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Your Christmas Tree is You (maybe)

By 12/13/2009January 23rd, 201748 Comments

Have you ever heard the expression “The way you do Anything is the way you do Everything?” A speaker once said that in a seminar.

And decorating my tree this year, I saw something about my personality that seemed as clear as day once it was finished.

I always get a real tree because I love the smell but the worst part about a real tree is getting it in the stand so that the trunk is at the perfect length (so it doesn’t tip over) and second, getting it to stand up straight.

So this year after much struggling, it was still a bit crooked. So I said to myself, I’m okay with it. As long as I have one up.

I would never have allowed this to happen before I started decorating for a living, but I spend so much of my life shopping, sourcing, for my clients and their homes, I just don’t have the same creative energy to do it for myself these days.

Prior to my career in design, I would spend all day decorating the dinner table for my guests (just like Martha). Now my guests are lucky to get a napkin.

Anyway, back to my tree saga. My slightly crooked tree–on Friday afternoon–came crashing down!

So Saturday, finally, after about 45 minutes, I got it to stand up straight, and then I stuck all the decorations back on it. Then I stood back to look at it, and do you know what my tree looks like?

It’s perfect (well not like I am or anything). It’s been pruned and trimmed perfectly, the decorations are spaced perfectly, it’s downright boring. In fact, it looks like a ‘tightly wrapped’ person decorated it.

Then I watched a terrible ‘made for TV’ Christmas movie last night and I just loved the tree in the character’s apartment. It looked so casual, whimsical and playful–almost sexy (if that’s possible for a tree to be, just like the one below) and I realized I’ve always wanted my tree to look like that!

All images from Country Living

And maybe it’s because I’d like to be a little less literal about things, more playful, less serious and a little less ‘tightly wrapped’ (like this one too).

Well what do you think of my theory? Do you think your Christmas tree is you? Next year, that’s what mine will look like and then maybe I’ll even take a picture of it and post it!

Okay, Okay, it is missing in this post for me to call my tree perfect (I’m not saying it’s the best tree, it’s just boring and symmetrical) and then not even show you what it looks like. Here it is (above :).

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  • Red Door Home says:

    WIth two kids, I have had to learn to be more relaxed about everything. It turns out this is a good thing. To me it is more important to have a mish-mash of ornaments in all different colors and styles that represent so many parts of our lives than to put up a tree that is all perfectly color coordinated. Sure, the picutres of those types of trees are beautiful to look at. The true beauty in a tree, or a house lies in the people who live there.

  • The Blasphemous Fiendess says:

    Hi Maria, great post. In my family the Christmas tree has to represent three of us, although we all have a similar aesthetic. There has definitely been compromise as I strongly dislike tinsel and tinsely garlands. Our tree is always real, lately a noble fir, and it isn't sheared. A noble fir has a bit of a a resemblance to a monkey puzzle tree. We use ribbon as a garland along with red wooden beads. The ornaments are an eclectic mixture of balls and others that we like. The topper is a copper star my husband made and we hang twisted aluminum icicles. There is no deliberate colour scheme although red predominates. My husband insists on coloured lights. the tree skirt is a white cloth meant to look like snow since a lit up Victorian Village is set up under the tree. I think our tree says family unity, compromise and sharing, unstudied eclecticism and Shawna really likes red.

  • Ivy Lane says:

    What a fun post Maria! Only, I wish you would have posted a pic of your tree! I am sure it is fabulous! My tree IS me for sure… I love putting it up, stringing the lights (that takes me 2 days til I get it the way I like it) then adorn it with all the ornaments my hubby and I have collected over the is a reflection of both of us…

    Merry Christmas!!!!!!

  • Renae says:


    I am chuckling a bit b/c I too can be a bit 'tightly wrapped'! My tree is far from perfect or 'designer-y' b/c I have let my kids decorate it forever. Now they are adults and it's much better. A few years ago I wanted a 'big girl' tree and put all of the 'kid' ornaments away and did beautiful silver balls (the heavy duty silver that look like big jingle balls) glass finials and some other pretties including to die for gorgeous ribbon and no one liked it. So it made me realize that the tree is to be full of memories young and old and I incorporate all the pretties with all the ones with memories! Ours was leaning a bit too this year and I said, "oh, it doesn't matter" but upon looking at it more I "had" to make it straight!

