How to Decorate a Christmas Tree: The Definitive 8 Step Guide

Dec 3, 2021

how to decorate a Christmas tree

Do you covet the professionally decorated Christmas trees you see in shop windows? AMARA’s Chief Creative Officer, Sam Hood, is here to share 8 simple steps to achieving an impeccably styled Christmas tree in your home. Scroll down to skip to the fully decorated Christmas tree, our instructional video, or to see the best insider tips we gathered from decorating experts. But first, read how to decorate a Christmas tree step by step from one of the best in the business.

1. Build the Tree

Before I start coming up with this year’s Christmas tree ideas, I get the tree out from where it’s been hibernating for the last 11 months and check to make sure it’s still in good condition. I like to use an artificial tree as we have our tree up for most of December and it means I can perfectly position the branches. Most artificial trees have branches which are color coded or numbered to make them easy to see what length goes where. If you are buying a real Christmas tree, make sure to invest in a good quality one with no gaps to achieve the classic full look all the way to the top when it’s decorated. And make sure you get a sturdy Christmas tree stand – a good one will last you decades, and keep your trunk perfectly vertical.

2. Spread out Branches

If you’re a perfectionist, this is the step that can take the most time and for good reason. The branches create the canvas for your Christmas tree decorations so they need to be arranged perfectly. Starting with the bottom layer of branches and working your way up, gently straighten each tip and fan them out in different directions from the branch to create a natural look. Take a step back after you have arranged each layer to make sure all the branches are sitting well together and that you don’t have any gaps.

fir lodge green and brown baubles

3. Evenly Wrap the Lights

>If you’re wondering how to decorate a christmas tree to look full, the secret is in the lights. Spaces in the lighting stand out much more than gaps between decorations. Make sure you have enough lights to wrap round each layer of branches and again, start at the bottom and work your way up to the top. The lights should sit closer to the trunk than the decorations to create a warming glow peeking through the branches.

Pile of Christmas tree lights

4. Add the Core Baubles

Your core baubles are those in your main color and are ones you normally get in large sets so you can easily create the base for the rest of your decorations. These are often plain baubles in mirror polished, matt or even glitter finishes, and start off your Christmas color scheme to make your bolder decorations pop when you add them later. They are usually in metallic or white tones, which are a fantastic foundation for more daring hues.

blush christmas trend tree

5. Layer some Color

>This is your chance to layer your other festive colors throughout your tree. For the tree in the video I went for the opulent jeweled tones, so I’ve added plush fuchsias, purple and teals to the gold core baubles, and as you can see, this is the point where the decoration starts to take shape. Make sure to layer these colors evenly throughout the branches so you don’t have too many of the same shade in one area.

blush christmas decorations

6. Add the Extra Special Decorations

This is my favorite part – adding the special decorations. These could be the more flamboyant decorations you only have a few of, the special one-of-a-kind designs you have collected on your travels, or the particularly large pieces. Again, spread these out among the branches so they don’t sit too close to each other to achieve the full effect. For the tree in the video, I added beautiful jewel embellished and flower embroidered decorations in complementing shades to the colorful baubles I added in the last step.

retro christmas decorations

7. Place the Finishing Touches & Star on Top

This stage is for the real showstopper decorations that will set your tree apart from the rest. Real or artificial flowers have been popular in recent years as finishing touches for the tree and the deep pink flowers in the video bring the tree to life. For a tree topper I always go for the classic star but you could use a large statement decoration instead to give your tree a contemporary twist.

Gold Christmas tree with a velvet sofa

8. Start Adding Presents Underneath

The final flourish for any tree is of course the presents underneath. So finish your perfectly styled Christmas tree with a small pile of impeccably wrapped gifts. Getting these wrapped early also means more time to relax closer to the big day, so be prepared and tick that job off your list when the tree goes up.

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More tips on how to decorate your Christmas tree from the experts…

gray Christmas living room fir lodge

Victoria, Victoria's Vintage

Choosing a theme for your Christmas tree can be a difficult decision. Modern or traditional? Colourful or neutral? I would suggest choosing a theme that fits in with your home decor and will last for years. Picking something uber-trendy this year might be completely out of fashion next Christmas. More traditional styles will stay on trend for longer, which saves you having to buy new decorations year after year! Victoria, Victoria's Vintage

Gold Christmas tree with star decorations
Image courtesy of Amara

Claire, Heart Handmade

My top tip to make the most of your Christmas tree lights is to purchase some small mirrors, glue some string to them and hang them in the tree behind your Christmas lights. This is a great way to multiply the luminance without costing any extra in electricity bills.

Claire, Heart Handmade

Snowy white Christmas tree in a white hallway
Image courtesy of Amara

Rachel, Fresh Design Blog

Forget old tinsel, there are lots of contemporary garlands available that will dress your tree in style. Try metallic beaded garlands, mini pom-pom garlands, sparkling gemstone style garlands or artificial leafy garlands. If you don’t have a garland long enough to cover the whole of your tree, add several of the same style to complete the look.

colorful Christmas decorations on pastel trays

Gabrielle, A Glass of Ice

Whichever theme you choose for your Christmas tree this year, elevate its appearance with standout or standalone feature ornaments. Be it traditional or contemporary, accompany your usual collection of baubles with colourful blown glass ornaments, whimsical feathered creatures – or simply opt for an extra handful of flamboyantly embellished baubles to mix throughout your current scheme! Gabrielle, A Glass of Ice

Gold star Christmas tree topper
Image courtesy of Amara

Bella, Bella Whiteley Interiors

Tree toppers are important because the eye is naturally drawn to the very top of the Christmas Tree – they’re the ‘cherry on top’! One of my personal favorite tree toppers is an origami paper folded star. They are very light and easy to attach, and you can scale them up quite big, due to their almost weightless form.

