At Modish, we have a curated collection of products in home decor, furniture, outdoors and lighting for your modern home. Our special focus on family holidays and festivals has led to a large range of Christmas decorations, ornaments, Xmas lighting and gifts that are stylish and chic. The Modish catalogue consists of high quality, exquisite, hand-crafted or artisan made items sourced from different countries in rustic, industrial, farmhouse and vintage styles. We sell reputed brands like Kalalou, Modway, HomArt, Zuo, GoHome, Vagabond, Gold Leaf, Zodax etc.
Now that you've decided on a full blown Christmas tree to celebrate with friends and family, here is a handy DIY (do-it-yourself) Christmas Tree Guide. Decorating a tree gives you a chance to don your creative hat and come up with out of the box Christmas tree ideas. There is no right or wrong way to set up a Christmas tree - it all boils down to your personal taste and style as every Christmas tree is unique. So read on for our recommended set of Christmas Tree setup tips and tricks!
Choosing your Christmas Tree
You should select a Christmas tree that matches your style and can accomodate and display the ornaments, garlands & embellishments you’ve chosen.
Artificial (Fake) v/s Natural (Real) Christmas trees - If you're trying to make a choice between artificial (fake) or natural (real) Christmas tree, it’s good to know the pros and cons of each type.
- Artificial or Fake Christmas Trees: The advantage of artificial trees are that they save costs, are less expensive and can be reused year after year. They are also convenient - you can just drag them to your living space from wherever they are stored (be it attic, basement or garage) and set up quickly. They retain that “perfect shape”, don't need watering or scatter mounds of messy needles over your floor. Artificial Christmas trees are available in a wide range of shapes and sizes, so you are sure to find something that’ll fit your space. These trees usually come in slender, medium or full shape - this shall decide the girth (width) of your tree. When selecting the tree shape, look for evenly-spaced branches and a symmetric shape that tapers toward the top. When setting up your artificial tree, you can spread the branches out in a manner that gives you a natural display and full bloom look. Artificial trees have one big advantage - you are free to spread the branches out and reshape its tips to hang out the ornaments. Their disadvantages are that they are made of PVC plastic, which is less environment friendly, non-recyclable, have a large carbon footprint and may not be best suited for human and animal contact. Some plastics can be hazardous from a fire safety perspective.
- Natural or Real Christmas trees: Real Christmas trees (like scotch pine, douglas fir, white pine, balsam fir) are grown in the US instead of being imported from overseas- they help in keeping air clean and also provide sheltered habitat for wildlife. Natural trees make your home smell good and fresh. Real trees can be recycled unlike artificial trees, and just the act of going and searching for a real tree is invigorating and fun, as opposed to buying an artificial one. The disadvantage of natural trees is their cost - they are certainly more expensive on a unit cost basis compared to artificial ones. Additionally they are a recurring expense - you have to buy a new tree every year. They require higher maintenance - watering, cleaning, mopping needles off the floor etc.
Pre-lighted (called pre lit) vs Unlit Trees - Pre lit Christmas trees come in incandescent and LED light varieties with various colored options. Its advantage is that it can be set up very quickly. So, if you aren't too picky about a customized light color and want to decorate your tree quickly, a pre-lighted tree may be the best choice for you! Unlit trees are like a blank canvas for your creativity and allow you to choose and change the light colors as you wish. These are very popular with Christmas decorators who have a unique tree design in mind.
Select a Christmas Tree Color Scheme or Theme or Story
Once you’ve decided on the Christmas tree type, the next step is to imagine what color scheme or theme would complement the tree’s foliage in creating the mood and style of your liking. Having a theme opens up various possibilities for decorating and incorporating other items into your collection. A theme makes the tree look cohesive and complete. You should also look around the room where the tree is going to be placed and pick theme or colors that’ll go with the ambience. Sometimes people choose a theme, collect ornaments centered around that theme and then weave all that into a storytelling experience - its almost as if your tree has come to life and is trying to tell its tale! The trees' foliage tone & hue can also help in narrowing down on the desired color theme - trees with warm yellow-green foliage look good with warm-colored ornaments, while trees with cool blue-green foliage look dapper with cool-colored ornaments.
