The surest way to add festive cheer to a home is a decorated Christmas tree. Stylists, visual merchandisers and home owners tell Bryna Singh and Natasha Ann Zachariah how they do it.
If you want to keep your decorations up for longer, pick a plastic tree. Real trees may give off a fresh pine scent, but they last for less than a month.
If you want your fake tree to smell good, Mr Zainal Zin, 44, Metro's senior visual merchandising executive, suggests you spray scented room freshener on it before dressing it up.
Some stores also offer fake trees with special effects. Gifts and lifestyle merchandise store Monoyono has been bringing in about 200 plastic made-in-China Christmas trees a year. They come with built-in blowers for the fake snow and usually sell out by mid-December.
The 1.9m-tall trees, which cost $252 each, come with styrofoam snow beads so you can create your own version of a winter wonderland.
Switch on the blower and the beads will fly up. They will fall back into the umbrella-like base so you do not have to worry about making a mess. The package comes with Christmas lights and simple ornaments too.
Mr Lee Cheun Kiat, marketing manager of the store which has outlets in Plaza Singapura, VivoCity and Raffles City, says: "For some home owners, it's a tradition to have a tree at home, but they might want something that's not static. This is something different."
Fake trees now come in daring colours such as neon pink, metallic blue and rainbow shades.
But experienced tree decorators say green trees are the easiest to work with because that is the most natural colour and they look good with a wider variety of ornaments.
12 tiny apartment design ideas
Metro's Mr Zainal says coloured trees can work well in homes with "futuristic" themes.
White, silver, gold or black ornaments (right) will go well with coloured trees, he adds.
Stick to a simple palette
Tree decorators say too many colours will make a tree look messy. Most recommend decking it out with just two main hues.
A spokesman for Tangs' visual merchandising team suggests going for the foolproof colour scheme of traditional solid colours: red, white, gold or silver. These are easy on the eye and will not look over the top.
Mr Alvin Koh, 50, regional head of visual merchandising at Robinsons, says champagne gold, when paired with warm festive lights, is a winning combination as it gives off a cosy, classy feel.
Francfranc's marketing executive Elsie Law suggests sorting out the ornaments first before putting them up on the tree. She says: "Organise the ornaments into categories: must-hang, maybe next year or never again. Once you have pared down to the tried- and-true favourites, find the palette that speaks to you."
Do not be afraid of unusual colours or irregular-sized ornaments, she adds. "Dare to be a little different with a shocking lime green paired with shimmery neutrals, for example."
Go with a theme
Trees without a theme can be dull or cluttered, so home owners can experiment with simple colour palettes such as red, silver or gold, with ornaments in similar hues.
The more adventurous can take inspiration from Metro's Moroccan Medley, one of the department store's five tree themes this year which showcases trimmings in hues of bright blue, purple, gold and fuchsia.
Ornaments dos and don'ts
Focus on scale. First, hang larger ornaments or those with more unique shapes near the bottom, which is wider, so things will look proportionate. Ms Law adds: "Not only will these add more depth to the tree, but they will also take up more space, which means fewer ornaments will be required."
Metro's Mr Zainal adds that larger ornaments at the bottom of the tree will prevent the tree from becoming top-heavy. Rounded ornaments can go in the middle as good "tree fillers".
Smaller-sized ornaments are best placed closer to the top, as the tree narrows and tapers off there.
Crate & Barrel's general manager Stephen Wright cautions against having all ornaments in the same size. He says: "Christmas trees should have some element of surprise. It makes it more fun because you are looking for what else is hiding between the leaves."
Avoid smothering the tree with Christmas baubles. The spokesman for Tangs' visual merchandising team says: "When you can't even see the tree anymore, that's when you are overdoing it."
He doles out two tips, which the store practises when decorating its own trees.
First, do not hang ornaments of the same style and colour at the same level - it will make the tree look too regular and boring.
Second, make sure your ornaments dangle instead of resting on the branches, so they look nicer.
Tinsel can be used to dress up bare spots, says Francfranc's Ms Law. "Tinsel and garlands instantly add pops of colour and texture to the tree.
"Gently drape the strands along the branches and avoid snaking them inwards for a fuller effect."
Experiment with unusual ornaments
Besides the traditional star as a tree- topper, you can also spice things up with alternatives such as wreaths and big ribbons. You can hang letters around the tree to spell out a message too.
Or take the chance to make your own decorations.
Crate & Barrel's Mr Wright says: "It's a chance to be creative. For example, you can make garlands of various things, such as stringing bells together."
Ikea Singapore's interior design specialist April Kwan agrees.
"Start with solid- coloured baubles to set the theme before adding ornaments with more decorative details. For example, you can use soft toys."
Light it up
While many home owners coil lights around their trees as the finishing step, experts say it is important to do the lights first. Metro's Mr Zainal says this ensures that the lights are distributed more evenly and the tree will look neater this way.
While it is easier to go bottom up, Crate & Barrel's Mr Wright suggests draping the lights from the top. This way, even if you run out of lights towards the bottom, people are less likely to notice it. He adds: "To avoid a messy look, wrap your lights around the tree in a hula-hoop fashion."
Besides regular white or coloured lights, you can also pick options such as icicle-styled ones. There are choices, too, for the green decorator, such as eco-friendly LED lights which can last longer.
A spokesman for the visual merchandising team at Tangs, which sells these lights priced from $21.90 for 10m of LED lights to $28.90 for 10m of lights that resemble icicles, says the length required depends on preference.
But he cautions: "A Christmas tree might be an overkill if it's too bright."
As a guide, Tangs uses about 40m of lights for a 1.8m-tall tree.
How to pick a live tree
By Natasha Ann Zachariah
Mr Peter Cheok, director of sales and marketing at Far East Flora in Thomson Road, says it brings in two species: the Noble and Nordmann Firs from the United States. These range in height from 1.2m to 3.7m tall. The trees cost between $68 and $939.90.
The fragrant Noble fir does not shed its needles easily and its branches are strong enough for heavy ornaments. The Nordmann Fir has a blueish tint on its underside, evenly spaced branches and no scent.
Mr Cheok suggests:
Before buying a tree, measure the height of the room it will be placed in. Choose a tree at least 30cm below the ceiling. For HDB dwellers, choose trees below 2.1m.
Measure the opening of your tree stand. Make sure your tree has a base that will fit in the stand. When checking a tree at the store, run your fingers along its needles and give it a shake. If it is fresh, the needles should be flexible and very few should fall off.
Make sure the tree trunk is straight, so it will fit easily into the tree stand. Caring
Ikea's Abies Nordmanniana trees cost between $55 and $114, depending on whether you opt for the tree base.
Ms Nailani Lazareto, 43, sales leader at furniture store Ikea Singapore, suggests:
Avoid overheating the tree with many decorative lights. Keep it out of direct sunlight and in a cool place if possible.
Ensure that the tree is planted in a stand containing enough water. The water should cover the entire tree base. Check the water level daily and replenish it with enough water to cover its bark, as the tree tends to absorb water quite quickly. Disposing
When customers return their tree for free disposal at Ikea's Alexandra or Tampines store, the trees will be recycled into wood chips to be used as fuel at a local boiler plant. Ikea Singapore is offering a 50 per cent rebate on the Christmas tree, without the tree base, in the form of a gift card.
At Far East Flora, the disposed trees will be sent to a waste management company. The company provides a collection and disposal service at $35 or you can choose to dispose your tree at its Queensway outlet for a $15 fee.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.