How To Decorate Your Christmas Tree To Make It Look More Full

Consider this an early gift from us to you. 

Close-Up Of Christmas Tree At Home
Photo: Evgenii Kryvoruchko/EyeEm/Getty

You've picked up your tree from the local farm, and now it's time to bake a batch of Christmas cookies and decorate. How do you make it look like the ones in the department stores? We've cracked the code and the answer is no longer a mystery: layers. "Layer your tree with various elements to give depth to the decor and make your tree appear more full and luxurious," explains Kristin Bartone of Bartone Interiors in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Sounds easy enough, right? Like with everything interiors related, this process is both an art and a science, which is why we turned to a few of our favorite Southern designers to share the perfect formula.

(Mostly) Large Ornaments

Every designer we talked to agreed that an abundance of large ornaments is a game changer. "I start with the largest ornaments, and have specific ones to embed deeply between the branches for fullness," shares Mary Lambrakos of Lambrakos Studio in Houston, Texas. While Lambrakos is partial to glass orbs with a shiny tint, others prefer cloth options. "They are kid friendly and lightweight, so they won't weigh down the branches and create even larger gaps," Bartone explains. You don't have to ditch all of your smaller, more delicate ornaments though. "Play with the size and scale," says Anastasia Casey of The Identité Collective, IDCO Studio, and Design Camp. "Decorating with objects of varying sizes will help achieve a full yet well-balanced look."

Natural Elements

"Most people assume you need loads of decor and ribbon but that's not always the case," explains Casey. "I like to incorporate a lot of natural elements like pinecones, dried citrus slices, or a winterberry garland." Pinecones are a favorite of the designers we interviewed, including Lauren Sullivan of Well x Design in Knoxville, Tennessee. "Found pinecones work beautifully repurposed as ornaments, and they're a perfect solution for filling in any large voids within your Christmas tree," she says. Other favorites? "Boxwood, magnolia leaves, or traditional evergreen with berries would add visual punch and fullness. All of these are available in fresh, preserved, and faux versions to fit every style and budget," Bethany Adams of Bethany Adams Interiors in Louisville, Kentucky shares.

Reflective Elements

We all love some sparkle and shine during the holidays—they make everything feel more magical and festive. According to Colson Horton of ADR Creative in Nashville, Tennessee, it's extra important to incorporate them into your Christmas tree. "Reflective objects, whether through garland or ornaments, will help to lighten dark spaces inside the tree and add a nice spectrum of color when the lights are on," she explains.

Garland & Ribbon

For some like Avery Cox of Avery Cox Design in Austin, Texas, garland is the foundation of a beautiful Christmas tree. "I always wrap the trunk with sparkly garland—it makes it seem like there are layers and layers of treasures and the tree sparkles from within." Adams agrees. "A Charlie Brown Christmas tree is a real bummer, but adding a garland of almost anything will fill in a scrawny conifer. A feather garland is fantastic for adding visual poof without the weight," she says. If garland is the foundation, then ribbon is the finishing touch. "Wrap a velvet ribbon around the whole thing to bring the eye all the way out and cover and fill any areas you missed with lights and ornaments," explains Cox.

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