There will be no family journey to a tree farm this year. We won’t even be going to the tree lot down the street. Instead, we will be opening a box. Actually, several boxes.
This year, our family will finally become the last of our extended clan (friends included) to embrace the artificial tree, and I couldn’t be happier about it!
For years, I’ve stubbornly insisted that the daily sweeping of dust pans full of needles and the annual rigging of MacGyver-like mechanisms that allow heavy ornaments to dangle from too-fragile branches was a small price to pay for the impossible-to-re-create aesthetics of a real tree.
The scent of fresh evergreen can be easily had by burning a candle after all. But the fake trees always looked, well, fake. Until I realized one day that some of them don’t anymore. And they come pre-lit with LED bulbs that will dazzle for thousands of hours. There are some things that I will be forever nostalgic for. Losing years of my life to untangling Christmas lights is not one of them.
In preparation for Christmas, the decorating elves have been logging extra workshop hours, resulting in a plethora of holiday decor innovations ready to be dropped down your chimney. Here’s my list of some of this holiday season’s most promising decorating problem solvers:
● Inversion Tree technology: Thank goodness this isn’t referring to the upside-down-rotating tree trend of several seasons past. Inversion Tree, rather, refers to the technology behind an artificial tree that looks good enough to have been the prize pluck from a pristine forest.
Outfitted with enough features to make a Swiss army knife jealous, its name is derived from the pre-lit tree base which starts off in an inverted position but quickly flips to allow two additional sections (also pre-lit) to stack successively, delivering a ready-to-decorate tree in mere minutes.
And the whole thing is on casters. What I find truly phenomenal (aside from the fact that I don’t have to run lights up and down each branch) is the hyper-realistic appearance of the branches and needles, molded directly after natural cuttings. Rounding out the features are lights that promise to burn for 3,000 hours, reinforced steel tips to handle all of your heavy-duty ornaments, a remote, and no needle heaps to sweep.
● Skinny trees: Whether you’re an urbanite cautiously guarding your square footage or part of the recent wave that downsized into a smaller, more energy-efficient home, you will appreciate the newest trend in artificial tree shapes: the tall and skinny super model.
For many, the classically proportioned Christmas tree is just too much of a space hog. With trends moving toward city living (think urban loft) and smaller spaces where square footage is tight but tall ceilings are abundant, “holiday enthusiasts have been asking for the tall and skinny tree,” says Pam Longworth, director of holiday at Frontgate.
Some models come as thin as three feet across with heights that still soar to a full nine feet, perfect for how many are choosing to live today. The end result is a lot of presence without giving up a lot of space.
● The tabletop: If a skinny tree is still too much tree for you, but a wreath on your front door just won’t quench your holiday decorating thirst, look to the new wave of artificial-yet-realistic tabletop trees that can be placed anywhere without water damage to the fine furniture below, a pitfall that accompanies fresh-cut.
These down-scaled trees also speak to the multiple-tree trend. Whether it’s used as a kids’ tree, a centerpiece on a foyer table or as your main nod to the holidays, the tabletop tree is an adaptable decor item that delivers a lot of holiday bang for the buck.
● Battery-operated LED wreaths: I am one of those who’s risked his life twisting myself into a pretzel, trying to figure out how to plug in my exterior lit wreaths while standing on the top rungs of a too-tall ladder.
Of course, one of those lit wreaths goes dark halfway through every holiday season. This year, I’m donating my miles of extension cords to a relative and choosing to add years to my life (reduced stress taken into account) by employing new battery-operated LED wreaths, programmable to turn on for six hours a day, every day, so that my major duty is to enjoy the beauty emanating from those energy-efficient bulbs rather than remembering to turn them on and off each night.
The fact that so many of them are indistinguishable from the fresh-cut variety is a huge bonus.
● Chinoserie ornaments: This has been a notable year for Asian-inspired design. From the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s hugely influential “China: Through the Looking Glass” exhibit to de Gournay hand-painted wallpaper covered in nearly every shelter publication, home decor has been mining deep into the Far East archives for direction.
Christmas ornament designers, such as Carleton Varney, have taken note and extended this fascination with all things Asian-inspired to some of this year’s most striking and on-trend holiday decor offerings.
Cherry blossom branches in full bloom, twirling silk parasols and Asian lattice inspired by pagoda window screens supplant the usual snow-covered pines and jumping reindeer as the motifs you’ll find on many of this season’s freshest ornaments. You’ll also find lantern-shaped ornaments replete with flowing tassels, exotic cranes and classic balls in traditional Chinese gold that will easily complement whatever you’ve already established.
If you have young kids like ours (or you’re just a kid inside), talk of Christmas started somewhere around early August and was only briefly interrupted by something called Halloween. We’re not the home that causes cars to stop in the middle of the street, but since the last Thanksgiving plate was loaded into the dishwasher, our home has definitely been in full-on winter-wonderland mode.
Make no mistake, we love to decorate for the holidays. So whether you pride yourself on being the first to inculcate new trends, are pondering eco-friendlier holiday decor, or have simply decided that picking up tree needles isn’t as charming as you once thought, descriptors such as “LED” and “artificial” no longer have to be considered compromises.
Christmas 2015 will find me happily lighting an evergreen-scented candle, turning on my artificial tree via remote and leaving my dust pan in the closet.
And perhaps our family will even get to spend more time just hanging out and staring at the beautiful, twinkling holiday lights.
Yip is an interior designer and star of “Bang for Your Buck” and “Live in Vern’s House” on HGTV. Originally from McLean, Va., Yip is based in Atlanta and New York. Follow him on Facebook (Vern Yip/Artist), Twitter and Instagram (both @VernYipDesigns). He writes occasionally for The Washington Post.