Monday, December 1, 2008

Christmas Trees Part I -- Upside-Down Trees

With the holidays upon us, I thought it would be a good idea to explore some interesting tree decorating ideas. And none is more interesting than the upside-down tree.

At first a beautifully decorated Christmas tree, suspended upside-down can be a bit disconcerting – surreal even. But this unique presentation actually has many practical benefits, beyond shocking holiday guests.

Contrary to popular belief, the upside-down tree was not invented by modern hipsters, but rather dates back to 12th century Europe. Today, upside-down trees elicit strong responses – people seem to either love them or hate them. Count me firmly in the first camp.

For the most part, today’s inverted trees are artificial. They can be hung from a ceiling bracket, or stood in a special weighted base (most trees come with such a base), that provides stability.

Advantages of an Upside-down Christmas Tree

  • Easier to keep fragile ornaments away from little kid’s hands.
  • Easier to keep fragile ornaments out of the way of dogs or other earthbound pets.
  • Easier to display large ornaments, as they hang down like a chandelier.
  • More room for ornaments at eye level.
  • Takes up less floor space than traditional trees – you can even wedge an upside-down tree between pieces of furniture.
  • More room for packages underneath.
Professional Decorating Tips for Upside-down Trees
We went to designer Lisa Dodez, a woman who takes Christmas seriously (she usually tries to limit herself to 4 or 5 trees each year, in addition to an ambitious household-wide decorating frenzy), for advice on decorating an upside-down tree. In addition to imparting lots of general tips and wisdom, she also came up with the Children’s Fantasy theme tree you see on this page.
  • While large heavy ornaments traditionally need to hang on the sturdier branches, the structure of the upside-down tree allows for more space to hang larger ornaments, plus the bottom of the tree, is now the top. Decorate accordingly.
  • The tree should be three dimensional – wrap lights around each branch with cords in the center near the trunk, unless your tree came prelit (most do).
  • You can never have too many lights.
  • Decorate from the inside out – start near the trunk and work towards outer branches.
  • Save your favorite ornaments for last so they are on the outside of the tree, put lesser ornaments inside towards the trunk of the tree.
  • Look for ornaments in unexpected places – raid the kid’s toy box, go to the candy store, rework your scrapbooking supplies, etc.
  • Consider a rotating tree stand. Lisa’s advice on this topic is “you get what you pay for.” She once bought a low cost stand for $30.00 that burned out in one season, another she paid $200.00 for she’s had for 6 years and it’s still going strong.
  • For an easy classic elegant look, take inspiration from the upside-down tree’s “chandelier” shape and decorate it like a chandelier. Think white or crystal -- white lights with white or crystal ornaments hanging down. Use white wire edged ribbon as garland.

Designing the Children’s Toyland Fantasy Upside-down Christmas Tree
Lisa designed this bright fairytale tree you see on this page. Her first intention was to go with the upside-down design at the top of the tree, meaning she wanted the bottom at the top. She arranged the now top of the tree with a huge variety of toys – stuffed animals, dolls, trains, wind-up toys, cars, planes, etc. She then filled in with gift wrapped boxes. A flying Santa Claus and Reindeer, soaring off the edge of the tree, completes the top (middle right photo). For more details on the unique tree decorating plan, click here to our full Upside-Down Christmas tree article.

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