The ultimate Christmas tree guide: how to choose, style and decorate your perfect tree

Style your Christmas tree like an expert with our tips for everything from choosing your tree, to flocking, styling and decorating

Presents wrapped in brown paper underneath a snowy artificial Christmas tree

Have you ever wondered why the Christmas trees that line your favourite department store look *especially* magical?

Advertisement

Beautifully lit and full to the brim with sparkling baubles, they appear as though they’ve just been plucked straight out of your favourite Christmas rom-com – but how?

Artificial Christmas tree in a dining room
Christmas tree by Lights4Fun

Chances are, the beautiful festive trees you spot out and about at Christmas time, whether it’s at your favourite restaurant or a historical National Trust manor house, well, they’ve probably been expertly styled by a team of highly skilled professional decorators.

If you’ve been looking to recreate this magical look but don’t know where to start, don’t fret – we’ve got you covered. Here’s how to decorate your Christmas tree like the experts!

Start with the basics

How to choose a real Christmas tree

A real Christmas tree next to a piano
Image by Garden Trading

To start off, choosing the right tree for your space is so important. While the of the tree you choose height is important, the width is another dimension that people often overlook.

Get around this by taking a length of string to measure the space you want to fill – you can then take this with you to assess the size of trees you’re looking at in store.

Real Christmas tree with star shaped ornaments
Image by Garden Trading

It’s also worth considering which type of tree you chose to take home, as each will respond differently to different conditions.

The needles on a Norway Spruce tree, for example, will drop soon after the tree is brought indoors, so it’s best purchased closer to Christmas. If you’re not sure about which tree is right for you, ask the seller to give you some advice.

Choosing an artificial tree

If you’ve chosen to buy an artificial tree this Christmas the choice can be equally, if not more, overwhelming than choosing one that’s real.

Aspen Mountain Spruce Christmas Tree - Pre-Lit
Artificial tree by Cox & Cox

While it’s tempting to follow the latest tree trends, it’s good to remember that you’ll likely have the same artificial tree for a good few years. If you don’t have a clear image of exactly what you want, we advise choosing the most natural looking green tree, as you can always add ornaments, flocking spray, ribbon, feather boas and tinsel to keep your tree up to date with trends.

Styling your Christmas tree

When you get the tree home, place it in the spot you want it to be and then trim the plastic netting. Avoid any temptation to do this outside prior to bringing it in – the journey indoors can damage the tree (hello, doorways!). You should then thoroughly check the base.

Normally, the tree is dressed from the angle we view it at, and while decorations may not weigh much, it’s amazing how much they can end up dragging a tree down to the floor. Get around this by attaching the top of the tree to the ceiling if it seems to wobble.

Artificial Christmas Tree by a fireplace
Image by Next

If your tree is artificial, sprucing is the most crucial step on the journey to a perfect natural looking tree.

We’re all guilty of opening out the branches without any real thought as to how a natural tree would look, but it’s always good to make sure that you pull the branches out in different directions, some up, some to the side, some off at angles. If you’re struggling to figure it out, google real Christmas trees to get an idea of how it should look!

How to make your tree appear fuller

If you’ve ever wondered why the trees styled by professionals seem fuller and lusher than the ones available to buy, don’t be fooled – these have been tweaked to perfection.

Artificial Christmas Tree with brown paper packages underneath
Image by Next

To achieve this look at home, don’t worry about clipping wayward branches – in fact, if you do have any bald spots, you can clip a branch or two from the back and then tie them to the trunk with some twine or floristry wire. Faux foliage (ie – ivy or, sprigs of eucalyptus) can be used to beef up the shape too.

Flocking your Christmas tree

If you’re planning to add some spray snow, the time is now. Don’t do it after the decorations (and especially the lights!) have been put on – the spray can end up clogging the twinkle.

Flocked christmas tree
Image by Lights4Fun

You should also let the snow dry for 30 minutes before proceeding.

Add a Christmas tree skirt 

For artificial and real trees alike, you should hide the tree’s base. There is likely to be a period of a few weeks before any gifts are added, so hiding an untidy tree stand is essential.

Rattan christmas tree skirt
Rattan tree skirt by Cox & Cox

For a professional finish, drape tweed throw or faux fur material around the base of the tree, or add a stack of rustic logs. If you want to get even more creative, a hessian sack decorated with a large bow, a large log basket, or even empty, wrapped parcels look amazing – plus, they can also be used to hide wires or plugs.

How to hang lights on your Christmas tree 

Pre-lit trees are great for those who struggle to light their Christmas tree evenly, although admittedly, half the fun is detangling the fairy lights, right?!

Prelit tree with white baubles
Pre-lit tree by Cox & Cox

If you don’t have a pre-lit tree, make sure that your string of fairy lights is long enough for your tree. For a perfect tree you need at least 5-10m per 5ft tree. Wind lights from the top to the bottom, draping over and under branches. Don’t forget to drape the lights near the trunk of the tree – a professional Christmas tree will look lit from within, not just sparkly around the edges.

Get decorating!

We definitely don’t want anyone to throw away their treasured childhood decorations because they don’t fit the colour scheme, perfection is unique to us all! In general, though, sticking to a combination of two or three colours on your tree will help to tie each element together.

Green Christmas Tree with
Baubles by Cox & Cox

We recommend filling the inner branches with plain baubles and tree fillers – tinsel, beads, feather boas – of similar colours, and then placing your more decorative and sentimental ornaments on the outer branches.

Speaking of tree ornaments, there is a balance to be found when arranging the placement of your baubles. Try not to place too many large ornaments towards the top of your tree otherwise you may find it looks top-heavy. And don’t forget to check out our guide to the best Christmas tree toppers on the market this year!

Try to put sparkly/metallic things near fairy light bulbs as they will sparkle and shimmer in the glow of the lights.

After something more individual? Check out our round-up of this year’s best quirky Christmas tree decorations!

Add a personal touch!

A beautiful tree is ultimately just a beautiful tree, but what makes it truly special is the decorations that you use – some can hold a lifetime of memories, some can make new memories. What makes it special is that it is your tree filled with things that make you smile and feel happy. Plus, don’t forget your pets (read how to pet proof your Christmas tree here) – they’re part of your house too, so get a special decoration just for them.

Personalised baubles can be found in many high-street and online stores, but to achieve the same impact at home for a fraction of the price, try using glitter glue and metallic permanent markers on existing ornaments to add your own stamp.

Advertisement

Handmade decorations can also inject personality into your tree. You can get as adventurous as you like, from crocheted ornaments to quilled masterpieces. For novice crafters, try buying 25mm wide organza ribbon and following a YouTube tutorial for bows then dot them around your tree – vintage but classic.