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3 Ways to Hack Your Holiday Decor So It Looks Handmade

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When it comes to holiday decorations, it’s tempting to just lug down a crate of yesteryear’s sparkly things from the attic and have at your mantle, your tabletop, and your doorframe with what you’ve got. And if those things feel crusty, is the only move to pick up expensive new ornaments to decorate the tree?

As always, our art director Alexis Anthony—the woman who curated the look of our new Holiday Market and who styles all the pictures in our Shop—has some tricks for taking everyday things and turning them into decorations that feel handmade and high-end.

Alexis' DIY white Christmas trees in our holiday pop-up.
Alexis' DIY white Christmas trees in our holiday pop-up. Photo by Alyssa Ringler

Alexis often cites her mom as being the source of so many inventive ideas—even though she didn't understand her good taste as a kid.

When I was little, I loved decorating the tree and picking out each ornament. My mom and I would talk about each ornament's history—if I made it and when or, if it was purchased or a gift, what it represented to us that year. When I got older, her trees were more designed and I was just her tree assistant, fulfilling all her tree visions. This wasn't quite as much fun for me (haha!).

Now that Alexis has a little one of her own, she's always on the hunt for ways to make things that are full of wonder but still fun for a kid. This year, there will be tiny trees, snow on the big tree, and icicles wherever her toddler Oliver wants them—all procured by hacking the kind of decorations you can pick up at any corner store. Here's how she does it:

Photo by Bobbi Lin

1. Natural Mini Christmas Trees

“I wanted to find some little white trees for a shoot and for the Shop, but I couldn't get them in time, so I did the next best thing," Alexis says of this craft: "I DIY'ed!"

What you’ll need:

Photo by Rocky Luten

How to do it:

Dunk the green Christmas trees in a bucket of water mixed with a splash of bleach, leaving them to soak for about an hour. Wearing gloves (and some clothes you’re not worried about), pull out two by the bases and scrub the branches against each other to remove the green color and the "snow," which will have gotten a little gunky. Continue scrubbing, dipping the trees in the bleach bath between scrubbings and then under running water to rinse, until completely pale. Set out in the sun to dry.

Make tree skirts by cutting out squares of tissue paper, setting the tree base in the middle of them, and tying them to the base with a simple bow of baker’s twine.

Left: baby's breath as tree snow; Right: tinsel as icicles Photos by Rocky Luten, Rocky Luten

2. Baby’s Breath Christmas Tree Snow

Alexis’ mom used this tip “if our tree was looking a bit wan (like one year when we tried the fake route or if our tree was rivaling Charlie Brown’s)” and it gave our fake trees at the Holiday Market a really natural look. (Just so you know, the only reason we couldn’t have real ones was because of this weird thing called “fire codes.”)

Tuck clusters of baby’s breath, often thought of as a cheap filler flower, into your Christmas tree to look like piled up snow on the branches. Vary the size of the clusters and space them out irregularly for a realistic look.

3. Using Tinsel the Right Way

“I was brainwashed at an early age that tinsel was a no-no,” Alexis remembers, so she was fascinated when she first saw it used the right way.

Instead of tossing whole handfuls of tinsel on the tree, as Chevy Chase probably did in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation," single out lone strands and drape them, one at a time, over the branches. The process is indeed a little tedious, but the result is a subtle sparkle like frost.

Baby's breath on the tree at our pop-up!

What holiday decor are you doing yourself? And what are you recycling from last year? Share with us in the comments!

Tags: decorating hacks, baby's breath, tinsel, mini trees, bleach, diy