17 of Our Favorite Christmas Tree & Garland Decorating Ideas
***Written by Arlyn Hernandez
There are two types of people in this world: the kind who brazenly put up their Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving (cue the sorrynotsorry-hashtagged Instagram photo) and the ones who plant their feet firmly in “fall” until their bellies debloat from Thanksgiving dinner. I’m one of the latter “let Thanksgiving have its moment, please” people (#hungry), but I’m not necessarily going to turn my head in protest when I see a photo of a beautifully adorned tree prior to November 22.
In fact, as someone who’s part of the “content world,” I have to start thinking about these things weeks (sometimes months) in advance so when you’re finally ready to pump that Michael Bublé holiday album and merrily hang that wreathe, you’ve got a place to turn to for inspiration. We all have to make sacrifices, and on the spectrum of torture to thrill, I can’t really make any complaints about this assignment.
So, on my own personal time, I’ll keep my internal monologue of my it-gets-earlier-and-earlier-every-year, but keep it profesh here by happily collating all the holiday decor inspiration pre-Turkey day while humming Jessica Simpson’s rendition of Santa Baby. (Of course, all of this is mostly in jest…I LOVE decorating for Christmas—any holiday for that matter—I promise I’m not a Scrooge.)
Over the years, Em and the team have done a ton of gorgeous reveals of how they’ve decked their halls (which I always devoured as a reader), so we decided to go through all of those and slice and dice them into two posts: Today, it’s all about the tree and greenery, and tomorrow, we’ve got tons of ideas for all those other spots around your home worthy of pretty vignettes (like your fireplace and bookshelves).
Okay, ready to fa-la-la-la and get all merry and bright? Let’s start with THE Christmas moment: the tree.
Christmas Tree Inspirations
Forego the Tree Topper
Leave it to Brady to make a tree without a topper look so chic. Had I done this, it surely would have looked unfinished. I think the key here is the natural tree—it has so much character and charm on its own that a sprinkling of lights and neutral-toned ornaments and baubles keep things ultra chic without much fuss. Just be sure to bring your lights all the way up to the tippy top so there’s some sparkle up there. Also, any excuse to not go through the whole “a little to the left…no…wait…right…no….LEFT” of my yearly tree-topper-straightening debacle is welcomed (I’m not the only one, right?).
Skip the Star
Speaking of tree toppers, sometimes you need more options than a star or an angel. Enter the giant gift bow! You probably won’t find something this large in your standard gift wrapping section, but you can recreate the look by searching online for one of those car bows (not just for commercials!). They actually exist, and a quick Google inquiry will steer you in the right direction.
Stick With the Classics
This year’s recent Target holiday reveal Emily and the styling team did up at the Portland Project was all about getting that “updated traditional” look. I think it was the first time in a looooong time that EHD did the whole red-and-green thing. Make sure to head to that post for tons of styling tips if you’re into this look, but for the sake of this post, here are some tips: 1. the “green” of your red and green palette should mostly come from your tree (and maybe some ribbon in the gift wrapping). 2. bring the red in sparingly and anchor it with neutrals like black, white and light wood tones. Oh, and as much as some of you might love colored lights, this isn’t really the place for them. The warm white twinkle lights keep this vibe super polished instead of veering off into the eclectic/anything goes kitschy Christmas look.
Keep It Whimsical & Glam
Have you ever seen a more EHD Christmas tree? Blues, blushes, fun little quirky moments and some wood tones thrown in via pine cones. This look comes together with a tight assortment of mostly neutral balls in different colors and finishes (some glittery, some satin, some large, some small, some really small), rounded out by felt woodland creatures, wood houses, metallic acorns and bottle-brush trees.
Go for the (Rose) Gold
I can recall seeing the reveal of Birdie and Charlie’s rooms adorned for Christmas last year and thinking how much I needed that skinny rose gold metallic tree in my life. I don’t even care that much for pink, and I’m all about the natural evergreen, but ugh are you kidding? How fun is this? To make it even better, Emily threw in two other smaller trees in her white-silver-rose gold palette, and WHAT A
ADULT KIDS’ DREAM. If you’re going this route, we think it’s best to stick to a tight color scheme so it looks super pulled together and extra special. The chic rose gold look wouldn’t be quite as eye-catching if it were covered in a hodgepodge of multi-colored balls.
Go Faux for Kids Rooms
When I was a kid, we’d go to this place called Leu Gardens in my hometown of Orlando every year around this time. It was a mix of pretty gardens and homes from the early 1900s that were absolutely haunted but decorated to the nines for Christmas. I remember there were trees in every single room (including the bedrooms) and I would go home insanely jealous that I didn’t have my own tree in my bedroom to wake up to every morning. To remedy that, I was the kid who Scotch-taped all the leftover string lights (and by “leftover,” I mean I just took some lights from the bin in the garage hoping no one would notice) around my room to create some of my own holiday joy.
