26 of Our Most Creative Christmas Tree Decorating Ideas
A tree sprouting up indoors, sparkling with lights and ornaments, always looks magical. But the examples here have a fairy-tale wonder all their own, with glittery gems, snowflakes that never melt, and woodland birds with ribbons in their beaks. Most enchanting? The decorations are easy to make, so you can tell your own Christmas story.
A well-dressed tree anchors the holiday decorations in many homes. And, like snowflakes, no two trees are alike. Where one person loves sparkle and color—the brighter, the better—another prefers the reserved elegance of a muted palette. And, of course, many people's style and tree vary from year to year, inspired by the nature outside your window or, in Martha's case, the beloved grandbabies gazing up at the tree in wonder. The tradition of the tannenbaum is celebrated all around the world. We love bringing out the heirloom ornaments each year, but there's also great fun to be had in crafting something new: layered felt animal shapes and a barnyard fence for an evergreen, perhaps, or doily stars and snowflakes for an elegant feather tree. The ideas that follow—for ornaments, toppers, garlands, and tree skirts—will bring new magic to what's already your family's favorite focal point.
Let the distinct themes in our editors' collection spark your creativity, whether you aim to adopt a new look from topper to trunk, or make a sampler of easy ornaments to mix in with your treasured standbys (or give away to friends and loved ones). Choose your style, pick your tree, and start a new family tradition.
With a display this winning, who needs string lights? Our tree is illuminated by shining spheres, from the baubles in its branches to the giant sequins lying beneath. The mix of finishes on the ornaments—from mirrored and yellow to matte and deep bronze—gives it rich texture, while wooden and wool accents keep it down-to-earth.
Shop Now: Silvertip Tree, from $110, silvertiptreefarm.com. Hawkins New York Glass Globe Ornaments, from $6 each, hawkinsnewyork.com. Sheep Farm Felt Neutral Luxe Handmade Felt Ball Garland, $24, amazon.com.
Scandinavian Christmas Tree
Crafts editor Silke Stoddard evokes a hygge holiday with her Christmas tree. When she recalls her childhood in Düsseldorf, Germany, the family used a natural minimalist design seen replicated here: a wooden-dowel tree with a mix of handmade straw and wood ornaments, bone-bead snowflakes and temari balls.
White Flocked Christmas Tree
Kevin Sharkey's faux tree is bedecked in fuchsia, orange, and coral handblown glass balls. While it has a retro vibe (white flocked trees were all the rage in the '50s and '60s), the monochromatic effect is perfectly modernist.
Shop Now: Grandin Road White Iced Fir Tree, 7 1/2', $344.25, grandinroad.com.
Fairylike Christmas Tree
Florist Emily Thompson shares her vision for a Christmas tree in an enchanted forest. A gargantuan Douglas fir sits on a mossy bed, trimmed with velvet ribbon and natural elements like spiky chestnuts, and pinecones, magnolia, spiny datura, and okra pods. The pièce de résistance is a teensy ladder fashioned out of birch and twine, and a bunny poised to join a winter-solstice party within the branches.
Shop Now: Terrain Preserved Reindeer Moss, $8, shopterrain.com.
Antique Christmas Tree
For collector John Derian, his love of Christmas antiques can be traced back to a faux tabletop tree he bought at a flea market more than a decade ago. This real one, placed antique spice canister, is carefully decorated with a mix of old ornaments and quirky handmade reproductions from the German company Nostalgie-Christbaumschmuck.
Crystallized Christmas Tree
We took a cue from Mother Nature's winter wardrobe for this gem of a tabletop tree, all dressed up in shades of icy blue, pale pink, and citrine. If you can string a bead, you can borrow her look with these jewelry-esque ornaments made from geodes, quartz, and shiny glass spheres.
Shop Now: Cost Plus World Market Gold and Marble Leilani Tulip Table, $550, worldmarket.com.
Floral Fantasy Christmas Tree
This exuberant gold-tinsel tree is in full bloom for the season. The fabric flowers all started out white—we chose inexpensive hydrangeas, lilies, anemones, and cherry blossoms, then spray-painted them in a vibrant palette and gave them gold ballpick centers. For more glimmer, gold balls in various sizes were wired to the tree stand.
Shop Now: Treetopia Toasted Champagne Gold Tinsel Tree, from $399, treetopia.com.
Dresden Christmas Tree
The ornaments on this Japanese pine tree, decorated by Eric Pike, span decades. The branches are hung with his collection of glass kugels, vintage lead ornaments, and 1970s silver snowflakes and stars (originally collected by his mother), as well as new glass balls. Ribbon hangers in shades of blue and green unify the look. The ribbon was also used to make medallion-style ornaments with silver Dresdens—die-cut embossed-paper shapes.