The Classic Christmas Look: This is possibly the most common and loved color theme for Christmas trees around the world. Its based on generous doses of red, white and green. Red reminds people of Santa Claus, so that explains why the red color is almost made to “come at you”. You can decorate the tree with red, green and white ornaments, garlands, ribbons etc. For lighting as well, you can use a combination of clear or white lights, that is interspersed with strands of red & green lights that are wrapped around your tree.
The Wintery Wonderland Look: This theme uses a combination of blue, silver and white. It revolves around a look and feel that’s pivoted around snow - a snowy landscape, snowcapped trees, houses and roads. For lights, you could choose clear or blue lights - or a combination of both. To get the effect of falling snow, you can surround your tree with few strands of twinkling clear mini lights over top of the base lights for extra shimmer and dazzle. Try to restrict the decorations to only white, clear and silver for that elegant wintery white wonderland themed tree. You can enhance the natural look by adding decorative crystal picks, snow covered twigs and snowflake ornaments.
Metallic Accented Look - Some Christmas trees have a strong metallic theme - gold, silver, copper or bronze. Metallic colors are easy to mix into the decorations, and you can create a shimmering effect by incorporating one or more metallic color into the design.
Rustic / lodge theme - Another popular theme for the Christmas tree is the somewhat rustic, forest lodge type look. This relies heavily on wooden decorations, pine cones, bells, snowflakes; sometimes recycled materials like driftwood are used as well. The tree can start taking a forested, environment friendly look, which people into green, rustic lifestyles love.
Animal Theme - If you have kids, chances are they love animals. What better way to celebrate Christmas than to have a animal theme Christmas tree? You could hang various animal decorations piece - felt ornaments, birch ornaments, bird tree toppers etc.
All crystal look: This is somewhat expensive - but if you’re a crystal lover, try having crystal ornaments and decoration pieces to give the tree a glassy, crystal, exquisite look. This does make the tree somewhat heavy and prone to breaking due to slippages - if you choose to do it, we suggest handling with care.
Choosing Embellishments for Christmas Tree - Ornaments, garlands, ribbons
Ornaments: Christmas tree ornaments come in a variety of shapes and sizes in boxes of four, six, twelve or more. We suggest that before you hang the ornaments on your tree, put them into logical piles. Arrange the ornaments in piles by color, size, materials or theme.
Number & Size of Ornaments: This is probably the first question you have to ask yourself - how many ornaments does my tree need? There is no exact answer, it depends on what kind of look you want, or the theme you have chosen. Do you want it dense and full, or sparse and spaced out? While deciding the number, you should consider the height and width of your tree, the size of your ornaments and what type of coverage (sparse or dense) you want in the tree. The tree’s size, shape & structure determine the size of your ornaments and how many are needed. If you like the bigger / heavier ornaments, make sure the tree has sturdy enough branches to support their weight. You can refer to this handy chart as a starting point:
Tree Height Light Coverage Dense Coverage Size of Ornaments 4' - 6' 30 pieces 50 pieces 2” to 4” 6' - 8' 50 pieces 80 pieces 2” to 8” 8' - 10' 80 pieces 120 pieces 4” to 8” 10' - 12' 120 pieces 160 pieces 4” to 8”
- Mixing up diff Ornament Sizes: Decorating your Christmas tree with different sized ornaments helps enhance the depth, while adding variety to its look. We suggest placing bigger ornaments near the interior of the tree, while ensuring the branches are strong enough to support their weight. Smaller sized ornaments can be put near the branch tips. The gaps in the trees can be filled up with the varying sized ornaments.
- Ornament Materials: The material for ornaments can be many - glass, felt, wood, fur, plastics, fibres, light metals etc. Glass ornaments are undoubtedly beautiful and graceful, but can be easily broken. Alternative could be shatter resistant ornaments, or ones made from metal, ceramic, wood, or natural fibers. From texture or finish standpoint, ornaments come in matte or glossy finishes. Feel free to mix up matte with glossy, since that gives a balanced look. You can also mix it with silver and gold and other metallics. For single colored (monochromatic) themed trees, you can use a gradation of finishes, shades and tints in that selected color.
Garland & Ribbons: Once the ornaments have been set up, your can wrap the your tree with ribbons, garlands or lights depend on your taste and the theme or color scheme chosen. Ribbons look dainty and elegant - make sure to choose one that has a sturdy mesh or wire edge, which holds its shape without toppling over. If you want a garland, we suggest starting wrapping it around about 6”-8” from the tree top. You can use some wire or twist the branches together to attach the garland to the tree. For the best look, run the garland in a corkscrew pattern - wrapping it at a fixed angle around the tree.
