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It's easy to change up your decorating style during holiday season

| Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015, 9:00 p.m.
Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
At Babbette's in Bridgeville, Christmas trees are dressed as Disney princesses, Friday, Dec. 4, 2015. From left, are Ariel, Elsa, and Rapunzel.
Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
At Babbette's in Bridgeville, Christmas trees are dressed as Disney princesses, Friday, Dec. 4, 2015, including this Snow White theme.
Mikel Welch
Mikel Welch
Cassie Freeman, popular lifestyle blogger at Hi Sugarplum!, says sometimes a fresh look can come from switching up where things hang on the tree.

Whether real or fake, tall or small, trendy or traditional, few things make a home more merry than a Christmas tree.

But sometimes, the same trimming approach year after year can make things feel less merry and more mundane. Design experts have plenty of festive ideas for anyone looking to spruce things up.

“A lot of times, people get bored with their decorations,” says Mikel Welch, interior designer and the on-air design expert for the “Steve Harvey” show. “I like to add whimsical elements. I like to have fun. There are no rules people have to abide by. I'm a fan of doing what you like.”

Cassie Freeman, popular lifestyle blogger at Hi Sugarplum! (, based in Dallas, says sometimes it's as simple as switching up where things hang on the tree.

“No one can afford to buy all new Christmas decorations every year,” she says. “I like to think about what I have and place it differently on the tree. If you have multi-colored ornaments and they're usually all mixed up, you can do a color block or stick to two colors in an ombre pattern. It's all about placement. And no one says you have to use every one every year.”

Freeman's own 9-foot Addison Slim Spruce mixes traditional and glam with grapevine garland, disco balls, black-and-white striped bows and sentimental ornaments. Her buffalo-check tree skirt pulls it all together with the perfect touch of on-trend style. For anyone looking for a skirt alternative, Freeman suggests using faux fur throws, rugs or pillows. And presents under the tree always make the perfect accessory.

“If you have some boxes, like FedEx packages or any oversized box, you can wrap it and put it underneath so the tree doesn't look so whimpy,” Welch says.

Freeman suggests selecting gift wrap that works with the theme or color palette of the tree so the gifts themselves become part of the decor.

When it comes to color, Welch likes to introduce the upcoming Pantone Color of the Year in his tree. The 2016 colors are rose quartz and a light blue hue called serenity. He also suggests placing ornaments in clusters rather than letting them hang alone to add weight and make the statement more substantial.

If ornaments with sentimental value aren't working with the theme, Welch suggests using them in a different way, such as displaying them in an apothecary jar placed on the mantle or coffee table or in the base of a glass lamp. Freeman likes to designate a smaller tree as the as the “kids tree,” that's either filled with their homemade treasures or decorated entirely by them.

And no one is obligated to hang a shining star upon the highest bough any more, design experts say.

“No one says you have you have to put a star or an angel on top,” Freeman says. “This year, I used a burlap reindeer I'd been using on a table.”

Change doesn't have to be expensive, design experts say. Something as simple as adding a strand of ribbon running throughout can make a big difference, and adding elements such as pine cones or peacock feathers can change things up quickly and cheaply.

For anyone seeking to seriously shake things up, Welch suggests looking at window displays at retail shops to see what's popular.

“Every store has a team of design experts who study the trends and mimic them in their windows,” he says.

At Babette's Gowns in Bridgeville, employees were given free rein to showcase their Christmas creativity with a friendly challenge posed by manager Jessi Secrist. Teams were given four trees to decorate with a Disney theme. Using mannequins, fake trees parts and materials they found in the shop, the teams created life-size replicas of their favorite princesses.

“We used leftover hems from dresses, shawls and strips of fabric,” says Secrist, who worked on both the Snow White and Little Mermaid trees. Snow White features thick yellow ribbons cascading down the full tree base. Layered green taffeta creates Ariel's tail, and a sash of bright red represents her signature hair. For the Elsa tree, the team created an ivory braid and sheer ice blue cape and added the perfect accessory: an Olaf doll. Rapunzel's flowing locks wind all the way to the bottom of her tree, with touches of fake flowers and tulle completing her look.

Visitors can vote for their favorite on the shop's Facebook page, and the winner will get a holiday surprise Secrist is keeping secret for now.

“It's fun,” Secrist says. “People tell us we're the talk of Bridgeville right now.”

No matter where one finds inspiration, the tree should be a reflection of the family's love of the holiday season.

“At the end of the day, it's your tree and your Christmas with your family,” Freeman says. “You want to see the things that make you happy.”

Rachel Weaver is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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