How to Decorate a Christmas Tree Without Ornaments - This Minimalist Idea is Trending, It's Clever and Inexpensive

This "retro" decorating trend is making a comeback, and it doesn't require buying a single ornament for your Christmas tree

a living room with a christmas tree covered in tinsel
(Image credit: Kip Dawkins. Design: Galiani Design Group)

Now, don't get me wrong, decorating for Christmas is magical, and it's part of the festive experience - but it can also be a bit annoying, especially if you're short on time. Fetching your ornaments, unpacking them, hanging them - and that's even before you factor in putting them away come January.

But what if I told you one of the biggest Christmas decorating ideas we're seeing take off in 2024 doesn't require you to have even a single ornament?

I would introduce the "tinsel tree" as a new trend, but it's an idea that's charmingly nostalgic as a way to decorate a tree that was popular decades ago. It's reimagination for this year is a surprisingly minimalist take on Christmas tree decorating, but it doesn't feel bare or lackluster.

a tree decorated with tinsel

(Image credit: Thomas Trust @rustandtrust)

When you put minimalism and Christmas together in the same sentence, there's always the chance you're going to lose some of the magic along the way. However, this Christmas decorating trend promises to keep things feeling festive. 'Tinsel was all the rage when I was a young child so I love seeing it make a comeback,' says Maria Galiani, founder of Galiani Design Group. 'It reminds me of being young and enjoying the spirit of Christmas.'

'I think the trend this year is a bit of a nostalgia crave, something that feels comforting and familiar but in a new way,' agrees Thomas Trust, a digital creator @rustandtrust. But, as well as playing into a fondness for retro design trends we're seeing in design culture right now, one of the main appeals of the tinsel tree is in its simplicity. 'It's effortless, affordable, and makes a big impact visually so it's accessible for any skill level of decorating and price point,' Thomas adds.

'A tinsel tree is great for anyone who doesn’t have many ornaments yet or someone who has been decorating for 20 years and tired of spending all the time taking out, hanging ornaments and repacking them for the following year,' Maria adds. 'And it's also great for the person who wants a second tree in the home, but wants it cleaner and more simple.'

What's the secret to making a tinsel tree look good?

a christmas tree in a bedroom decorated with tinsel

(Image credit: Thomas Trust (@trustandrust))

Tinsel is one of those love it or hate it things - and there's a very small margin of error when it comes to tinsel Christmas trees looking modern and elevated, or just looking cheap. So what's the secret to making one look good?

'I used to think all tinsel is created equal, but it's not,' Thomas explains. 'You'll want to look for a tinsel that is uniform in length and width. If it's not, it can tend to look messy.'

Thomas has tips for getting a clean finish when dressing your trees, too. 'You'll want to pinch a small grouping and hang at the end of a branch, and do your best to let it hang freely without touching other branches so it doesn't look tangled,' Thomas tells me.

What sort of tinsel do I need?

You might know tinsel better in its long garland format, but when shopping for this kind of Christmas tree decor, you'll want to hunt down 'tinsel icicles'.

There are different options when it comes to color, which will give your tree a different look. The classic tinsel look is, undoubtedly, silver - tinsel supposedly dates back to 1600s Germany when it was made from real silver, after all.

Warmer metallics might suit more modern sensibilities though. 'This year I used bronze, from CB2,' Thomas says. 'It's a really great option that gives a warm glow at night and an unexpected look all day.'

Luke Arthur Wells
Freelancer writer

Luke Arthur Wells is a freelance design writer, award-winning interiors blogger and stylist, known for neutral, textural spaces with a luxury twist. He's worked with some of the UK's top design brands, counting the likes of Tom Dixon Studio as regular collaborators and his work has been featured in print and online in publications ranging from Domino Magazine to The Sunday Times. He's a hands-on type of interiors expert too, contributing practical renovation advice and DIY tutorials to a number of magazines, as well as to his own readers and followers via his blog and social media. He might currently be renovating a small Victorian house in England, but he dreams of light, spacious, neutral homes on the West Coast.