Whenever I visit a holiday tree festival where top designers deck the halls (and trees), I come away feeling as dull as a bureaucrat from Buffalo.
I arrive to the affair feeling pretty confident in my holiday decorating skills. I know to layer on the white lights, stick with a unified color scheme, and add seasonal bling in the right places. But I leave feeling decoratively deflated. My ideas fall flatter than gingerbread.
My visit to the 26th annual Festival of Trees, at the Orlando Museum of Art last week, proved no exception. Now I get that this is a modern art museum, so designers have creative license to do the unexpected. They did not disappoint.
But my holiday decorating bar just got higher. Used to be my goal (and I know this makes me sound ornamentally hollow) was to have a tree that looked like a department store tree. However, the trees at this festival are to department store trees what department store trees are to Charlie’s Brown’s tree.
They are exponentially extraordinary, and raise the art of tree decorating to the level of angels we have heard on high. Here’s a sampling:
• A tree made of stacked apple-green Tupperware bowls. The designer graduated the bowls’ sizes -- large bowls at the base, smaller bowls on up -- to build the tree, then added hot pink ornaments.
• The candy cane trees were a perfectly peppermint couple. One red tree (a refreshing change from green) was dressed in all white and mint-blue ornaments; its slightly smaller partner was a white tree decked with all red and mint-blue bulbs.
• The Recycle Tree was made entirely of cut up water bottles, curled into ringlets, spray painted colors of the rainbow, and sprinkled with glitter. The tree skirt was a mesh of glitter-painted , connected bottle caps.
• A tree in the shape of the Eiffel Tower garnished with Parisian-themed ornaments, and a faux French poodle.
Feel dull yet?
For those who just want to throw in the tree skirt (and some cash) and get a great tree without burning brain cells, they can take away a designer tree. The ones at this festival ranged from $400 for a small tree to $4,000, which included shrink-wrapping the tree and delivery to your home.)
But if that would blow your gift budget, as it would mine, you can take away some ideas instead -- within reason. I mean, if I gathered my family to decorate the tree and pulled out a bunch of Tupperware, they would accuse me of hitting the spiked eggnog too hard.
Here are some ideas to help you get out of your holiday decorating rut, courtesy of Linda Cegelis, museum spokeswoman who has been part of the event for 20 years.
• Create a scene. When decorating your tree, go beyond the branches. Decorate around the tree and create a vignette, said Cegelis. Coordinate the tree skirt, the wall behind, and the gift wrap. One Under-the-Sea-themed tree had clear ornaments that resembled bubbles running up the wall beside the tree. A winter wonderland tree had white sparkly branches lining the wall behind it like a snow-covered hedge, a billowy white gossamer skirt that resembled a snow drift, and a white artificial reindeer standing by.
• Lay on the lights. It’s hard to overdo them, Cegelis said. Don’t just light the tree. Put lights around garland, wreaths, mirrors and the gingerbread house. “Think through the lighting. It should be significant,” she said. The designers strongly prefer white lights.
• Urn it. As part of your vignette, find an urn or large cachepot. Heap it with holiday greenery, ornaments, or a scene with nutcrackers.
• Don’t stop at the top. The tip of your Tannenbaum should be a crowning moment. Forego the angel or star tree topper, and instead create an arrangement using large silk flowers, gilded branches and abundant ribbon, so it pulls the eye to top of tree. Toppers that fan up an out work well because they balance the base of the tree, said Cegelis.
• Double the pleasure. Hanging a pretty framed mirror behind the tree gives you twice as much tree and sparkle, plus shows off the back of the tree. Prop an old window behind the tree to add architectural interest. Trim it, hang a wreath on in, wrap it in lights.
• Focus rather than fragment decor. Pick a few areas of your home and go all out. The tree, and the area around it, the mantle and the front door are good places to pour on décor. Hold back in other areas. Spreading holiday decorations all over your house can feel suffocating, and soon nothing looks special. Happy Holidays!