    We all just need to take a deep breath and remember WHY we celebrate Christmas, because without HIM there is no celebration!

    Blessings and big hugs!

  • Gwen says:

    The idea that my tree is me is sort of scary this year, but I can't say that I disagree with you.

    I was wary about going and picking up all of the Christmas stuff from storage this year, so I made do with what I had a round the house. Call is laziness, lack of spirit, what have you, but I just didn't feel like driving an hour, loading boxes, driving home, unloading boxes, decorating,…do I have to go on?

    We have a large property with a lot of less than healthy trees. I picked the right one, sprayed it silver and popped in a big silver vase. With a few silver and white bulbs, I call it my Winter Wonderland. There is someone in the house that has taken to calling it a Winter Wasteland, but I will keep him.

    Cheers and I hope that you share some pictures of your new and improved tree.

  • Lynne says:

    I loved your post! I am not putting up a tree this year (b/c I have a puppy and having a tree up would be practically begging for a trip to the emergency vet!)… but like you, I am a tad bit "tightly wound" (now there's an understatement!), and for years I tried to do "theme" trees… which were lovely, but "flat" – they didn't feel good. So several years ago, I decided to only use ornaments and other decorations that held a special meaning for me, or that I truly loved. My trees are now a conglomeration of all kinds of things from the most elegant, beautiful glass ornaments, to hand-made paper chains from my nieces and nephews. And I think they are absolutely beautiful. Thanks for reminding me about what's really important!

  • Susan says:

    Hi Maria,

    Another great post… and I'm thinking she is reading my mind. After decorating, sourcing, buying and setting up other peoples homes sometimes (actually quite often) the last thing I want to do is come home and work on my house. I just want to come home and veg.

    Last year my tree was decorated in white lights, red balls and silver lady finger starfish that I brought home from the stores inventory. I didn't upack a single thing from my years of collecting Christmas ornaments. It was so nice and so easy.

    I guess if I were to answer your question it would be "yes I am my tree", I choose to simplify.

    No tree up this year yet, however, I am going to do the same thing as last year. Forage around the store and do a very simple tree.

    I hope you get your cushion soon.

  • Tracy @ Comfort and Luxury says:

    So… if I am my Christmas tree, I'm fake and prickly yet colorful and whimsical. An interesting combination that sounds about right. Except for the fake part… we only have a faux tree because real ones dry out too fast in this house. I am a bit prickly though, can't deny that!

  • Between you, me and the Fencepost says:

    I'll send Noah over to trim your tree next year . . . then we'll get William to play with the ornaments . . and send the baby to bat at the hanging balls. Whimsical AND playful with no ornaments any higher than 4 feet. Perfect.

  • Linda at Lime in the Coconut! says:

    Ha! I was grappling with this idea as I threw (literally) some things up on the kitchen shelves. SO not perfect, so not anything much…but for this year…it'll be. It'll be. (I just posted on it…minutes ago).

    Yep….I have always loved the Charlie Brown tree. Real, blemished…but happy all the same!

  • Tara Dillard says:

    At a Christmas party many years ago the host's tree was laying in a corner, on its side, still wound with the string from the tree lot.

    Boxes of ornaments tossed on top.

    They laughed at the sad site, saying they would leave it throughout Christmas.

    The host's mother did all the cooking. A female guest presented the hosts an inappropriately expensive gift. The host's wife developed shark eyes, totally dead.

    As expected, about 2 years later the hosts divorced. Somehow that poor Christmas tree foretold the future to me.

  • Rachel says:

    we're trying something totally new for our X'mas tree this year. Instead of a real tree, which ends up shedding needles all over the floor and is done for in a month, we are purchasing an art tree! it's going to be 7' tall and fabulous.

  • My tree is me and my kids. I only have ornaments that mean something to us or that one of us loves. Please post pics of your tree, I wanna see it !!