Bedecked in Baubles Christmas Tree
Like an exquisitely turned-out party guest, this white tabletop tree is draped in fancy jewelry; it's then placed in a faceted gold vase. Metallic pink, copper, and gold ornaments and colorful glass "gems" dangle—many pendant-style, on chains—from the boughs. The chains on the lower branches are longer, emphasizing the dripping-with-jewels effect.
Shop Now: Prelit White Sparkle Spruce Artificial Christmas Tree, 4 1/2', in Clear Lights, christmascentral.com. Kartell Jelly Vase, in Metallic Gold, $210, camodernhome.com. Stephen Antonson Shackleton Collection Customizable Macklin Center Table, inquire for pricing, stephenantonson.com.
Birds Alighting Christmas Tree
When Hannah Milman, our former executive crafts director, created this tree, she was envisioning a winter party in the woods—complete with birds and other creatures decorating it (much the way the birds and mice dressed Cinderella for the ball). Glittered birds swoop in with silver ribbons to wind through the branches. The trees themselves are fashioned from birch logs and dried twigs.
To build a tree, drill a pilot hole in the bottom of a sturdy stick (preferably birch, measuring about 60 inches high) and the top of a log (also preferably birch, measuring 12 to 18 inches high and 8 to 10 inches wide); screw a 5/16-inch double-sided screw into each stick, then into the log. Drill a 1/2-inch-deep hole in stick every several inches (for each branch), angling drill slightly downward; then drill one in top, straight down. Dab hot glue onto ends of branches and insert in holes. If desired, trim mushrooms and hot-glue to the log, and add batting to serve as snow.
Three-Ring Circus Christmas Tree
This display offers a different take on a three-ring circus—and its ringmaster is our former crafts director, Marcie McGoldrick. She wanted to create a fun, colorful tree. Taking vintage paper figures with movable parts as her inspiration, she made clip art of circus performers and animals to use as ornaments. They swing from trapezes, climb ladders (both made from striped paper straws), and frolic among honeycomb paper balls. The "tree" itself? A trio of graduated white wreaths, suspended from the ceiling with lengths of monofilament.
Frozen Wonder Christmas Tree
The icicles on this cool beauty evoke the tinsel that Sharkey loved when he was a child. To create this sophisticated display, he chose a silvertip fir with widely spaced boughs that allow plenty of room for the icicles, glitter-coated balls, and snowflakes. He hung ornaments right out to the ends of the branches so they would be weighed down, as in nature after a snowfall. The LED lights are on thin, bendable wire that blends into the tree, so all you see is the sparkle.
Geometric Christmas Tree
Triangles of thin brass tubing—commonly used for home details such as curtain rods—hang like modern icicles among the branches of this silvertip fir. To make the garland, snip pieces of tubing with an inexpensive cutting tool and string them onto mason's twine; the fluorescent string, used in bricklaying, adds a subtle hit of color.
Shop Now: Silvertip Tree Farm Silvertip Tree, 8', $260, silvertiptreefarm.com.
PVC-Pipe Christmas Tree
Everything you need to make this tree is readily available at your local home center: plywood, PVC pipe, a saw, and epoxy. This wood is four by six feet, but you can adjust the size.
Natural, Earthy, and Elegant Christmas Tree
This arrangement of branches is designed to resemble a leafy tree. It's set in a patinated vase with a bed of mood moss; rocks hold the branches in place. Use deciduous branches foraged from your yard. Look for ones that will radiate sideways, so that ornaments hang easily. The branches are rounded out with ornaments fashioned from Styrofoam balls covered with reindeer moss in shades of chartreuse and dark green.
Plaid Celtic Christmas Tree
This stout, radiant Norway spruce has been flocked using a nontoxic spray kit, so it appears as if it's dusted with snow. The tree is in a traditional stand that has been placed inside a galvanized tub. This can be a wonderful starter tree. Not only are these ornaments speedy to make, they're incredibly economical. You can churn out dozens—and complete the look with inexpensive gold balls and picks.
Shop Now: Peak Seasons Sno-Jet Home Flocking Kit, $30, shop.peakseasons.com. Simonson Farms Precut Norway Spruce, inquire for pricing, simonsonfarms.com. Restoration Hardware French Wingback Chair, in Sand Linen and Weather Oak Drifted, $1,595, rh.com.
Golden Christmas Tree
Sharkey punctuated this 10-foot-high flocked tree in his apartment with golden glass balls, then added new and vintage glass icicles. Cut felt serves as a tree skirt sprinkled in snowdrift.
Shop Now: Sterling Pre-Lit Heavy Flocked White Spruce, 9', $500, homedepot.com.
