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Expert advice on trimming your tree

By Ashley Strickland, Special to CNN
updated 10:18 AM EST, Thu December 15, 2011
Kurt S. Adler's Christmas tree themes range from fun and bright to elegant and sophisticated. This Jolly Elves tree is a great example of using large focal points and different shades of red and green.
Kurt S. Adler's Christmas tree themes range from fun and bright to elegant and sophisticated. This Jolly Elves tree is a great example of using large focal points and different shades of red and green.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Bold color schemes are a big holiday trend for 2011 and expected in 2012
  • Nostalgic bubble lights and reflector glass ornaments will always be favorites
  • Liven up your decorating scheme by braiding garlands or using wreaths as chandeliers

Atlanta (CNN) -- Colleen Pigott and Dennis Bliss spend almost every day of their lives adorned with glitter. While it's easy to explain away during the holidays, it can look a bit odd to friends when Pigott is brushing red and green specks off of her clothes in July.

But it's all part of the job. Pigott and Bliss are the manager and designer, respectively, for the Kurt S. Adler holiday decoration showroom at AmericasMart Atlanta, the largest trade mart and tradeshow complex in the world.

It is where buyers, representing everything from hardware stores to major department stores, shop for their holiday decorations and trimmed trees to put on display from late October to Christmas Day. But in December, Pigott and Bliss are busy planning for 2012 and clearing out 2011's trends and trees.

When it comes to filling a room with effervescent holiday cheer, these two are masters. While some families may look at trimming their Christmas trees as a required, we-have-to-get-this-done-tonight kind of chore, Bliss regards it as an exciting challenge to be as creative as possible.

"The average consumer just doesn't know how to decorate outside the lines," Bliss said. "We grew up in our own homes doing what our parents did, so how can you know the tricks of the trade? Take up that challenge and see if it works! You won't know until you try."

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Bliss points out one creation: an artificial green tree with branches woven with gold. It is full but not cluttered, showcasing large focal pieces, beaded strands of garland and ornament turners that rotate red glass balls. Although it maintains a traditional red and green color scheme, it plays on the theme by adding in different shades of each tone. Chartreuse and burgundy jump out amid the evergreen.

Bliss has braided strands of garland together rather than stringing individual strands along the branches. The tree sits in a red sleigh as its base, rather than a traditional stand and tree skirt. Using fun, found objects is one of his favorite ways to make the entire tree a showpiece.

There are no gaps in the tree because the branches have been appropriately "fluffed" and any gaps tucked with filler: large glass ornaments, starbursts and curls of holiday ribbon simply stapled into attractive folds.

But if you've never actually learned how to "fluff" the branches of your artificial tree, it might end up looking like the hastily assembled and awkwardly smashed garlands hanging in the interior of your local mall.

When he was still living, Kurt Adler himself taught Pigott the appropriate way to make the most of an artificial tree.

"Mr. Adler used to import Black Forest trees from Germany," she said. "He said, 'The branches all reach towards the sun,' so you bring the branches on the inside facing up."

In addition to the popular, best-selling green trees, heavily flocked, white and glitter-based trees are also selling well. As people move into larger homes, they are abandoning the 6- to 8-foot trees and bringing in 12- to 15-foot trees. And in some cases, they even have a decorator tree in the living room and a nostalgic tree with keepsake ornaments in the family room, Pigott said.

Bliss also likes to remind people that there is more to a wreath than a simple thing you hang. Why not attach ornaments to it, or even connect two together with heavy-gauge wire and create a chandelier effect by hanging icicle d├ęcor from the two horizontally stacked wreaths?

While traditional colors like red and green or silver and gold always sells well, "icy white collections, soft pink and ivory Romantic-style color schemes, and aqua, soft green and taupe color schemes with a vintage-type feel" are expected in 2012, according to a press release from the Adler company.

Big bold colors, high-fashion ornaments and LED lights were big in 2011 and promise to return for 2012, the company said.

In decorating schemes, food, tech, animal prints, shoes, handbags, dress forms and personalized ornaments are all making strong returns in 2012 as well.

"But keep in mind, there is no 'best-seller,'" Pigott said. "We try to have something for everyone, although everything isn't for everyone. The styles and trends differ from region to region."

Sometimes, preserving tradition is the very best way to decorate. Year after year, Bliss says, nostalgic bubble lights, reflector glass ornaments and elves remain favorites for consumers.

"It will never go away," Pigott said. "This is from any baby boomer's childhood. The reflector glass ornaments? That's from my Christmas."

Whether you're a young married couple just starting out with few decorations or a family loaded with handcrafted popsicle ornament keepsakes, it's all in how you choose to decorate. Make it a family affair, rather than a required task on the Christmas countdown to-do list.

"Everybody's Christmas tree is always going to be beautiful," Pigott said. "Just have fun with it and take your time."

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