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Tree-trimming tips for real and artificial trees

I know, I know. The turkey just got off the table, and here I am talking about Christmas.

But many people will be decorating their trees soon, so we gathered some tree-trimming tips from a couple of pros, floral designer Lori Reilly of Reilly’s Originals in West Akron and interior designer Christine Haught of Christine Haught Ltd. in Bath Township, Ohio.

Here are their suggestions:

Fluff. Artificial trees get squashed in storage, so they need to be fluffed before they’re decorated. “This is the most important part, to me, of preparing a tree,” Reilly said.

She 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 and Haught really like. Haught bought one a few years ago, and “it was like a marriage saver,” she joked.)

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,” Haught said.

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 those decorations, 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 distributing them throughout the center 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. These might be ornaments or other decorations, such as silk flowers or snowflakes. If you have collections of these items, spread them out evenly over the tree, Haught said.

Then finish with the smaller ornaments.

It’s worth noting here that if you’re pressed for time or you just don’t enjoy the less glamorous tasks like setting up the tree and adding the lights, you can hire someone to do it for you, Haught said. Then you can add the ornaments and still enjoy the experience of trimming the tree.

Tell a story. Both Reilly and Haught like trees that tell something about the people whose homes they decorate. They recommend displaying ornaments that reflect your hobbies and passions. Haught, for example, loves food, so she decorates her tree with fruits, vegetables and sweets.

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.

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 your 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.

Add ribbons for hanging, and you have ornaments with far more meaning than anything from a store.

Beribbon the tree. Ribbons can add a finishing touch to the tree. They can cascade down from the top or wind around the tree. Either way, drape the ribbon to create a natural flow, Reilly said.

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. Even a big bow looks pretty, she said.

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

Involve everyone. Haught thinks it’s important to involve the whole family in decorating the tree. Let the kids help, even the little ones, she said. You can always shift things around later, when they’re not present.

Make hot cocoa, and put on some Christmas music. Make decorating the tree an occasion, not a chore.

“That’s what they’re going to remember,” she said.

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