how to create a designer cape may Christmas tree
Updated: Jan 29
Updated January 2020, by Kimberly Gilbert
When it comes to the Christmas Holiday Season, there are certain items worth shopping for early. Have you ever been to a Michael’s or AC Moore around December 15th? It looks like an F-5 Tornado hit the store – you no longer can see the floor, its amass of random tree picks, smashed Christmas ornaments and glitter, oh the glitter. Then to add insult to injury, as you pick through the baskets of picks to try and find 2 or 3 that match, you are surly to get run over by the cart of another frantic shopper doing the same thing.
My advice if you want a designer tree that will be the envy of all your guests is to start early. By starting early, you get the best selection, the quantities that you need, plus, you can acquire many items that are free. With a little advance planning, there are great flowers that can be cut towards the end of summer, then dried and used as the ‘filler’ in your tree. For example, I grew Celosia in my garden this year knowing that I wanted to use the dried heads in the Mason Cottage’s Christmas tree. Celosia is a great choice because when it is dried, it maintains the same vibrant color as when it was fresh. You can also do this with hydrangea heads, gypsophila or yarrow – all these dried flowers make great fillers.
So here are my 7 steps to getting you the Designer Christmas Tree of your dreams:
#1: Decide on the theme of your tree and what colors you want to be prominent. Is it going to be Nautical? Rustic? Owls? Wintery white? The choices are endless, but whatever the theme of your tree, your ornaments and colors should stay within this theme. TIP: If you have a Pinterest Account, log in and do a search for Color Palettes - if you are interested in doing a Winter themed tree, search for Winter Color Palettes or if you want a coastal theme, search for Coastal Color Palettes. This is a great starting point to figuring out your color scheme.
But what do I do with the precious ornaments that my kids made us throughout grade-school or our ‘1st Year Together’ ornaments? Well, you have two options: Make a separate ‘family tree’ with these precious family heirlooms or you can work them into your designer tree. This is a matter of personal preference and I won’t disway you either way.
#2: Put your lights IN the tree (not ON the tree). One of my biggest pet peeves is when I see green lighting cords just hanging on the outer branches of the tree. It takes more time to wrap the lights around the inner branches of the tree, but it’s worth it.
#3: GO BIG. Larger Christmas balls 6-8 inches give your tree depth. These larger ornaments are not meant to be the star of the show, but they do give depth to your tree. I have found great large Christmas balls at the dollar store (again, you have to go early to find these). It doesn’t matter that their plastic – remember, they are not the star of the show, they are just there to give your tree depth. For an 8 foot tree (I will use an 8 foot tree as my example throughout this post), I would tuck about five to six 8” balls and four to five 6” balls into the tree. You can use your smaller 3” balls at the top of the tree and as another accent all over the tree.
#4: Pick about 6-10 other types of ornaments/picks, these are your ‘special guests’ on the tree – again, they are not the star, but just as important. For each type, you should have about 8-10 identical ornaments. This year we have decided on a Birds and Fauna theme for the Mason Cottage Cape May Christmas tree. So here is an example of our ‘special guests’:
1st Type: 10 silk magnolia stems
2nd Type: 10 silk chrysanthemum stems
3rd Type: 8 silk yellow roses picks
4th Type: 10 large gold leaves
5th Type: 10 glittered ball and pine Christmas picks
6th Type: 10 glitter beaded Poinsettia stems
7th Type: 10 gold glittered eucalyptus stems
8th Type: 10 assorted bird ornaments
Start with your first type of ornaments and place that type in equal proportions throughout the tree, then go with your 2nd type and place that type in equal proportions throughout the tree and so one until you are finished with your 5-8 types. Remember to keep each type of ornament balanced throughout your tree.
#5: Filler: This is where you ‘fill-in the blanks’ on the tree. As I mentioned, dried flowers work great as filler. Any spot you see that is missing an ornament or ball, you tuck in the filler. The filler is what gives your tree that ‘Designer’ feel.
#6: Acts of Randomness – This is the fun part. These random ornaments are meant to be scattered throughout your tree. These are the ones that you spend the money on, as they will stand apart from all the other ornaments. You can go large scale with some of the ornaments and then fill in with other smaller ones throughout the tree. This is not meant to be an exact science, just have fun with it.
#7: THE STAR: The Topper. This is where you can really have fun. Keep the topper in proportion with your tree (the topper shouldn’t be wider than the bottom of the tree or it will look off balanced). Topper ideas include assorted floral stems and branches, feathers, birds, ribbon etc. Remember the theme of your tree and try to tie the topper into the theme. You can also use a random large scale piece in the topper.
Designer trees don’t have to cost a fortune to be beautiful – A little tip: The Dollar Store is a great place to check out for those ‘special guests’ on your tree. The idea is not to do your entire tree in Dollar Store ornaments, just use them as accents throughout. The Topper and ‘Acts of Randomness’ ornaments is where you should spend the money, as these are the showstoppers.
To get inspired, each year MAC (Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts) does a fantastic job showcasing the town of Cape May for the Christmas Holiday Season. One of the biggest events in town is the Christmas Candlelight House Tours. Visitors tour private homes and Cape May Bed and Breakfasts decked out for the holiday season. The Mason Cottage, Cape May Bed and Breakfast Inn is one of the featured inns on the tour each year. Tickets MUST be purchased in advance, as this is MAC’s most popular tour and it sells out early – click here to purchase tickets.
The Mason Cottage is a nine room bed and breakfast inn located in the downtown, historic district of Cape May NJ - The Inn is open year round. All or the rooms/suites at the inn have private, en-suite baths and are tastefully appointed, blending history with modern sensibility. For more information on the Mason Cottage, Cape May Bed and Breakfast Inn, please visit us at www.themasoncottage.com