Anyhow, all of that to say, my childhood headquarters NEVER looked like Charlie’s room did last year. If you want to bring some extra merriment to your little ones and bring the embellishments bedside, we’d recommend sticking to a faux tree so there’s far less upkeep and needle loss to clean up. This is also a great way to get your kiddos to get their jollies out decorating with all those school-made ornaments.
Shake Up Your Base
The last few years have been all about the seagrass basket base, but as much as I like that look, I always felt it was missing something. Which is why I love what Ginny did a few years back at home: basket + tree skirt = the best of both worlds. Also of note: the palette here is pretty traditional, but a smattering of balls with hot pink feathers on them are a little surprising moment. It’s the Christmas equivalent of rocking a straightforward LBD but shaking things up with a funky earring or shoe. It’s a “level up” styling moment.
Full-On Retro Metallic
There’s “nontraditional” and then there’s this. Remember that time Orlando made a gold pom pom Christmas tree for Orcondo? That was three years ago and it’s still emblazoned in my memory. If you’re not super traditional and like things like gold pom pom Christmas trees, then head immediately to your local Sports Authority. JK, Sports Authority isn’t a thing anymore, nor did they sell pom poms.
To really lean into the “alternative tree” spirit, take a trip through your local Target’s kids toy aisle for all the safari-type animal figures you can find and string them up because every glittering metallic tree needs a zebra and giraffe ornament, of course.
Okay, now that we’ve explored all the ways to trim a tree, it’s on to other greenery moments, like…
Garland and Wreathes
Greenery Inside and Out
If you’re buying a real tree this year, don’t leave that lot without scraping up all the trimmed pieces of evergreen that you can. At the very least, be sure to collect the limbs they “clean up” from the bottom of the tree you’re buying so you can join them together into a sweet bunch, tie them up with ribbon and repurpose them into a door ornament for a fresh take on a wreath.
Use High-Impact Garland
If you have a killer archway between main rooms like Ginny’s home does, this is your chance to really rock some garland. Here, she went the lit faux route (less maintenance), and man does it make an impact and perfectly frame the neutral decor happening in the dining room.
Make an Entrance
The whole “garland around an archway” thing really packs a ton of styling bang for your buck. Here, Brady hung this pine-cone studded version with Command hooks around the entrance to his living room, so it’s a great way to up the holiday cheer in a way that won’t leave any damage/holes on your walls.
Drapery Double Duty
Okay, so not everyone has lovely curved archways to decorate, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take part in the drapey garland game. Frame out a window with greenery by simply stringing it across the top of your curtain rods (you will likely have to hold it in place with something—try floral wire so it doesn’t stand out).
Fill a Console Table for an Instant Vignette
Garland can go a long way to hold its own in a vignette like a console table. Just take a strand and weave it throughout some key anchor pieces (including some of your year-round decor like table lamps and art). This way, you don’t feel like you have to FILL a tabletop or surface with seasonal pieces…the garland does most of the heavy lifting here. Throw in some twinkle lights and you’re all set.
Talk about a seasonal decor item pulling its weight…this overscale wreath (available this year at Target) is so perfect for the holiday decorating minimalist (or anyone, really). It says “wreathe” without being too heavy, and the size is unexpected but such a perfect quiet statement. We love it hung in front of a big picture window, above a sofa or mantel, or even on a garage door.
Flip Things Around
Most people think to hang a wreath on the outside of a door, but we say flip that baby around and put it a place that you see far more often than the exterior of your front door. It’s also a good tactic for anyone who lives in an apartment and maybe doesn’t have free reign to decorate their front facade.
Bring That Joy Bedside
So much of festive festooning happens in the main living spaces, which I get. It’s where you spend most of your waking hours, plus it’s what visitors see, but who doesn’t want to to be greeted with pure, unadulterated holiday joy when they open their eyes in the morning? You don’t have to go overboard or even go as far as Ginny did in her bedroom with a gilded eucalyptus garland along the foot of her bed, but a simple wreath over a mirror or dresser vignette is one of those things that will surely make you so, so happy for a few weeks until it comes down in the post Christmas gloom that is early January.
Don’t Forget Your Windows
Christmas tree? Check. Mantel? Check. Windows? Oh, wait…right…hanging a wreath by a ribbon or simple string is a super easy way to jack up that festive factor. All you have to do is loop it around your existing drapery rod and boom, you’re home will be Instagram influencer approved.
And there you are…17 ideas for how to tackle your tree and indoor greenery this year. Be sure to come back tomorrow for even more ideas.