Setting up the Christmas Tree
Now that you have the Christmas tree, ornaments, garlands, ribbons etc selected and have a theme / color for its design, here’s how to go about setting up the tree finally. We recommend the following order - first lights, then ornaments, then garlands, ribbons and finally the tree toppings.
Lights: You should choose indoor lights that have UL certification / listing, preferably with the same colored cord as your chosen tree color or theme. You can choose between incandescent, LED or special lights - incandescent gives a warm glow, while LEDs are energy-efficient and give a cool glow. Other types of lights (i.e. novelty lights) can be used to add character and style.
Lights are usually sold on strings that contain between 100-300 lights in an average package. The number of lights for your tree needed depends on its height and the lighting density you want. A thumb rule you can follow - for low coverage, use 50 small lights per foot of tree, for medium coverage, use 100 and for heavy coverage, use 200. So for an 8 foot tree, low coverage will require 400 small lights. While putting the lights, you can choose between the following light stringing techniques -
- Draping technique - This method uses the least number of lights and is the quickest. You can start at the top of the three and drape the lights around the tree giving it a corkscrew like appearance.
- Triangular technique - In this method, you can divide the tree into multiple (3 or 4 max) vertical triangles by wrapping the cord in that shape.
- Branch wrapping technique - In this method, you start at the trunk of the tree and wrap each branch to near the tip and back again. This takes a considerable amount of time and may be suited for large trees, where you want to give a densely lighted look and feel.
After the lights have been strung, you should check for any dark spots. Step back from the tree from a distance of 10 feet or so, and check if any part of the tree looks not lighted enough. This should reveal the dark spots if any, which you can rework to fill up. If you are technology savvy, consider having a smart plug for the light plug connection, using which you should be able to control it from an app on your mobile phone.
Hanging the ornaments: From the piles you have created, start placing one ornament from each of those piles around the tree. The ornaments should be evenly spaced out and be seen throughout the tree, but not symmetrically. Start hanging the ornaments from top to bottom - make sure to place the ornaments a few inches back into the branches (away from the tip), to give the tree depth and stability. It’s best if you first hang the biggest ornaments, spacing them over the tree’s height; this can be followed by medium ornaments which are placed into the branches and finally the small ornaments to fill out the small gaps and branch tips You might need different sized hooks to hang the ornaments - so keep some handy with you.
Drape Garland & Ribbon: After the ornaments, you can drape the garlands and the ribbons in a looping pattern around the branch tips, giving it a corkscrew like appearance (as explained in the previous section). Use the garland to fill in gaps between branches as you go around.
Christmas Tree Toppers: Now the last stage in the Christmas tree setup is to finish up with the tree toppers. You can choose from a wide variety of topper shapes and materials - star, angel, ribbon bow, holly leaves & berries, snowflakes etc. Place the topper at the tree tip so it stands out tall and erect, while still looking a part of the tree.
Christmas Tree Skirt: Add a Christmas Tree skirt to hide the tree stand and catch any falling needles if you have a live tree. It also creates a nice backdrop for gifts to be placed around.
There are many types of Christmas lights to choose - it depends on the lighting need, whether it’s for indoor or outdoors, is it for a Christmas tree etc? We have put together a guide to address these choices and help you make an informed decision that suits your decoration needs, budget and style.
LED v/s Non LED (Incandescent): The two main types of lights are - Incandescent and LED (light emitting diode). Incandescent lights were used extensively earlier, though LEDs have now become very popular. Both can be used for holiday or Christmas lighting projects. Here’s a quick comparison between the two -
- LED lights are energy efficient, consuming 10-15% of the electricity needed for incandescent lights. Incandescent lights have filaments which need to be heated to their ignition temperature producing heat and light - this ends up wasting lots of energy.
- LED does not generate heat, thereby reducing the fire hazard as well. They are always cool to touch and are safe for children and animals.
- LED lights last much longer than incandescent lights, in which the filaments burn out or break easily.
- LED lights don’t break since they are made of plastics, whereas incandescent lights being made of glass break frequently.
