Balls needed for 'perfect' festive tree

SIMON DOONAN
Last updated 05:00 11/12/2012
xmas tree
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JUGGLING ACT: A worker adjusts balls on the Christmas tree at Waddesdon Manor, England.

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree

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Who doesn't love a festive holiday tree? I don't know about you, but the mere thought of it sends me screeching off to find a bottle of wine.

As the world's most experienced holiday elf - my almost 40-year career in retail display culminated in the commission to decorate the Blue Room tree for the first Obama holiday in 2009 - I have a million nifty tips up the sleeve of my green felt jacket. Here is the most important one: Regardless of how complicated, avant-garde or trad your tree decoration, your starting point is always the same. You need a great set of balls.

Some of you fancy types have probably inherited a gorgeous set of balls. I refer to those fabulous caches of strange and fragile ornaments, lovingly stored in attics and passed from generation to generation. One is reminded of those borderline-creepy Patek Philippe watch ads where the patrician father and son are juxtaposed with the copy line: "You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation." Ditto those holiday orbs.

Those who do not have recourse to inherited balls need not despair. There are a number of options open to you. Et voila!

Secondhand balls: You can score some killer vintage holiday ornaments with the click of your mouse. My favorites are those supergroovy '60s tear-droppy ones that hark back to the design of the original Aladdin casino in Las Vegas. If you don't have the patience to trawl for real antiques, then hit the vintage-inspired collections.

Decoupaged danglers: As mentioned above, I was hired to decorate the Blue Room tree for the first Obama Christmas. The central components of this extravaganza were the 500 lovingly decoupaged balls. Here's how it went down: Since it was 2009 and the recession was raging, we - the Obamas and I - thought it best to inject a recycling theme into the holiday decor. We took crates of large tacky silver balls from the White House warehouse and sent them to various organisations and community centers around the country where they were fabulously collaged and creatively reimagined using the theme of "Great American Monuments." We took a sad ball and made it better.

So follow our lead, buy a jug of Mod Podge and start transforming those orbs.

Pick a theme that resonates with your family. For example: pussycats' faces; the zodiac; great blondes of today and/or yesterday; sports stars or even scandal-plagued sports stars. Snip the relevant images from old magazines. This kind of project will engender a kumbaya spirit that will give whatever is left of your brain a much-needed break from those internet distractions.

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Balls of steel: If you feel compelled to adorn your tree in an unconventional manner, then go right ahead. The Tannenbaum is, after all, a pagan symbol, so why not approach its embellishment as an act of creative expression? Add a little eccentricity, a dollop of the unexpected.

Start by looking for your ornaments in all the wrong places. A quick sprint through your local hardware store will provide lots of inspiration. Electrical conduit makes a great garland. If you know a dude with a metal shop, ask him to accumulate some metal shavings for you. These add a futuristic lustre to any tree.

My favorite hardware find is those gorgeous silver or copper metal pot scrubbers. These can be purchased by the sack-load. Pot scrubbers can be strung onto picture hanging wire - like popcorn! - to make a nifty swagged garland or wreath.

By creatively recontextualising these scrubbers and other household objects you will elicit admiration from friends and family alike.

Ornothilogical orbs: If you are not into the low-tech butch vibration of hardware store detritus and would prefer something more romantic, then have a flutter. Since the focal object in question is a tree, why not cover it in birds, by which I mean, a mélange of stuffed birds, fake birds, photographs of birds and glass bird ornaments? Tweet that!

Soccer balls: In the sports world there is, as can be imagined, no shortage of sparkly balls. As a supporter of Chelsea Football Club I am looking forward to festooning my tree with the logoed balls the Chelsea merchandising team have so thoughtfully made available to fans. Vintage supporter scarves can be wound and garlanded through the tree.

- Washington Post

How do you decorate your Christmas tree? Do you have a new theme every year, or just throw on the same old decorations and hope for the best?

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