Starry Night Christmas Tree
Think outside the box (or rather, below the treetop) by adding starry ornaments throughout your Yuletide evergreen. In keeping with the metallic mode, the container is made from silver-sprayed twigs glued to a round pot. A splendidly decked-out concolor fir, enticing displays of cookies, and a crossed pair of linen runners painted with stars—who knew an entire holiday universe could exist on a tabletop?
Shop Now: Simonson Farms Concolor Fir Tree, inquire for pricing, simonsonfarms.com. Christmas Tree Light Reflectors, in Star Design, $18 for 24, blumchen.com. Fabricus & Kastholm Sideboard (FK150), $7,650, suiteny.com. Astier de Villatte Adélaïde Two Level Cake Stand, $280 each, johnderian.com.
Icy Christmas Tree
A group of Scandinavian designers in the 1960s envisioned the latter and produced not only glasses but also plates, pitchers, vases, and bowls that convincingly seemed to drip, crackle, and crystallize like ice. The result? Some of the coolest tableware to come out of the modern design movement. Although plastic, this vintage tree demonstrates how influential the icy aesthetic was in the 1960s and '70s. Two of Ann Wärff's Snowball Votives, which were produced in several sizes, rest below the icicle boughs, completing the frozen tableau.
Shop Now: Ann Wärff Snowball Votive Candleholder Set, $95, kostaboda.us. Crate & Barrel Small Spin Glass Hurricane Candle Holder/Vase, $18.47, crateandbarrel.com. Saarinen End Table, $699, roomandboard.com.
Pailette Christmas Tree
In this twist on the traditional focal point, metallic foil paillettes (ranging from small to super-sized) hang from graduated wire wreath forms, creating a modern mobile that evokes a trimmed tree. To assemble the tree, cut 3 pieces of thread for each of the top 3 tiers; we spaced our tiers 13, 17, and 20 inches apart. Tie a 4-inch gold paillette to the hanger to make the star.
Coastal Christmas Tree
Channeling childhood summers on Cape Cod, former crafts director Hannah Milman created a from-the-sea tree. Festooned with glittered beach finds and glass "buoy" ornaments, this blue spruce looks as if it washed up on a magical seashore. Shells, sea stars, and sand dollars are dusted with glitter—a single color, or two shades blended for an ombré effect—or simply left as is. We wrapped gifts in simple papers fastened with lengths of twine; shells and sea stars tucked beneath the ties echo the tree's array. Holiday booty is stashed in wire-mesh clamming baskets under the tree, which sits in a wooden bucket. A display of sea fans, shells, postcards, and sailboats completes the breezy scene.
Eastern Christmas Tree
Who says Christmas trees have to be fir? This asian-inspired tree, adorned with a flock of dazzling birds, is pure flight of fancy. Inspired by the bonsai collection at the Arnold Arboretum in his native Boston, Sharkey created this enchanting roost using an artificial bonsai. Spray-painted gold and accented with glitter, it rises out of a traditional pot topped with moss and snow. Japanese-lantern ornaments provide a pleasing change of scale, but the crowning glories of this tree are the birds—coated in glitter and grouped in flocks of like colors.
Heavenly Christmas Tree
Trim a tree with bright and shiny celestial symbols, representing the promise of the season. Here, delicate angels (made from cut-and-folded silver paper) flit among hand-formed ribbon stars; glass ornaments provide bursts of color in between. A simply sewn tree skirt conceals the stand in fine fashion.
Icicle Christmas Tree
Take a cue from Mother Nature and bring a winter wonderland indoors. These icicle ornaments will give your holiday décor a glistening glow. Whether it's a rare Victorian gilded paper icicle or a new, mica-dusted plastic one that costs a dollar, these little slivers add magic to tabletops and trees alike. Use them sparingly or by the dozens—because unlike real ones, these beauties don't melt. Our ice-blue Lucite Christmas tree evokes the modern glamour of postwar America with its sparkling plastic icicles from the 1950s and '60s.
Frosted Christmas Tree
A Christmas tree dusted with snow looks even frostier when decorated exclusively in shades of silver, white, and cream. Simple paper-and-glitter ornaments mix well with vintage metallic pieces. Glitter ornaments are easy to make and can be saved from year to year.
Jasperware Christmas Tree
Ornaments based on jasperware, the unglazed stoneware first produced by Wedgwood in the late 18th century, transform branches into a holiday display. Jasperware is known for its blue background and white cameo patterns, but antique and newer versions come in a variety of colors, including lilac and green. Create your own ornaments using Paperclay modeling material and German springerle-cookie molds, or paint store-bought architectural ornaments. The branches have been sprayed white and dusted with glittering mica flakes.
Shop Now: Creative Paperclay Modeling Material, $11.49, michaels.com.