  • Hudson Goods says:

    love that first room and the fireplace!

  • Kathy @ Creative Home Expressions says:

    Good question. I don't think our main tree is me totally; I think it's a bit of the whole family. I did do a little one in the living room this year that is a lot of fun and whimsical. I think that one may be more "me" personality-wise. Another little one I did was with my kids' baby ornaments and from when they were younger. That one is also kind of "me" but the Mom me.

  • Eliza says:

    I always loved my family's tree, covered in german wooden ornaments from when my parents lived overseas, glass icicles, and a very few special glass balls. Lots of handmade ornaments, from slopppy popsicle stick frames, to handpainted balls from an artistic relative who had lots of time and love on her hands!

  • Kelee Katillac says:

    Hi Maria!

    I can totally relate! Check out my "one bag christmas" post….

    Take a deep breath and just let it be… I glance at my tree au naturale….except lights…..

    I NEED light these days…thereby proving your point.

    Thank-you for your friendship and support this year! Happy Holidays beautiful!

    love, kelee

  • Minus75 says:

    I think a person's tree does say so much about their personality.

    I don't want my tree to be perfect. To me that's saying I'm trying too hard to impress.

    Our tree is far from perfect but it's perfect for us. Last night my husband looked at it and asked if we should put more lights on it. No, it didn't need them. It has a nice lovely glow, it doesn't scream like a beacon in the night.

    Our tree does not have a theme. We have ornaments that have been collected over the years. Each one has meaning and will one day go to our children's homes and on their trees.

    The one thing our tree always does have is icicles. Being a decorative painter, I'm all about layers. For me, an icicle dangling on the tip of each brach, shimmering in the glow of the lights is the final touch that makes my tree mine.

  • Cristin says:

    My tree is really a nod to my mother and grandmother. I have a lot of ornaments that my mom made when I was growing up and some vintage ones from my grandmother. It is eclectic, but I love it. And come to think of it, so is my decorating style.


  • Bloggers Abode says:

    I'm so glad you said that very thing! Perfect and BORING! I hate it when that happens. My tree is always me. Flawed, warm and charming 😉 Seriously though each year it's different. Different tree, different design, mood/colors. This year we bought a budget tree. Short and lopsided. I I was hating it. Now that it's up and done? I love it. It has all the things I love on it and it's goofy and cute. Go see- I just posted it.

  • Marlo says:

    I’m detail orientated and of course I tried to make the tree perfect with colours, shapes, sheens & equal distribution; it turned out nice but it’s not sexy.

    This is the time I need to forget about the details and enjoy the beautiful, quiet lights – they're peaceful and magical.

  • Eliana Tomás says:

    i completely agree with "the way you do anything is the way you do everything", especially when it comes to little details. This year i don't have xmas tree, as i'm flying to my family's, but next year i'll have it for sure and the way i'm gonna decorate it, is by asking everyone of my family members and friends to make (not buy)one thing for my tree… anything! in the end of the day, christmas is all about it, isn't it? (at least i hope so): family and friends. so, it's gonna be a very eclectic tree, but with a soul.
    merry colour to everyone 🙂

  • heather @ what's blooming this week says:

    Hi Maria

    I always think of my tree as a work in progress, just like me…every year it changes a bit – this year I added some richer, deeper colours and trim down on the tinsel- I'm feeling that way too – deeper, richer but emotionally trimmed down (certainly not physically).

  • Easy Does It Redesign and Consulting says:

    You nailed it again! As we finished our tree this year, I wondered if I should shake things up and try something different – "creative". But our tree is a tribute to our family and traditions with ornaments handed down from previous generations and those made by my son throughout the years. Perfect – far from it. Beautiful? We think so! In fact – in pulling together my next blog post, I included pics of it. I look forward to seeing yours – please post!

