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How to fluff a Christmas tree, make a wreath, and more holiday decoration tips

We had a Pinellas designer walk us through some holiday decor advice, and made a wreath in the process.
 
Josie Barber, interior designer and owner of Karma Juice Bar & Eatery, on left, helps Maggie Duffy, Tampa Bay Times Arts and Dining reporter, decorate and spruce up her wreath in the lobby outside of Karma at 490 First Ave. S, on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023 in St. Petersburg.
Josie Barber, interior designer and owner of Karma Juice Bar & Eatery, on left, helps Maggie Duffy, Tampa Bay Times Arts and Dining reporter, decorate and spruce up her wreath in the lobby outside of Karma at 490 First Ave. S, on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023 in St. Petersburg. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Nov. 24, 2023

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, it’s time to start decorating the house for the December holidays, if you haven’t already.

Many people emerge from their food comas ready to deck the halls with cheer. But for others, there’s a certain amount of dread that comes from dealing with an artificial Christmas tree or wreath that’s been in storage for the better part of a year.

In that spirit, I consulted the internet and reached out to a local designer for help.

From shabby to chic: My wreath

Let’s begin with my story. I don’t usually go overboard with decorations, but a few years ago, feeling festive and crafty, I decided to make my own wreath.

I totally winged it, applying brightly colored ornaments to a white wreath with no real plan. It was kind of cute in a wacky way at the time, but two years later it looked like a mess to me.

Maggie Duffy, Tampa Bay Times Arts and Dining reporter, before sprucing it up along with Josie Barber, interior designer and owner of Karma Juice Bar & Eatery, 490 First Ave. S, on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023 in St. Petersburg.
Maggie Duffy, Tampa Bay Times Arts and Dining reporter, before sprucing it up along with Josie Barber, interior designer and owner of Karma Juice Bar & Eatery, 490 First Ave. S, on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023 in St. Petersburg. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

The only thing I did right was store it in a plastic garbage bag in a plastic bin in my garage, which kept it intact.

Lucky for me, this year I was able to get some tips from a local expert. Josie Barber is an interior designer who also owns Karma Juice Bar and Eatery in St. Petersburg and Clearwater. She decorates clients’ homes for the holidays and does workshops on wreath and tree decorating.

Barber also decorated the lobby of the downtown St. Pete building where Karma is located, with beautiful gold accents. So on a rainy Thanksgiving eve, I hauled my wreath and ornaments into the building, where Barber helped me zhuzh it up.

The first thing Barber did was bring out a spool of beautiful red and white plaid ribbon and start making small bows. She made one loop, then another and tied it in the middle with a sparkly white pipe cleaner. Because my wreath was small, she made about a dozen small bows.

Meanwhile, she told me to fluff up the wreath — something I neglected to do the first time around. To do this, you pull the branches out to make it look more full.

The next step was to attach the bows to the tops and sides of the wreath’s base, going around it clockwise. There was a fair amount of eyeballing the placement. In no time, the wreath looked better.

Josie Barber, interior designer and owner of Karma Juice Bar & Eatery, on left, helps Maggie Duffy, Tampa Bay Times Arts and Dining reporter, decorate and spruce up her wreath in the lobby outside of Karma at 490 First Ave. S, on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023 in St. Petersburg.
Josie Barber, interior designer and owner of Karma Juice Bar & Eatery, on left, helps Maggie Duffy, Tampa Bay Times Arts and Dining reporter, decorate and spruce up her wreath in the lobby outside of Karma at 490 First Ave. S, on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023 in St. Petersburg. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
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Next came ornaments. The largest ornaments got attached evenly around and directly to the wreath’s frame. One teardrop-shaped ornament got attached so that it would dangle in the center of the wreath, indicating that that’s the top.

Medium ornaments were placed on branches and the smallest ones were placed on the tips of branches in various directions.

Maggie Duffy, Tampa Bay Times Bright Spots and Arts Reporter, works to decorate her wreath on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023 in St. Petersburg.
Maggie Duffy, Tampa Bay Times Bright Spots and Arts Reporter, works to decorate her wreath on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023 in St. Petersburg. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Voila! I now have a designer-quality wreath I can proudly display. Barber suggested I could add even more ornaments to it.

Maggie Duffy, Tampa Bay Times Arts and Dining reporter,  shows off her fully decorate wreath at 490 First Ave. S, on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023 in St. Petersburg.
Maggie Duffy, Tampa Bay Times Arts and Dining reporter, shows off her fully decorate wreath at 490 First Ave. S, on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023 in St. Petersburg. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

One final tip Barber had was about storage. You can put the wreath in a large plastic bag and store it away with everything on it, or you can remove the ornaments and mash down the branches and bows, as they will easily fluff out when you pull it out next year.

How to fluff, light and decorate an artificial tree

The wreath didn’t take too much time, but it’s small and manageable. Artificial trees are much more daunting, so I scoured the internet for tips. Here are some tips inspired by Homes & Gardens, the first-ever home magazine in the United Kingdom.

  • The biggest takeaway? Taking the time to properly fluff a tree is key. It’s likely that the branches have been mashed down while in storage, so fluffing it will make it appear fuller and better. Depending on how big your tree is, this will be time-consuming but worth it.
  • Before you fully do that though, put the lights on the tree first, using this technique: Start the lights right up against the stand and work outward toward the tips of the branches. Work from bottom to the top, wrapping the lights around the slightly-fluffed branches, positioning them before moving on.
  • Use the same method when fluffing the tree: Work from bottom to top, starting at the base. Pry the branches apart, then separate the smaller branch tips from the larger branch by pulling two tips out to the side and one branch upward. Then alternate by pulling one branch downward as you move around the tree. This fills in gaps and disguises the stand.
  • As you work, you’ll need to position the lights again into their final position. If the tree still looks sparse, you can add volume with extra foliage or garlands that are the same color as the tree, making it look fuller.
  • Use the same bottom-to-top method when decorating with ornaments.