Friday, November 14, 2008

Trimming the Tree - Designer's Secrets Revealed

Real or Fake? As a decorator, I prefer artificial trees and garland as they hold heavier items better than fresh evergreens and allow one to wrap and bend the branches to hold items in place. Trees today look so real, last for years, are good for those with allergies and are more flame resistant than their real counterparts.

Lighting: If you don’t have a convenient pre-lit tree, and want to store the tree in pieces you can light each section of the tree in pieces. Start near the trunk on the bottom row and make a slipknot out of the lights, securing it to the branch, pull tight. Bring lights from the center of the tree all the way toward tip of branch, wrapping it around twice at the tip. Then, wrap lights around every other green working towards the tip for moderate lighting. For intense lighting, wrap every green. I use a formula of at least 100 lights per foot of tree. There is an art form to lighting the tree properly – it takes time, but is well worth it. Start on the inside at the base of your tree and wrap the branches with the lights. This will prevent the unsightly green cords from showing so profusely.

Focal Pieces: Place the large statement piece deep enough into the tree so they are fully supported. Place smaller ones near the top and larger ones near the base of the tree.

Ribbons & Fabric: People have been using ribbon for years – the decorator tricks are to use plenty of it, only use wired ribbon and anchor it inside the tree – never on the tips. You can place ribbon in several patterns:

  • Vertical: You can run the ribbon down the tree vertically for a symmetrical look. Start a little ways down from the tree top to allow room for your top decoration. Anchor the beginning of the ribbon by wrapping a branch around the ribbon. Then make a half loop and drop down about one foot before anchoring it to the rear of another branch – never the tip. End with a pretty tail for a finished look.

  • Double Hurricane: This is one of my favorites. Lay two ribbons on top of each other folding the doubled ends over to create a loop. As in the vertical style, attach the doubled loop to to the tree by bending a branch over it, the pull the ribbons slightly apart highlighting the two ribbons. Next, continue on a diagonal, making half loops every foot or so as you work down the tree – spreading the ribbons apart so you can see the tree through the space between them.

  • Freestyle: This is an economical use of ribbon scraps. Randomly place the strips in your tree in half loop patterns, securing with branches as you go. This tricks the eye into thinking you have yards of ribbon swirled in your tree.

  • Frame: Create one or more triangular shaped frames around your statement piece. You can add more drama by placing bows at the top and edges of the triangle. Use the same half loop, anchor to branch technique as in the other methods.
Fabric: Lightweight fabrics like tulle, satin or lame make dramatic tree trimmings. You would use this in place of ribbon. The formula needed is two yards per foot of tree. Fold the fabric on top of itself to create a rose shape and secure with floral wire. Then attach it to the tree similar to the vertical ribbon pattern – making sure the fabric loops are full and billowy. For more drama, pool the fabric under the tree as the skirt.

Garlands: Made out of everything from popcorn and cranberries, to paper snowflakes, feather boas, to plastic beads and tinsel, garland should be hung before adding ornaments. For a seven-foot tree, use 48 to 60 feet of garland. You can either tuck the garland a little deeper into the tree for more depth or hang it in a wedding cake pattern, where the garland drapes near branch tips – you will need a few more strands to do this properly. Start at the bottom and attach garland by twisting a branch around it, drape the garland horizontally, be sure to space it evenly. You can use garland of one color or combine two colors and bead sizes.

Ornaments: Now it’s time for ornaments – the options are limitless today. Use the proper hooks or floral wire for the weight of the ornament. Think dimensionally – meaning, apply the shiny ornaments deeper in the tree where they will reflect light. A classic decorating mistake is to hang the ornaments on branch tips.

Fillers: These space fillers like angel hair, birds, feathers, fruit or floral picks complement your theme. You can insert a pick directly into your tree or wire it to a branch with floral wire. Place picks as you would find them in nature – don’t hang a bird upside down for example.

Treetop: It’s best to stick with your theme here but a tree topper tends to be a very personal item – some insist on the same angel they’ve used for years. That’s fine just jazz it up with a large bow or some finials or a cluster of crooked branches for dimension. Scale is important – a large tree calls for a large treetop, narrower trees look better with smaller toppers.

I hope you received at least one new idea for trimming your tree this holiday season. Let me know how it goes - I'd love to see photos!


Becky said...

Thanks Colleen for encouraging me to break away from the same tree year after year! I'm definately going to add more lights this year to get more sparkle. Since we downsized a couple years ago, I've not used some of my favorite I'm looking forward to creatively including them in a theme in my great room and with the tree.

I have a collection of antique Santa's that have not come out of the box for 3 years. I'll let you know what I come up with. And, I'll take any ideas from folks here.

Diane Mullen said...

The tree in the photo is beautiful!!
Do you have any suggestions on how to decorate a tree using a hodge-podge of family-favorite ornaments?

Decor and You - Colleen Lora said...

Thanks for the question Diane. The easiest way to tie-in a hodge podge of ornaments is by using wide, wired ribbon. Start by making a loop, attach it to itself then place in the tree. Attach with a bendable branch or floral wire. Then pull a little ribbon out and reattach to the tree again in about 9-12 inches. This can be done vertically from the top, horizontally like a hurricane, or intermittently with scraps of ribbon. Then, create drama at your tree top. Use branches from outside, spray them gold and place them in the tree around your topper. Finally, don't forget to add depth. Even when using hodge podge family ornaments, I suggest buying some inexpensive glass bulbs in one or two colors and place them from inside the tree. Don't just hang at the tips of the tree or you won't have the depth needed to really reflect light. Hope that helps - let me know.