  • Mary says:

    How can you do a post about your tree and not show us a picture?
    My husband & I usually get a fresh tree and decorate it with ornaments that represent vacations we've taken in the past. This year we've decided to donate the money normally spent on a tree to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

  • Carol Ann says:

    Our christmas tree is always so me, when my girls were little they had a tree in the basement that they could decorate (with moms help) and I had one in the livingroom that no one did but me..they new not to touch or help…very sad

  • Karena says:

    I do not put up a tree anymore, although I may do a table top. my condo is small and I have given the ornaments to my son & daughter. I do put out candles wreaths, Santos etc!

  • Kelly, Arte Styling says:

    Fun post…and comments, Maria. But I also want to see a photo of your tree!!! And, I'm curious – do you feel that way about other areas of your home, or just about your tree? I ask because I had the same sort of feelings earlier this year. I looked around the house and decided it wasn't playful enough – that I wanted to be more playful. Brought in more friendly, energetic (some might say childlike) colors. It's definitely less serious now, and I'd like to think that I am, too.
    Ok – let's see that tree!

  • Maria Killam says:

    Hi Everyone-that-wants-to-see-my-tree 🙂

    Because I rent, that tree would be photographed against the dated wallpaper in the hallway (if I took it from that angle) or the dated drapes in the living room (if I took it from yet another angle). Posting it even with that qualifier would leave potential clients with the impression that those would be MY choices when in fact they are far from what my choices would be.

    So unfortunately, until I buy this house and start a reno, I am extremely reluctant to show photos of it.

  • Bloggers Abode says:

    If you sit on the floor below the tree and shoot a photo facing upwards you can keep out the offensive items. Give a go lady! We're not letting you off that easy 😉

  • Developing Designs says:

    Maria, OMG, I laughed out loud several times reading this post. It was wonderful. The trees you show are great, but your sense of humor is what rocks! Keep smiling. There is always next year 🙂
    Tip on photographing the tree that I know everyone would love to see, including me if you are up for it is…..if you have any fabric, or yards of super inexpensive burlap to drape behind the tree to disguise whatever you want to disguise might work. Just like they do in the photography studios. I know! In your spare time right?
    Best wishes for an upright tree for the remainder of this holiday season 🙂 xo

  • Bloggers Abode says:

    Girl! O.K. A. You're crazy and B. That's a rental?!! What an amazing room!! (the tree's cute too) Look at those windows!! You're seriously nuts to be worried about showing that space. I'm glad we bugged you!

  • Mary says:

    Your tree isn't boring! It's lovely. And what you've done with your rental (from what I can see)is lovely also. You are too hard on yourself.

  • Maria Killam says:

    Well it's also why I want to buy this house, the view is so amazing and I love the living room, it makes me happy just walking into it. It's really a great space (except for all the finishes–it's just so original 60's there is some charm to it)

  • Lauren says:

    i know it's been said but your house Maria!!! Those views!! oh my gosh it's so beautiful!

    anyway, I love all of the trees you showed… I can never seem to find those perfeclty imperfect trees in our budget. ($30! 😉 Once at a family friend's house in the North Woods of Wisconsin when I was a little girl I saw one of these in 'real life' and was blown away. It was so tall & huge but the boughs were spaces so far apart & the decorations were so simple & beautiful & the kids had done it themselves. I always think of that tree.. In front of a huge window with a view of the snowy woods… ah beauty.

    this year my tree feels a little more "me" because we stuck crazy branches fronm the yard coming out all over it. It's kind of natural & wild & my dad said "what the hell is that?!" when he saw a picture of it so I think it might be very me 🙂 We have so many cheesy sentimental ornaments from my side of the family & although I love them all & have to look at them every year when the ornament box comes out, they don't really "speak" to me design-wise. But a lof of them go up anyway.

    xoxoxo and i'm so sorry your tree fell!!!! what a PAIN!!!!!

  • Arte Styling says:

    Yay! Looks pretty. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  • Erin says:

    ha ha, what a funny thought! My tree was decorated souly by my 4 year old son. And yes, it is much like me. Not perfect, but well loved! 😉

  • Candied Fabrics says:

    Looks like you hit just the right note with lots of folks – I actually blogged my response here, I had so much to say!

