Although Christmas calls for an enthusiastic display of eye-catching ornaments, few trees are naturally adapted to present a grand show. Candy canes get tangled in unruly branches, crystal snowflakes disappear amid dense foliage, and delicate glass orbs rest precariously on needles instead of hanging free. Old-fashioned feather trees have widely spaced branches designed for exhibiting ornaments with ease, but these man-made boughs lack the wonderful aroma and texture that only a real tree provides. Eric Pike, holiday editorial director of Martha Stewart Living, offers a practical solution to this Christmas conundrum: Prune some branches of an evergreen with well-defined horizontal limbs to mimic the shelflike layers of a feather tree.
Giving a tree a "trim" before adorning it with trimmings is simple and effective -- Eric has used it on many trees for work projects, and on his own trees. Inspired by Victorian etchings of tabletop trees, he created the example shown here in his apartment, which handsomely accommodates frosty-hued antique ornaments from his collection. Whether you focus on one color palette, as he did, or assemble a kaleidoscopic melange, the outstretched arms of an elegantly thinned tree will show off all your treasures.