Alternative Christmas tree ideas – stylish ways to decorate without a classic fir

Alternative Christmas tree ideas for when you want to feel festive but don't want to worry about shedding needles

Christmas window decor vase of decorated branches
(Image credit: Beaumonde.co.uk)

Whilst one might argue nothing beats a real Christmas tree – the process of choosing the perfect spruce, that smell that instantly makes you feel festive, the cozy evening spent decorating – but there are a fair few downsides to that make bringing an actual living tree into your home not the most practical of ideas. So if you are tired of sweeping up needles all month long, or if you can't squeeze a tree into the living room or even if you are just after some stylish alternative Christmas tree ideas to bring into other rooms in your home, we have you covered.

We've pulled together plenty of creative ideas, from the classic frosted branches in a vase to more imaginative and colorful looks involving paper decorations and neon lights, that will still bring plenty of festive cheer without the faff of a full-sized fir. 

What can you do instead of a Christmas tree?

'If you’re tight on space or are choosing to steer away from a traditional Christmas tree, there are plenty of alternative ideas that will still create a show-stopping festive display in your home.' says Jane Rockett, Co-founder of Rockett St George. 'One of our favorite tricks involves foraging a beautiful branch of foliage and placing this in a vase either on your mantle or dining table. This can then be decorated with baubles, fairy lights and garlands, just as you would with a traditional Christmas tree. Capturing the magic of the Christmas tree on a smaller scale, this is a great way to reduce waste while still bringing fabulous festive flair to your home.

'As another idea, why not embellish a statement floor lamp or piece of furniture you already own? Many of our customers drape garland and hang decorations from our Gold Palm Tree Floor Lamp for a tropical take on Christmas and it looks spectacular! Alternatively, decorating your houseplants is a great way to get into the spirit of the season if you would prefer not to spend the extra cash on the tree. Whatever alternative idea you choose, it’s the way you decorate that really matters, so embrace your unique style and create your own Christmas decorating traditions!'

1. Adorn bare branches with decorations

(Image credit: Beaumonde.co.uk)

It's a classic alternative Christmas tree idea for a reason. Decorating bare branches is so simple, so quick, and yet so effective and you can bring it into any room without taking up too much space. 

For any fellow small apartment dwellers, you'll know the pain of trying to squeeze a tree into a tiny space, and even if you manage you'll often find no matter how festive it might feel it instantly makes the room feel cramped. So this year, scrap the tree and get into your garden (or even a nearby park) and find a collection of branches that you can display on a mantle, window sill, or dining table and adorn with your favorite decorations. 

And if you are a minimalist, keep the branches bare and just give them an extra festive flourish, by lightly spraying the branches with metallic or white paint. Wind some delicate fairy lights through the branches for extra sparkle – this would make for a really lovely Christmas window decor idea too. 

2. Bring in evergreen with an oversized wreath

Blue living room decorated for Christmas with oversized wreath

(Image credit: Oliver Perrott)

If you still want that hit of evergreen, oversized wreaths are a huge Christmas trend this year. And rather than just banishing them to the outdoors bring them inside and hang them on the walls as an equally impressive alternative to a tree.

An oversized wreath makes the perfect festive but simple, backdrop for a Christmas table, or you could hang it on your kitchen wall for a festive touch, alternatively hang a large wreath in your hallway to make an impact as soon as guests enter your home. You could either leave the center bare or be inspired by this look and fill it with decorations that mimic the classic Christmas tree shape – loving the arrangement of sheet music used here.

What's lovely about festive foliage is that it will work with any scheme too and you could always add extra sparkle by nestling in some decorating and winding fairy lights in and around the wreath. Plus you can pick greenery that's going to suit your style best, so for a more traditional look you might want to stick with fire, ivy, and holly but for a more contemporary look try eucalyptus or large waxy magnolia leaves. 

3. Cluster together vases of spruce and berries

festive foliage in blue and white jars

(Image credit: Marie Flanigan)

In some rooms, a tree just isn't a practical option, say in a kitchen or a hallway, so instead get a similar effect on a smaller scale by filling large vases with spruce, fir, and winter berries. 

In this kitchen designed by Marie Flanigan, a group of antique jars provides the perfect home for the wintery foliage. This could equally be used as a centerpiece on a dining table or as an alternative to a garland on a mantel. 

'I love keeping holiday décor organic with soft touches of metallic. Beautiful greenery, branches, and berries are a wonderful way to pay homage to the season and when you add fun lacquered brass or oil-rubbed bronze, it creates a wonderfully subtle contrast.' says Maries.

'Don’t forget to look up too! Sometimes the most magical decorations, like snowflakes, wreaths, bells, and mistletoe, are hung from chandeliers, light fixtures or doorways. Wire-edged ribbon is a must-use for any holiday ribbons or bows that you plan to incorporate. The ability to manipulate the bow loops and tails creates wonderful texture and keeps the décor in place.'