  • ticridge says:

    Your tree is so beautiful and I absolutely love your living room with all the windows! What a view! Buy the house! 🙂

  • Rachel H says:

    This is SO true! haha! Once I think about it- my tree is just ME. It looks glamorous (like I like to look when I go out on a date w/ my hubby!)- yet it's def. NOT untouchable. It's first impression is fancy shmancy, but deep down it's ornaments are unbreakable for the most part,and pretty kid-friendly! Just like how my whole house is! It's a mirage! Fancy to look at, yet nothing is so precious that my 18 month old can't jump on it or play with it.

  • LaurenFaythe says:

    I love the "Charlie Brown" Christmas tree. We have an artificial one, so it's hard to get that imperfect look, but one of these years, I want to go up to the mountains and chop one down and get the perfect "imperfect" tree!

  • Jenn Calling Home says:

    Sigh… Well, if this is true, then I'm terribly boring and safe! I would love a whimsical tree, like the one with the red and white lollipops and the coordinating wrapped gifts. I'm just not that clever.

    Merry Christmas and many blessings in the new year!

  • Pangaea says:

    Well, this year I couldn't find my ornaments … seriously! My excuse is that my husband put them away in my warehouse of staging inventory. Oh well! So, instead of my candy striped ornaments with red, lime green and white, I had to punt. I wasn't going to spend money on ornaments when I know perfectly well that the collection will show up about a week after Christmas. So, I came across a bag of hand made ornaments I made 13 years ago when I was taking classes in paper making. I had sculpted stars & moons, made molds and then cast white paper pulp into them and painted gold accents on them. My tree has white lights, the white & gold paper ornaments and candy canes hung on it (my favorite candy all year). So, it's my own original art, and my favorite candy and it is pretty minimal. I guess, now that you mention it, I like to create things with a minimal aesthetic, and I put a lot of "me" into everything I do. So maybe your theory is right! Happy Holidays!

  • Allison says:

    What is that first room? I am in love with it. I want to move in and live there forever.

  • Maria Killam says:

    Hi Allison,
    So sorry I lost my links because this post got deleted on windows live writer before I finished it so then all I had was my photos on snag-it. All I remember is that it was a Vancouver home.

  • Maria, I love this post! I think you are right about the Christmas tree reflecting our personalities.

    Mine is always a little to flamboyant. I ADORE festivity and decor, so mine is very traditional..but with lots of tinsel (preferably gold). It has all the ornaments we’ve collected over 25 years including the children’s and grandparents homemade ones on it, plus cranberries strung on..and colored lights…and even popcorn sometimes. I add red bows on occasion and even hot glued pinecones on one year!

    Then I go to a friend’s house and see their beautifully decorated and coordinated tree..and have always felt a little embarrassed that I never thought to simplify my tree or color coordinate it.

    The last three years my sophisticated unsentimental daughter has taken over the job. Suddenly we have a tree which one year had only white lights, red bows, garland and silver ornaments and this year has all our ornaments (except anything too large or gawdy), colored lights (but no blinkies–heaven forbid!) and no tinsel whatsoever. Yep, it’s Rebekah’s style alright. Crisp, clean…serene…and just a wee bit too formal. But it does look very pretty.

    The worst year was when my father passed away two years ago and the BOYS decorated it. It looked positively geometric! Rigid lines of garland ran back and forth in perfect rows. They forgot the ornaments…but did add lights..thought the lights were on the surface of the tree. Thank goodness, Rebekah, doctored it up a bit for me.

    Cute post!

    xo Donna

    Too funny–and so true!


  • Teresa says:

    I love this post, it’s timeless. Last year I arrived home from Asia days before Christmas and ended up with a $9.98 tree from a discount store decorated only with the fabric ornaments that I had piced up on my trip. I just couldn’t be bothered to bring out Christmas that late in the game. It was the best tree that we have ever had! The question is “can I let stuffy old self go again?” Thank you for your insights.

  • From the tiny corner of your tree we got to see it looks pretty darn festive. Christmas can accommodate all kinds of trees – even a symmetrical and perfectly appointed one. I hope I’m not like my tree because it is a bit of a hot sentimental mess and I don’t really think I am 😉

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