5 Tips for Decorating a Special, Nostalgic Family Christmas Tree

If you’re here, you probably already know how much I look forward to scheming and theming new Christmas trees each year. But, as much as I thrive off the opportunity to get creative with fresh colors, combos, and carefully curated Christmas trees, the most special tree in our home each year is our eclectic, nostalgic family Christmas tree. That’s the tree that holds all the memories, annual tokens of the season, and years of collection. That’s the tree that we go back to daily, just to look and point out our favorite special ornaments. Each year, our collection grows — what started as a small tabletop tree graduated to a slender floor tree, and this year, we finally upgraded to a full-sized Christmas tree. Whether you have multiple trees like we do, with one tree serving as home base for all your special ornaments, or, you use a single Christmas tree to hold your entire collection of ornaments, today, I’m sharing a few tips that can make your special family Christmas tree just a little more jazzed up, uniform, or “extra,” while looking simpler.

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Family Christmas Tree Tips & Ideas

There’s no right or wrong — your family Christmas tree is probably the most personal collection of Christmas decor you own and above all else, it should be something that you love. Something that feels special. Something that is for your family. Something that is a reflection of you. We grew up with a single Christmas tree and it was fully decked each year in years and years of memories, annual ornaments, and heirloom baubles. My mom still decorates her Christmas tree with all the special pieces and those alone are what her entire Christmas tree moment consists of.

A few weeks ago, I went to her house and we decorated her tree together. I shared a few glimpses and pans of the tree on Instagram stories and the overwhelming sentiment shared through message responses was that it was their favorite tree/kind of tree. I adore her tree and how special it all is and while I decorate my family Christmas tree just a little differently, the idea is the same. There’s not much strategy involved in using straight ornaments on your family tree, aside from nestling and staggering the ornaments and choosing the best branches to support each individual ornament, but if you’re looking to add just a little more intention/pizzazz to your family tree — while still keeping it totally you and unedited — well, I’ve got some tips today.

I hope, too, that this post conveys that you can still work in some “department-store-style” elements, if that’s what you’re hoping to achieve. A simple tree is a beautiful tree, but if you want to use your collection of special, nostalgic ornaments and still want some cool “extra” elements you see on trees that have been crafted for decor-purposes only, it can be done! I use just a few techniques and embellishments, in addition to my arsenal of family ornaments, and it still feels totally personal — just a little more intentional.

Here’s a look at our family Christmas tree during the day…

Family Christmas Tree Ideas

Sources: Chandelier | Sconces (similar) | Rug (8 x 10)| Bird Art Print Pair | Coffee Table | Black Carved Tray | Wooden Beads | Coffee Table Seagrass Planter (similar)| Matte Black Capri Blue Candle | Large Cement Vase | Smaller Cement Vase | Black Cabinet (similar) Woven Storage Trunk | Black Seagrass Basket | Christmas Tree Topper | Green Pillow Cover | Twinkle Lights

and here she is at night 😉

Tips for Decorating an Eclectic Family Tree

1. Don’t Edit Your Ornaments

The entire purpose and beauty of a family Christmas tree is the journey, collection and memories. It’s probably eclectic and chances are, all the ornaments likely don’t fall in the same color scheme. That’s great. That’s beautiful. A colorful range of classic mixed with neon hues reminds me of Santa’s workshop. Whatever your collection looks like, don’t hesitate to display it. I’m a sucker for woodland animals, bottlebrush figures, and felt everything. Growing up, receiving a mouse ornament as my annual addition was my favorite.

Family Ornament Christmas Tree Tips

I love the spot for our nostalgia family Christmas tree this year — set right beside my black glass front cabinet of family memories. If you missed that post, this post reminds me a lot of it — how to cohesively display eclectic family mementos. You can check that post out HERE.

Nostalgic Family Christmas Tree -- Ornaments and Decor

When Dave and I got married, my mom would gift us each an ornament and they would typically be themed together. I try to keep the “his” and “hers” close to each other when I’m adding the ornaments to the tree 😉 I’ve carried on the tradition and gift an ornament to Dave, Eliza, and my mom now and it’s one of my favorite moments of the holiday.

The cute little felt poodle was my mom’s ornament for Eliza this year — Eliza loves to mimic me getting ready and the brush, lipstick, and red stained mouth is perfect. I also love when I come across ornaments representative of our family — like this little trio of sledding penguins I purchased last year.

Tips for Decorating a Family Tree

Tips for Decorating a Family Christmas Tree

Tips for Decorating a Special Family Christmas Tree

2. Use a Uniform Element

Because there are so many colors, shapes, textures and sizes of the special family ornaments we’ve collected, I’ve added just a few extra embellishments for a hint of uniformity to bring the entire tree together. Even though eclectic and “un-themed” is what I’m going for, keeping something consistent throughout the tree makes it look intentional.

Five Tips for Decorating a Christmas Tree with Family Ornaments

For this tree, I added round, pearlescent, warm gold balls…

Using Special Family Ornaments in Your Christmas Tree Decor

along with a few discreet wooden ball picks that I found at Hobby Lobby.