- LED lights are brighter - they emit a more distinct or intense color than incandescent lights, which generally emit subtler, yellow-tinted or have fading colors. Additionally LED lights are dimmable, something that’s not possible with incandescent.
- Incandescent lights are less expensive than LED lights to buy, though they consume more electricity. Hence it’s better to look at the total ownership cost (initial price + electricity consumption expenses) to compare the total cost between the two.
- For decoration purposes such as Christmas lights, LED lights are easier to work with. You can typically connect 10 times more mini light strings together end to end from a single electricity plug outlet. Hence for large Christmas displays, LEDs are generally preferred.
LED Light Sizes & Style Options: You can choose from a wide variety of shapes and configurations. Here’s the commonly available options -
- Mini String Lights: Mini string lights are very commonly used. They have small bulbs that resemble a candle with a pointed tip. Typical dimensions - 1/4 inch dia & 5/8 inch tall. They could be both incandescent type or LED, though LEDS are now more common. Easy to wrap around greenery, porch columns, indoor trees etc.
- Wide Angle LED Mini Lights: These are low-profile, conical-shaped bulbs that give off a very popular starburst light halo that disperses light uniformly in all directions. They are popular for wrapping indoor and outdoor trees, wreaths, garland etc.
Large Bulb Lights: Large bulb lights have various types - C5, C6, C7, C9 and create a visual impact and lend a retro feel.
- C6 LED mini lights have a strawberry shape. The bulbs are typically 3/4 inch in dia and 1 & 1/8 inches tall. C6 strings are popular for lighting up bushes, trees as also indoor decorating, party accent lighting etc.
- C7 lights have the same strawberry shape, but are a bit larger (1 inch dia & 1 & 1/2 inches tall. They look more rounded & bulbous.
- C9 lights have same strawberry shape as C6 / C7, but are larger than C7 (1 & 1/4 inches dia and 2 & 1/2 inch tall). They are used for hanging across rooftops and wrapping around outdoor Christmas decorations.
- Net Lights: LED net lights & truck wraps are used where broad / even coverage is needed over a specified area. They are best suited for draping around shrubs, bushes, tree trunks or branches. They come in a variety of sizes and are easy to set up.
- Icicle Lights: Icicle lights are used to give a snow-covered appearance or romantic atmosphere (like in weddings). They are available in white and multiple colors. They often get used for awnings, for lining the roof or ceiling.
- LED Rope Lights: LED rope lights are used for outlining doorways, windows, decks, stairs, walkways, accents, coves etc. Decorators often use them to create custom motifs, signs, intricate shapes and designs. Can be used both indoors as well as outdoors. These lights give a very dense & neatly lined look.
- LED Projection Spotlights: LED projection spotlights require no installation. One can just plug them into an outlet and point them anywhere - at indoor or outdoor trees, pillars, facades etc. Can be used to project vibrant colors or patterns on a particular spot
- LED strip lights: These are used indoors. They come with an adhesive backing that can simply be stuck on any hard, flat surface to give a strip of small LED lights.
If your lights are meant for a Christmas Tree, a thumb rule is to have app 100 lights for every foot of the tree. If you want a denser look, or if the tree foliage is denser, that number can go upto 150 per foot. The 100 level will allow ornaments and garlands be seen easily, but the 150 level will create a strong twinkling effect. Here's a suggested chart for the recommended number of lights for Christmas Trees.
|Tree Size (in feet)||# of Lights|
|6||600 – 900|
|7||700 – 1050|
|8||800 – 1200|
|9||900 – 1350|
|10||1000 – 1500|
Here are general tips for how to put lights on different types and kinds of Christmas trees.
- Whatever type of lights you opt for, make sure they're UL-listed (Underwriters Laboratories). This is an industry recognized quality certification.
- Bulb spacing is a key factor while putting Christmas lights. Strands of Christmas lights with more space between bulbs are best suited for wrapping slender posts and tree branches. Strands with closely fitted bulbs are best for draping around indoor trees or for lining roofs.
- Slender trees will require the fewest number of lights. On the other hand, dense trees (e.g. pines, firs, spruces) may require more lights. One way to handle the denser trees is to have larger sized bulbs.
- Bushes and shrubs can be wrapped with net or or icicle lights.
- If you're wrapping around tree branches, use lights with 6-8 inch spacing between bulbs; this will allow wrapping the wires tightly.