4. Create a festive display with bunches of hanging foliage

Christmas hallway with hanging swags of evergreen

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

Chances are you won't be able to squeeze a Christmas tree into your hallway or staircase, so try this for an alternative Christmas tree idea. Go big with hand-tied foliage, bringing together evergreen sprigs, eucalyptus, and a pop of red berries, and then hang it from the with a pretty festive ribbon. Position a couple of bouquets going up the stairs for quick, rustic decoration that looks really effective and takes up barely any space. 

5. Make a mantelpiece the focus

Blue living room with festive fireplace

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

A mantlepiece comes into its own at Christmas and can often be more of a focal point than a tree. As Chrissie Rucker, founder of The White Company says, 'If you have a fireplace a mantelpiece is a great focal point of the room to make extra special at Christmas time.  I love to dress ours with our faux garlands then wind in fairy lights (battery operated are a great option here) and a few days before Christmas add in some greenery from the garden and a few pine cones or tree decorations. Do layer in some storm lanterns with candles as the flickering flame is so atmospheric.'

The key to a beautiful Christmas fireplace is height. Don't just think horizontally, the most effective displays take the decoration upwards too. Start by going along the mantle with strings of ivy that cascade effortlessly off the sides, but also put the tendrils into vases too and place them at each end of the mantel. Add in more dense foliage like fir and holly too and decorate the larger branches as you would a tree with smaller ornaments and fairy lights to add color and sparkle. 

6. Create a floral display to adorn the walls

Fireplace mantle with dried flower garland and neon lighting

(Image credit: Polly Wreford)

And festive foliage needn't be limited to the usual evergreen, if you're after a Christmas tree alternative that packs a punch, then be inspired by this beautiful floral arrangement created by Titania's Garden. It's filled with unexpected exotic blooms but still hits with those classic warm, rich Christmassy shades. 

All those different textures, it's that mix of really shiny leaves layered with the soft matte eucalyptus, and all the various shapes and sizes too that really make a festive floral arrangement that will rival the traditional tree. 

And who knew neon could look so... chic? As this is arrangement proves, it's actually far less garish and can actually be an elegant addition to a Christmas scheme, and ensures a lovely warm glow that feels incredibly festive.  

7. Or float a festive arrangement from the ceiling

Suspended floral arrangement in a dining room decorated for Christmas

(Image credit: Chris Everard )

Whilst these big, dramatic arrangements look lovely above mantles or hung on the wall, for extra drama suspend them from the ceiling. Who's going to question where your tree is when you have such a spectacle floating in your space? We love the use of dried flowers giving a lovely almost aged look and the soft pink scheme is a nice, more subtle twist on the traditional red and green.

Leave your suspended foliage bare if you want to keep it all-natural, but for extra drama, use ribbons or clear string to attach a cluster of decorations.

8. Arrange Christmas cards to mimic a tree

christmas tree ideas

(Image credit: John Lewis)

Come mid-December we often find we've run out of surfaces to display Christmas cards, so rather than cram them along window sills and mantlepieces, use them to create an alternative Christmas tree. It's such a fun and personal idea that would look lovely in a kitchen, where it might be tricky to fit in a real tree. So easy to recreate too, simply arrange your cards in a triangle, securing them with tack or some subtle washi tape. Make it look extra festive by pinning fairy lights around the edge to really make that Christmas tree shape clear. 

9. Go bold with a colorful pom pom tree

Pom Pom Christmas tree

(Image credit: Simon Bevan)

How fun is this Christmas 'tree' built from paper decorations? A really fun alternative to the traditional spruce that would be perfect if you are going for a more maximalist approach this Christmas. Recreating this structure may take some patience, but if you want to cheat the look, start with a faux tree as your base and attach the paper decorations using florists wire and keep layering until none of the tree can be seen.

More of a neutral lover? This alternative Christmas tree idea would look equally chic in all-white for a more minimalist style. 

10. Decorate a branch with ribbons and ornaments

Branch decorated with ribbons and ornaments

(Image credit: Future)

Another really simple but striking alternative to a tree is to suspend a large branch and adorn it with decorations just as you would a traditional tree. A bare branch looks lovely if you are after a minimalist look, just tie on ribbons at varying heights to attach the decorations. For a more rustic vibe, choose a fir branch (an offcut of your Christmas tree if you have one would work) and attach ornaments again using ribbons or a clear wire if you want that magical floating look. 

It's a design that you often see suspended above a Christmas table, but could be used as an alternative tree in any room – hang a decorated branch above a kitchen island, in an entryway, or in a window.

Hebe Hatton
Hebe Hatton

Hebe is the Digital Editor of Livingetc; she has a background in lifestyle and interior journalism and a passion for renovating small spaces. You'll usually find her attempting DIY, whether it's spray painting her whole kitchen, don't try that at home, or ever changing the wallpaper in her hallway. Livingetc has been such a huge inspiration and has influenced Hebe's style since she moved into her first rental and finally had a small amount of control over the decor and now loves being able to help others make decisions when decorating their own homes. Last year she moved from renting to owning her first teeny tiny Edwardian flat in London with her whippet Willow (who yes she chose to match her interiors...) and is already on the lookout for her next project.