Deck the Halls
Big, small, real or fake, there are lots of ways to create a festive focal point worthy of a gold star. Gabrielle Fagan shares three popular looks for this winter
Whether you favour a 'can-you-believe-it's-not-real?' artificial one or always opt for the genuine article, it's the decorations that say most about your taste and family history -from hand-me-down baubles to childhood creations.
"This year, people want their tree to be the biggest they can fit in and afford, and they also have a very good idea of what colour or style theme they want to follow," says Craig Roman, home and garden styling expert at Dobbies Garden Centres.
"They're very specific about the look they want and we have three key looks this year: full-on traditional, with lots of red and gold; a countryside feel, featuring creatures great and small; or the dazzling snowy white tree, embellished with silver or gold touches."
Red and green is the ultimate festive look, and has a timeless appeal which can be interpreted in a retro way.
"This is an absolute classic look with red particularly strong this year," says Roman. "There's a lovely nostalgic feel to this style of decoration, which is seen in red candy cane and Santa stocking decorations.
"This season we're seeing much more emphasis on the texture and finishes of baubles - incorporating matt with shiny, shiny with glitter, or those which are ribbed. Many have an 'added extra', such as a tiny charm attached to the top, or a ribbon with beading.
"People could embellish their own baubles, by simply sourcing charms, stickers or diamanté glitter from craft stores, or use a glitter pen to personalise them. Add to the red effect by pegging cards to red ribbon, which can be hung from banisters, curtains or picture rails and adding red bows to a wreath."
Decor Tip: For a luxury look, dress your tree from the back to the front, hanging up to four baubles all along each branch, depending on their length. Place darker coloured baubles at the back (nearer to the trunk) and brighter shades nearer to the branch tip, to give the illusion of depth.
Add to the richness with a string of Red Berry Lights, £24.99, and a battery operated Tree Topper, £9.99, from Dobbies Garden Centres, which also have a selection of artificial and real trees.
Tree-mendous Treats: A luxuriant green 7.5ft artificial Washington tree, £379.99; decorations from £1.79 each, and a Luxury Berry & Pine Garland, £29.99, from Wyevale Garden Centres.
Debenhams has plenty of red decorations, including a Pack of Four Red Spotty Christmas Baubles, £12, or Set of 16 Red Assorted Christmas Baubles, £6. Embrace a yesteryear look with Father Christmas Tin Decorations, £3.99 each, The Oak Room. John Lewis has a Glass Telephone Box Decoration, £5, and a Bombki Large Post Box or London Bus Glass Hanging Decorations, £30 each.
A Red & White Wooden Houses Advent Calendar, reduced to £20 from £40, also from John Lewis, would be a perfect finishing touch.
Make a tree come alive with woodland creatures, for a look which will delight young and old alike.
"Woodland motifs have featured strongly in decor for a while now, and the reddish brown shades of the squirrels and foxes key into the trend for copper tones in decor, so it's not surprising that they're popular for the tree," says Roman.
Decor Tip: Bring in nature by making your own simple hanging decorations. Decorate a tree branch by spray-painting and decorating with tinsel and baubles, to hang on a wall or display on a mantel. Spray pine cones or leaves with copper paint. Champagne Pine Cones Decorations, £6.99 for a set, Dobbies. Pack presents into a Hessian Christmas Santa Sack And Name Tag, £6.99, Not On The High Street.
Tree-mendous Treats: A Linea 6ft Emerald Tree, currently reduced to £100 from £200, has an appropriately bushy-branched natural look. Alternatively, their Les Deux Alpes 6.5ft Tree, £200, currently available in stores, is a stunner. A collection of Linea Large Glitter Acorn Decorations, reduced from £8 to £4 each, would enhance the woodland effect.
Make a tree come alive with an animal menagerie. Paperchase has Six Glass Animal Heads, including a rabbit, reindeer and fox, £12 for the set, and its Hendrick's Stag Decoration is £6.
John Lewis has a Fox Head Decoration, £4.50 (due back in stock mid-December); while George Home has a sweet Bottle Brush Squirrel Hanging Decoration, £3. If you want to be playful with the theme, one of John Lewis' bestselling decorations is its Glass Christmas Dog Bauble, £6, and their Snowdrift Penguin Soft Hanger, £4, is cute.
This look captures the atmosphere of a winter wood, where snow-laden trees sparkle and shimmer.
"This is a magical, winter wonderland effect, which works with any decor and is hugely popular," says Roman.
"Lightly flocked artificial trees with twinkling pre-lit white lights are perfect for this, and then all you need is a collection of white or silver baubles - the 'less is more' rule definitely applies.
"If pure white is too cool for your taste, warm up the effect with a few gold baubles."
Decor Tip: If you're adding strings of lights to a tree and want to check to see if they're evenly placed, turn them on and look at them from the other side of the room by squinting through half-closed eyes.
Neon signs are bang-on-trend this season and John Lewis White Noel Battery Operated Sign, £20, would look brilliant near a tree or on a mantel. Alternatively, The Handpicked Collection has illuminated letters spelling out 'JOY'; Joy Light, £49.95.
Tree-mendous Treats: A 2.2m Cranmere Pre-lit Christmas Tree, with 400 LED lights, from £299.99, Dobbies. House of Fraser's Linea 6ft Pre Lit Flocked Whistler Tree is just as handsome and is currently reduced from £230 to £115. For a stylish contemporary effect, John Lewis has a 4ft Pre-lit Birch Cluster, a chic arrangement of trees on a stand, £100 (re-stocked mid-December).
Glamour and sparkle combine in Swarovski Christmas Baubles, £45 for set of four, and for a Narnia effect, a Snowdrift Acrylic Glitter Stag, £4, both John Lewis.
The Matrioskas Ornaments, a set of three striking white and gold porcelain dolls, £140, Lladro would perfectly suit this theme.