If you’re anything like Californian shop owner-turned-author Carrie Brown, picking out the ornaments is the best part of trimming your Christmas tree. In her book, The New Christmas Tree (Artisan, $44), Carrie invites readers to switch-up their same old decorations in favor of fun new trimmings, like pin cushions or even pickles. “Make something out of next to nothing with humor and whimsy that will delight your friends and family. Think of the Christmas tree form as a springboard to reinvention,” says Carrie. Follow along with Carrie’s step-by-step instructions for picking the perfect tree, choosing a base and recreating each quirky look.
Get more tree decorating ideas in the
H&H Tree-Trimming Guide.
Carrie’s unique Biergarten-themed tree is well-suited for the kitchen with its selection of new and vintage blown glass pickle ornaments from the likes of Germany, Poland and the Ukraine.
– Blown glass pickle ornaments
– Bottle caps
– Popcorn & pretzels
– Tabletop pine tree with open branches
– Vintage vessel (picture here is a salt-glazed pickle crock)
– Gravel (for the bottom of the vessel)
This Hansel & Gretel tree is brimming with bright colors, edible ornaments and a healthy dose of whimsy. “Visions of sugarplums will surely dance in their heads when they see the branches groaning under the weight of all these sugary treats. It’s the ultimate sweet dream–inducing tree, with the delicious scent of pine and candy filling the air,” says Carrie.
– White pine tree
– A cookie jar (used as the tree stand)
– Pink LED lights (for the cookie jar) and smaller white “seed” lights for the tree
– Gingerbread figures
– Popcorn (for garland)
Pay tribute to the bumble bee’s playful color palette with the buzz-worthy Bee’s Tree. This sweet tree is constructed with fresh rosemary branches and ornaments cut out of sheets of beeswax. “Honor the queen bee with an antennae-sporting crown,” adds Carrie.
– Fresh rosemary branches
– Brass urn
– Small gold incandescent bulb lights
– Jar of honey
– Beeswax ornaments
– Gold mercury glass ornaments
– Felt bee ornaments
– Small vials of honey (to hang)
The Woodland tree is perfect for nature lovers. “Think of this tree as a living floral arrangement, ideal for a dinner party or the night before Christmas Eve,” suggests Carrie. Expect the tree to last 4-5 days if you use a stump for the base, or longer if you put the tree in a traditional base with water.
– Foraged pine, or tree with loose and open branches
– Moss-covered tree stump
– Small white lights
– Live ferns, moss and mushrooms
– Pine cones and sticks
– White lilies
– White candles in counterweight holders
Carrie says that “Chinese New Year meets Christmas on this incendiary, all-red themed tree.” Chinese Joss-paper garlands, red ornaments and small found objects make this a tree feel cheery and bright. “Joss papers are used for burnt offerings to honor ancestors. They can be purchased online or at Asian markets,” notes Carrie.
– White fir tree
– Red vintage cast-iron tree stand
– 2 strands of large red bulbs
– Red mercury glass ornaments
– Playing cards
– Stars made of matchsticks
– Rubber band balls
While your guests may be looking up for mistletoe at your holiday party, why not surprise them with this Upside Down Tree instead. This tree feels like a dramatic chandelier with decorations that look as if they’re raining or snowing. “The theme is borrowed from the Grimm Brothers’ folktale Snow White and Rose Red. Pomegranates and crafted snowballs represent the two iconic rose characters, and strands of jeweled cranberries suggest the treasure stolen by the ungrateful dwarf from the spellbound bear,” explains Carrie.
– Noble fir tree (cut short with a 3′ to 4′ foot base), or other tree with strong branches
– Tiny white LED “seed” lights
– 2 to 3 yards of natural rope and rope pulley
– Block-and-tackle hoist system with a hook attached (or other hanging system)
– Pomegranate ornaments
– Mini snowballs made of white tulle and yarn
– Cranberry garlands
If you’ve already got a traditional Christmas tree and are looking for another hit of festive cheer, the Tapestry Tree is a nice addition. Choose a color palette of rich jewel tone ribbons, like turquoise, emerald green and fushia to weave through the chicken wire frame.”Hang it on a wall if space is a premium or, better yet, on a door so the bells can make a jingly sweet sound every time it opens,” suggests Carrie.
– Velvet ribbons in jewel tones
– Tiny silver and brass jingle bells
– Chicken wire
– Galvanized metal strapping tape
Carrie’s Giving tree was inspired by advent calendars, with the goal of making the holiday season more about giving and less about getting. Children can open a small envelope each day on the tree, which is filled with instructions for doing a good deed. “Decorate the tree with … fruits and vegetables in overflowing baskets that reflect the theme of generosity,” says Carrie.
– Bare “Madrone” branch tree
– Old wooden grain bucket weighted with gravel
– Tiny white LED “seed” or “rice” lights
– Fruit and vegetable ornaments
– Paper baskets
– Good deed slips (written like fortunes in fortune cookies)
– Decorative paper envelopes
Author: Emily Evans
Photographs by Paige Green; copyright © 2015
Excerpted from The New Christmas Tree by Carrie Brown (Artisan Books); copyright © 2015