You can either buy pre-scored card stars to simply fold and make, or, make your own from scratch involving all the family, a YouTube tutorial and some mulled wine! A paper folded star lends itself to folksy, Scandi-style tree decorations. I think they look great in recycled newsprint, pages from a book, or even in black card (yes, it’s festive!) for a crisp, contemporary silhouette.

Bella, Bella Whiteley Interiors

luxury christmas tree

Melanie, Melanie Jade Design

With regards to Christmas tree decorations, I have spent years adding to my collection. It’s become a kind of tradition now, where I look forward to venturing out to the Christmas markets or slumbering down on the sofa one evening with a mug of hot chocolate to browse online - all in hope of finding some beautiful new hanging ornaments. Adding to my collection each year means that I can invest in some more pricier pieces, as it doesn’t feel as costly when you’re buying just a few!

Melanie Jade Design

opulent christmas tree

Allanah, Transformation Avenue

I like to decorate my tree in keeping with the rest of my interior, so like to keep it simple and tend to stick with neutral tones, using mostly soft whites and crackled glass baubles that help to create a very peaceful mood.

Allanah, Transformation Avenue

pale pink christmas tree
pale pink christmas tree

Jen & Mar, Interior Fox

When it comes to styling and decorating a Christmas tree we like to think of ways to make it feel different or not too traditional. Using one or two colors in different tones throughout your mix of baubles, ribbons, and ornaments looks really chic. I can see nude and beige being a big hit this year. If you're going to string lights make sure you go all the way to the core and wrap each branch well to get a luxuriously full looking tree! Another cool idea is going all black and white with your ornaments and finding a dogtooth tree skirt, this could look so chic with the fresh greenery from the tree.

Jen & Mar, Interior Fox

luxurious christmas tree

Michele Ranard, Hello Lovely Studio

Christmas tree decorations need not be a departure from a home's color palette or your favorite color. Pale, quiet, soothing neutral hues make my heart sing, and our tree harmonizes with the rest of the living room's unfussy aesthetic. I sewed little pillow-y stars from ivory felt, mixing them with humble Nordic straw ornaments and sparkly white lights. Because nothing is shouting with glitter or tinsel, we leave the tree twinkling beyond Christmas to extend cozy factor, to greet the New Year with a glow.

Michele Ranard, Hello Lovely Studio

colorful christmas tree

Anju Abraham, The Gilded Edit

Whilst the standard red and green holiday colors aren’t going anywhere, more and more people are trying out different festive palettes. Trees decorated in monochromatic blue or white have increased in popularity in recent years. To find the perfect palette that doesn’t clash, rely on popular wedding color schemes. Feeling brave? Try decorating your tree with a rainbow theme or, better yet, a stylish neon.

Tip for the eco-friendly decorator: skip the lights to reduce energy use and decorate with what you already have. Try dried fruit and flower garlands or DIY ornaments made out of coffee filters and paper towel rolls. In a pinch, knot your scarves or neckties into dreamy flowers.

Anju Abraham, The Gilded Edit

how to decorate a christmas tree

Kel Harmer, Oh So Kel

I personally love adding unique elements to my tree by challenging traditional elements...Create a beautiful swag effect on your tree in alternative ways to tinsel, such as using wooden bead garlands for a boho look or wire edged velvet ribbon for a luxury glam vibe. It’s always worth considering the style of your space for a more harmonious look.

Kel Harmer, Oh So Kel

Rani Engineer, Creative Director and Visual Storyteller

Rani Engineer, Creative Director and Visual Storyteller

Christmas is the time to spread cheer and joy and spend it eating and laughing with your loved ones. To kickstart the festive season, in our home, it all starts by taking the tree out of storage.

To achieve a cohesive look, I usually choose a theme for the year and carry it throughout our home with ornaments, decorations, wrapping paper, table decor, linen, front door decor and of course our tree.

When it comes to the tree, go all out or minimalist, it all depends on your theme and decor style. Try adding texture and interest with beaded garlands, bows and ribbons. My daughter and I also have our own tradition of making a few homemade ornaments with clay every year. We hang them on our tree or add them to presents or tie them onto the table napkins as a takeaway gift for our guests.

Decorating the perfect tree is all about taking your time and enjoying the process with your family by adding and editing things you all love until it is perfect in your eyes.

Rani Engineer, Creative Director and Visual Storyteller Instagram, Blog

Christmas tree inspiration

JP Clark, JP's Life and Loves

Having a pre-lit tree is a joy. No more arguments after hours of trying to untangle all the lights. It goes up in minutes and it’s lit in seconds. If you are going for a real tree then make sure you start your lights at the top of the tree and work downwards. Also, make sure you buy a set that can be turned on using a remote control.

When it comes to the decorations, I like to layer the tree. So, I start with garlands laid slightly further in on the branches of the tree. I also work in odd numbers when it comes to baubles and decorations. An arrangement of five of the same bauble starting near the top first and working down to one at the bottom always looks good. Once the first set of baubles has been hung I then have my framework. After that I continue in odd numbers with each set of baubles till I think it looks full.

JP Clark, JP's Life and Loves, Instagram, Pinterest