Alternative Christmas trees: Don’t get too hung up on tradition

Whether for reasons of sustainability or space, foregoing a ‘proper’ Christmas tree opens up all sorts of creative possibilities

There are many reasons why you might wonder whether a traditional Christmas tree is right for your home this year: cost, sustainability, how to transport it home (and eventually dispose of it), or perhaps you simply don’t have space.

If you’re a cat owner, maybe you’ve just picked a trashed tree up off the floor one too many times after your furry friend has made a jump at it.

But Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without some focal point to pile the presents under, right? Don’t worry – there are plenty of fun and inspirational ideas to create alternative Christmas trees (and some shoppable ones too, for those who’d prefer to steer clear of a glue gun).

For apartment dwellers in particular, a big tree takes up far too much real estate on your floor space. A simple but effective look is to string fairy lights or garlands up in the shape of the outline of a Christmas tree. Hang a bauble off each point, pop a star on top, et voilà, you’re done. Simple, space-saving and very cute.


If you haven’t already got a Takker in your life, now is the time to acquaint yourself – this little device, first seen on Dragons’ Den, is indispensable for hanging pictures, shooting a tiny tack into the wall – which, when removed, leaves barely a trace yet somehow holds up to 10kg securely (from €14.95, and Woodies nationwide).

If you (or your landlord) are precious about the walls, a great solution is a wall decal tree – essentially a big, fancy sticker. Simply pop it on the wall and peel it off when you’re done. Try Etsy, and for a great selection.

Another option is to use a large cork board – which makes it easy to use drawing pins or staples to attach decorations – and simply lean it against the wall, or buy a roll of high-density cork sheeting on Amazon and make a frame to give it structure.

For outdoors, or a more rustic vibe inside, an open wooden ladder creates the perfect-height triangular space in between its legs. Simply festoon with baubles strung at different heights using fishing line or thread.

If you already have a decent size houseplant in your space, you could decorate that instead of a fir tree. Or take inspiration from Homesense stylist Diana Civil, who suggests a faux cactus.

“As a fun focal point in a small living space, a festive cactus tree is ideal,” says Civil. “Decorate with bold and whimsical trinkets. Layer on bright coloured fairy lights and pom poms. Then team with an oversized woven basket or wrap pressies in bold-coloured paper for a finishing touch.”

For booklovers, a book Christmas tree is a must. It’s simple to do and doesn’t require any extra crafting materials or the dreaded hot glue gun.

Dean Kelly, gallery manager at Kenny’s bookshop in Galway, is a master of the art. He has been constructing their book tree for more than 10 years now. The idea came to them when they were looking for a home for a large collection of books bound in green leather with gilt edges.

“They just shouted Christmas,” he says, and now, “It’s become a bit of an institution.” He maintains it’s an easy construction, if time-consuming and requiring hundreds of books, as he and Tomás Kenny “have it down to a fine art”.

UK-based events stylist Ros Marsh set up her business Fig and Form two years ago, creating bespoke balloon-backdrop displays for special occasions. She was inundated with enquiries after creating her pampas balloon tree.

“Each year there seems to be more and more interpretations of the classic Nordic fir,” she says.

She suggests checking out American interior designer Sami Riccioli on Instagram (@sami_riccioli). “She creates Christmas trees for all different seasons that are equal measures of bonkers and fabulous,” says Marsh.

From balloons to feathers to disco balls, Pinterest and Instagram are full of inspiration for DIY projects, if you’re feeling crafty. The only limit to what you can make a tree from is your imagination.

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