: Add Your Ornaments

Utilize your ornaments to create a sense of balance on your tree. I recommend about 10-18 per vertical foot of tree. 

If you have your tree in the corner and aren’t able to see the back, you’ll likely use a number closer to 10. If your tree is viewable from all sides, that number will be closer to 18. This isn’t an exact science – stand back and look at your tree once you have your ornaments on and adjust them as needed.

Follow these tips to achieve a balanced, professional look for your Christmas tree:

  1. Hang your favorite ornaments first – in highly visible locations.
  2. Then, hang your larger ornaments, making sure to evenly space them around your tree.
  3. Use small and medium-sized ornaments to fill in around your large ones. Just like your lights, hang some ornaments closer to the tree trunk to add interest.
  4. Finish your decor with any specialty items that make your tree unique: icicles, handmade ornaments, etc.

Pro Tip: Always add ornaments to the inside of the branches of your tree. Just like adding lights to the inside of the tree, adding ornaments adds depth and a professional decorator’s touch.

How to Decorate a Christmas Tree: Final Thoughts

There is no “one and done” formula to decorating the perfect Christmas tree because there are just so many options and ways to make your tree unique. 

If you’re trying to figure out how to decorate your Christmas tree in a beautiful and stylish way, forget about looking for some formula and instead use these simple tips to embrace your own creativity and sense of style.

Before you know it, you’ll have a focal point for your Christmas decor that you’ll love looking at and will impress even the professionals!

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