Tips for Accessorizing a Family Tree with Special Ornaments

3. Ribbon Adds a Dressier, Intentional Accessory

Along the same lines, ribbon adds an element of uniformity and carries your eyes all around the tree, makes the eclectic tree look planned, and also dresses the family Christmas tree up just a little. I think there’s a preconceived notion that ribbon/extras are only meant for “show” trees, and that’s not true. Ribbon can absolutely be used in family trees and for anyone who uses a single tree each Christmas — which I imagine is the majority — that wants to marry the two approaches between “special ornaments” and “show elements”, it’s totally possible!

I love a plaid ribbon on the family Christmas tree because it feels classic, traditional, and nostalgic — everything our family Christmas tree represents. You can use more than one ribbon but I wouldn’t go with too many. While I think one ribbon adds an element of cohesiveness while still letting the special ornaments be the stars of the show, too many ribbon colors and patterns can start to detract from the ornaments.

Five Tips for Decorating a Nostalgic Family Christmas Tree

4. A More Modern Topper Makes a Pretty Juxtaposition

Christmas is made for warm feelings, memories, nostalgia, tradition… all of it. And I think that’s why I’m drawn to a lot of elements that evoke those feelings within me. But, a fresh update you can make is adding a more modern topper to the tree. I went a little nuts this year and ordered a few 4-d style starburst for multiple trees and I love how THIS glittery gold one looks against the classic ornaments and plaid. The entire conversation room (see the makeover reveal HERE) is a mix of new and old and I love that our family Christmas tree shares that juxtaposition.

5 Tips for Decorating a Special Christmas Tree with Family Ornaments

While I have the gold version of the star on the family Christmas tree, I have the silver version (HERE) on the tree in our dining room.

2021 Christmas Home Tour

If you missed it in the Christmas Home Tour (see the full tour HERE), here’s a look at what the starburst topper looks like in silver.

Sources: Rug (natural; 8’x10′) | Lamps |  Sideboard — RH (similar) | Christmas Tree Topper 

And while a little different, THIS is the star I used to top Eliza’s pencil tree…

Fun, Colorful Kids Bedroom Christmas Tree

SourcesWhite Cane CribGingham Crib Sheet | Doll Carriage | Gold Frames | Christmas Tree Topper

5. Have Fun with Your Base

I have multiple trees and in only placing gifts under our primary tree in the great room, I get a little creative with the bases of my other trees. From pillows and throw blankets to baskets and boxes, most of my tree bases are different. If your family Christmas tree is your sole tree or is the tree you place your gifts under, you may not need other ideas. But, I will say, that like the ribbon, it can be nice to have a more monotone/simple packaging scheme. You could use brown craft paper (I use THIS huge roll) with pretty ribbons, or stick to a paper that has one-two colors and is lighter on patterns. This is how a more simple scheme looks under our main Christmas tree — I used brown craft paper with just a few packages in two red accent papers.

Red and gold Christmas Packages Under Red and gold Christmas tree

SourcesBrown Kraft Paper | Red and White Striped Paper | Smudge Red Wrapping Paper |  Velvet Burgundy Ribbon | Red Velvet Ribbon | Gold Satin Ribbon

But, if you don’t place packages under your family Christmas tree — or even if you do — I love adding our fun Christmas-specific toys. Eliza loves the animated animals and our basket of daily advent books (see that post HERE), are also nestled below. Nutcrackers are also fun. And, other larger decor previously deemed as not “fitting in” in other primary spots or on shelves can nestle in perfectly — kind of like the “island of misfit toys”. 😉

Tips for Decorating a Special Tree

This is the room we gather in to read at night throughout the Christmas season and our family Christmas tree is the source of so many of the memories and years we reflect on throughout the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Family Christmas Tree Decorating Tips

Special Family Christmas Tree with Decorating Tips

While I hope these tips/guidelines are helpful in providing some ideas on how to mix things up a little bit or try something new, the family Christmas tree holds a sacred place in so many of our hearts and is always worth showcasing.

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4 Comments

  1. 12.7.21
    Dianne McNeely said:

    Everything is perfect. Your family tree is exquisite. Love your posts. Merry Christmas!!

    • 12.8.21

      Dianna, Thank you for taking the time to stop by. I appreciate your kind note so much! Thank you for following along with us and I hope you and yours have a very Merry Christmas!

  2. 12.7.21
    Vanessa said:

    Kelly your family tree is gorgeous. I read your post will sitting sat in my living room with the only lighting in the room coming from the glow of the Christmas tree lights. We have one tree and it’s filled with ornaments from my husband and my childhoods, our early childhood-free years, our children, then the children in love as they married in and now our grands. It’s fun to remember where each ornament came from (several from our overseas assignments in the military).
    It’s wonderful to watch Eliza experience the most blessed time of year with you and Dave.
    Thank you for sharing your precious family and gorgeous home.
    V

    • 12.8.21

      Vanessa, Thank you so much for taking the time to visit and for your sweet note! I am so flattered that you read the post in what I imagine is a very special space. My mom’s tree is like yours and each ornament has a story of its own. It’s so special when the ornaments come out to decorate and we can reminisce on the history of each one. I bet your tree is absolutely gorgeous and appreciate you following along with us. I hope you and yours have a very Merry Christmas!

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