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Decorating tips from Festival of Trees designers

Posted on Dec. 3, 2015 ( comments)
Festival of Trees Designer Day 2015

Earlier this week, an exhibition hall in downtown Tacoma full of bare trees and boxes of lights and decorations was transformed into a display of nearly 50 sparkling Christmas trees.

The trees are the main draw for 29th annual Festival of Trees, a holiday event that benefits Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital & Health Center in Tacoma. Volunteers design and decorate trees that are on display for five days and auctioned at a black-tie event.

We asked some of this year’s tree designers for their decorating tips so that you, too, can have a Festival-worthy Christmas tree.

  1. Plan ahead and choose a trendy theme to make shopping easier.

Robin and Julia Bachmeier, a mother-daughter duo from Gig Harbor, created a Pacific Northwest–themed tree for this year’s Festival. Lanterns, pinecones, owls and antlers adorn their creation, and a silver deer head tops it off.

This is their first year decorating for Festival, and both agree that planning is key to a successful tree.

“Decide a theme early on, so you can plan ahead,” Robin says.

Julia also recommends picking a theme based on what you can easily find in stores. She noticed rustic outdoorsy decorations were popular this year, so that made her shopping simpler.

  1. Make your tree stand out with lots of lights.

“Open the Book to Wonderland,” a tribute to the 150th anniversary of "Alice in Wonderland," includes a spinning Mad Hatter hat and whimsical oversized ornaments in jewel tones — plus plenty of light strands.

“You can never have too many lights,” says Jeri Campbell, one of the designers. “Just when you think you have enough, add some more. It will make your tree pop.”

  1. Combine different textures and include interesting details.

Sheila Jensen and Tara Waits, in their fourth year decorating together, came up with “It’s a Party.” The tree has a deep purple palette and glittering crystal and metallic trimmings. Nestled in and under the tree, stemware and barware draw the eye.

Both designers recommend combining lots of different textures for contrast — and adding extra little details to draw the eye, such as a spinning tree topper.

“You can’t go wrong with that,” Jensen said.

  1. Don’t be afraid to go overboard.

Sheldon Arkin — well known for creating trees at Festival since the 1980s — worked on two trees this year. One of his trees, “For the Record,” is a tribute to Mary Bridge Children’s 60th anniversary.

A callback to the 1950s, his tree is surrounded by a faux soda shop/music store decorated with record album sleeves. In fact, the record albums dominate the exterior — just like the ornaments on the tree dominate.

Late Tuesday, his team was still putting ornaments on the tree, filling every available space.

Sheldon’s tip: “If you can see green, you don’t have enough ornaments!”

Festival of Trees 2015 event schedule

Special Tours, Thursday, Dec. 3
Ladies Night Out, Thursday, Dec. 3
Gala, Friday, Dec. 4
Jinglebell Jam, Saturday, Dec. 5
Public Days, Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 5–6

About The Author

Roxanne Cooke Roxanne Cooke

Roxanne Cooke is our senior content editor and manages VitalsKite Strings and Bring Happy Back, plus special projects such as 24 Hours at Tacoma General Hospital and The Healthy Futures Project. She tells stories in words, photos and video. You can reach her at [email protected]

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