How to Create the Ultimate Christmas Tree Vignette in Your Home

Whether you're drawn to animatronic Santas or opulent crystals, accent your tree in three easy steps.

A Christmas tree alone brings plenty of festive cheer to your space, but creating a seasonal vignette around it—using decorative objects, furniture, lights, and other accents—can take your decorating from merry to memorable. "A vignette is a very nice opportunity to tell a story," says Francis Toumbakaris of Francis Interiors. "So if your tree has a theme, what is happening around it or next to it could be a nice segue, either from the top of the tree, descending down into the storytelling next to it, or vice versa." Whether you prefer a traditional look—like a miniature Christmas village with a working train and dozens of figures—or a more modern option, like the rainbow Pride tree Toumbakaris once created (complete with a mechanized unicorn standing nearby), three simple rules can provide you with a professional finished scene.

beautiful indoor christmas tree display

Choose the right spot.

The ideal location for a vignette depends on the style of your setup and the space you're decorating. "If you live in a big house, you could have multiple trees set up," says Toumbakaris, "one grand tree with super-chic décor, and in the playroom area, a second tree with arts and crafts ornaments so it's more of a family affair." Look for other elements in your home that you can work into the vignette—a mantel, a pretty side table, a large window to frame the evergreen. "If the house has a fireplace, that is a spectacular place to explode with additional décor," he says. "Whether it's just garlands and ornaments or hanging stockings by the fireplace, you can definitely set up beautiful scenes." (The only caveat: Make sure you aren't blocking any high traffic areas, which puts your items at risk of being bumped or broken.) If you opt for a room with a higher ceiling, Toumbakaris recommends hanging crystals above and around your tree, "as if it's snowing," to draw the eye up. "They give this magical, enchanting feeling," he says. "It's an opportunity to create a vignette in the sky."

Think about scale.

In decorating, says Toumbakaris, "scale is everything," and the same is true for a holiday vignette. "If something goes on the floor, it cannot be very tiny unless it's in very close proximity to the tree—if you have a 12-foot tree, and you put a 12-inch item on the floor next to it, it's going to disappear," he says. Use small side tables or pedestals for petite items—like tiny reindeer, lit villages, or candles—to give them enough height to stand out. One of his favorite ways to make a statement is to source oversized items—intended as outdoor decorations—to set up indoors. This might mean animatronic reindeer gently bobbing their heads next to your flocked tree, oversized nutcrackers standing guard, or a softly spotlit creche in a dim corner. "Do not fear something that has scale and substance, always," he says. "In general, in design, I say, go big or go home."

Decorate with joy.

The specifics of your vignette can be decided with one question: Does each item make you happy? Your great-grandparents' ornaments may not match your modern aesthetic, but you can group them in a sentimental collection on your sideboard; your all-season vases and sculptures get a seasonal twist when arranged among fresh garland; a collection of abstract tree-shaped objets in glass, ceramic, and acrylic can surround a fresh Douglas fir. "Most importantly, people need to have fun with it, and when you look at it, it has to make you happy—like everything else in the home," says Toumbakaris. "If you want to feel like your living room rained crystal ornaments, or if candles make you happy and you want to make it feel like Phantom of the Opera, go for it. If you put something in your home that makes you happy, that inspires you, that puts a smile on your face, you always find a way to make it work."

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