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Think outside the ornament box How to trim your Christmas tree, from the tips to the top.

  • Akron Beacon Journal
  • Published Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, at 7:54 a.m.

Whether you’re pulling your smushed artificial Christmas tree out of a box or buying a live one whose branches are naturally – not perfectly – arrayed, decorating can help make up for any deficiencies.

Here are some tips from the pros for decorating the Christmas tree, from the tips to the top.

Location, location, location. Avoid placing a thin-looking tree in front of a window or light-colored wall, which will highlight its patchy areas. Real trees should be kept away from heat sources and radiators, which can drain them of moisture and fullness.

Fluff. Artificial trees get squashed in storage, so they need to be fluffed before they’re decorated. Floral designer Lori Reilly of West Akron, Ohio, recommends taking the time to pull every branch apart, working from the bottom of the tree to the top. Bend the lower branches down a bit, so they resemble the branches on a living tree.

Light it up. Next come the lights, unless you’re using a prelighted tree (which, by the way, Reilly really likes).

Reilly recommends starting the light strings in the center of the tree and weaving them out each branch, then back toward the center. That way, the center of the tree will be lighted for a fuller effect.

There’s no rule that says a tree has to have just one kind of light. Combining two kinds — say, miniature twinkling white lights and steady-burning colored C7 bulbs — can produce a festive effect.

And don’t skimp. “The more lights, the better,” said interior designer Christine Haught of Bath Township, Ohio.

Sabrina Soto, Target’s home style expert and an HGTV designer, recommends allotting at least 100 bulbs for every foot of height.

Add garland. Ribbons or other garland are a way to fill out a scraggly tree. If placed horizontally, they should go on after lights and before ornaments and should be draped to create a natural flow.

A lighted garland can go far in filling empty space on a thin tree, Soto says, and creates an even warmer glow.

Assess and edit. If you have the space, Haught recommends taking out all your ornaments so you can assess what you have.

Set aside the large ball-shaped ornaments. We’ll get to those in a minute.

Now look at what’s left. Chances are you’ll see some ornaments you don’t really love, Haught said. If you have an emotional attachment to them, keep them for use on the back of the tree. If not, weed them out to be taken to a consignment shop or donated to a thrift shop.

Create a background. Now’s the time to hang those large orbs. Haught recommends scattering them throughout the interior of the tree, so they fill the gaps and create a backdrop for the smaller ornaments.

If you don’t have those large ball ornaments, Haught suggests buying some. In fact, buy orbs that go with the colors in your room, she said. They’ll tie your tree into your decor and give it more of a designer look.

Stick with no more than three colors for this interior layer, she said. She uses mercury glass, cream and white orbs on her tree, but choose whatever you like.

Just don’t be afraid to go big — 4 inches across at the very least. “The bigger the better for the inside of the tree,” Haught said

Add the rest of the decorations. Once you have a backdrop in place, layer on the medium-size decorations and/or other filler. These might be ornaments or other decorations, such as floral picks and stems that can be placed deep in the tree to mask gaps and give a glimpse of color. Pine stems, pine cones and picks of artificial holly berries are natural-looking filler.

Then finish with the smaller ornaments.

Think outside the ornament box. The ornaments on your tree don’t have to be ornaments at all. Haught thinks Christmas offers the perfect opportunity to display all those heirlooms and other objects that are special to you but create too much clutter the rest of the year.

Look around you house for things that might make unusual decorations — your grandmother’s wooden spoon, a restaurant matchbook saved from a special dinner, your child’s baby rattle, a framed wedding photo. Photos and paper goods such as children’s artwork can be copied, resized and laminated, if you like.

You can also get creative and make ornaments that tell your story, Reilly said. For someone who’s musically inclined, for example, fold sheet music into fans and glue on ribbon and holly. For someone whose hobby is calligraphy, glue pens poised on pads of paper.

“The glue gun is your best friend,” Reilly said.

Add ribbons for hanging.

Top the tree. Trees don’t need to be topped just by stars or angels. Reilly likes creating toppers from elements used elsewhere on the tree, such as floral accents and twigs.

Or use a large, multi-bow ribbon at the top of the tree with ribbon streamers hanging down for a finishing touch.

Make the topper airy, not compact, Reilly said. It should balance the size of the tree and give it a finished quality.

Contributing: Associated Press

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