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For this year's Christmas tree decorations, embrace the unexpected

Swap disposable ornaments for heirloom keepsakes. Put as many handmade ornaments on your tree as possible. Picture: Rawpixel.com

Swap disposable ornaments for heirloom keepsakes. Put as many handmade ornaments on your tree as possible. Picture: Rawpixel.com

Published Dec 18, 2021

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By Megan Buerger

Are you - dare we say it - bored with your Christmas tree? The same old garland with berries, the faded plaid ribbon, the few remaining silver and gold balls that haven't shattered over the years. If it's been a while since you refreshed your bin of ornaments, it's time to bring some personality back into those branches.

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Whether the trick is swapping silver bells for disco balls or classic star tree toppers for artificial exotic birds, experts all agree: Christmas trees should embrace imperfection, rejoice in eccentricity and tell a story about your life.

"Christmas was huge in my house growing up," said interior designer Josh Hildreth. "More was always more.“

But "more" didn't mean impersonating Martha Stewart or buying out the local department store. "She cringed at the idea of a designer tree," he said. "Christmas was supposed to be about the beauty of nature, time with family, sentimental things. Every little decoration had meaning."

Today, Hildreth trims two trees: one on his front porch and one in his living room.

His indoor tree is more sentimental and family-oriented, with ornaments that represent a part of his life - a place he's visited, a person he's lost. "One of my mother's best friends gifted us miniature Christopher Radko ornaments every year," he said. "At the time, I thought they were over the top and tacky. But now that she's passed on, I cherish them. They look like love."

Those eager for a more dramatic tree transformation will find no shortage of inspiration online, where lifestyle bloggers and Instagram influencers are consistently raising the bar.

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There are trees made of succulents, ones decorated with Polaroids, silk flowers, gingerbread and gumdrops, and even multicoloured disco balls, and those with colourful decorations that flow in gradients.

In 2017, Provo, Utah-based blogger Brittany Jepsen of the House That Lars Built made waves with her clever paper candle ornaments constructed from hazard-free copper and gold cupcake wrappers.

"If you wind up with too many heavy pieces, the outer edge of your tree will be naked. Light pieces help fill it out."
Swop disposable ornaments for heirloom keepsakes. Put as many handmade ornaments on your tree as possible

Tree-decorating tips

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Set yourself up for success. Measure for the largest tree you can fit in your space.

Swap disposable ornaments for heirloom keepsakes. Put as many handmade ornaments on your tree as possible, and if you don't have any, ask for them as gifts; they're more special than multi-packs.

Layer your ornaments. To make your tree visually appealing, decorate in layers: Tuck larger ornaments farther back, and place lighter ornaments toward the tips.

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"When you buy lights or ornaments, be mindful of weight," Hildreth said. "If you wind up with too many heavy pieces, the outer edge of your tree will be naked. Light pieces help fill it out."

Resist themes. If you aren't a particularly crafty person, ditch themed trees entirely. "They tend to feel very catalogue," decorator, Jonathan Adler said. "Your tree should be a narrative reflection of your life. It should tell your story and capture your memories. It should represent your many Christmases through the years."

Lean into contrasts. When in doubt, approach your tree like an outfit, with a balance of high and low, classic and kitsch. "My ornaments are an exercise in democracy," Hildreth said. "I have bought many, both tacky and exquisite. It's remarkable at how random they all are and how beautiful they manage to look together."

This article first appeared in Saturday Insider, Dec 18, 2021

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