The ocean-themed tree blends flawlessly with its surroundings

Branching Out

Christmas-tree themes that take center stage

So you’ve picked up the perfect tree and placed it in just the right spot in your home for all to see. Now what? As much as it is tempting (or in most cases, convenient) to pull out last year’s ornaments, those looking to spruce up their tree this year can break tradition by creating a new one—starting with a whole new set of tree embellishments. Using a tree as our canvas, our team designed three distinctive looks that will hopefully, inspire you to design your own festive rendition in your home.

In our first look, “By the Beautiful Sea,” the backdrop of waves, sand and cliffs provided the perfect inspiration for a sea-themed tree tucked into the shoreline at Sandy Beach. Instead of the expected Christmas decor, we repurposed dried hydrangea (gathered from a past event) and looped garlands of subtly colored dried hydrangea around and through the tree. Pops of silver and gold add depth and sparkle to the garland. Seashells, starfish as well as blue and green ornaments complete the effect of a holiday setting by the sea.

For our second concept, “In an Enchanted Forest,” The backyard of Stuart Kotake’s Nu‘uanu home served as the magical backdrop for our tree. In this case, the setting played a key part in creating this look. Complete with a cobbled bridge evoking the feeling of a Monet painting, this tree is perfect for traditionalists looking to evoke a woodsy kind of feel, utilizing owls, tree branches, vines and natural twig ornaments. Pops of red ornaments add to the color palette as do the red roses—fresh from Bella Rosa—that have been pulled open (“reflexed”). A surprise element was created by the hallway mirrors placed within the tree, which reflect the twinkle of lights and the glow of evening candles.

Finally, non-traditionalists might be more partial to our “Upside Down is Right-side Up!” design. With a little planning, you can mimic what was created in the Penthouse Suite at The Modern Honolulu. Our upside-down, inverted tree is embellished with crystals and includes silver, white and blue ornaments. The tree is weighted on a pipe base, and then wrapped in the center—hiding the pole while adding depth to the tree design. This tree is dripping in crystals, snowy garlands and mirrored ornaments. Additionally, thousands of blinking, lustrous white lights add to the uniqueness of this tree. Topped with sparkly palm fronds and glittery branches, the top of the tree is in a word, effervescent.

At home, an inverted tree may be hung over a staircase, in a stairwell from a balcony or used as dramatic entrance. This is one idea to think about for a New Year’s party—you’ll be the talk of the town for months to come.

But in general, several things to keep in mind when designing your tree include: create depth, picking a color scheme and keeping in mind that multiplicity is key. You can add depth to the tree, by placing ornaments, fabrics or bows inside, closer to the trunk of the tree, working your way toward the outer branches. When choosing a color concept, look at the space where your tree will be placed, and choose tree decorations based on the colors in the room. This doesn’t mean that every ornament has to completely match—find colors that complement. And by using things in multiples and placing these items throughout, it will ensure proper continuity to your tree design.

Other things to consider when decorating your tree: wrapping the lights around the branches will hide most of the cords and create a much fuller look to the lights.

Start from the top and work your way down. Additionally, make sure you get a fresh cut to the bottom of the tree when you purchase one—this will expose its pores for better water absorption.

Event designer Steven Boyle’s high-end design concepts have captured the imagination of his clients worldwide. His award-winning style has been recognized by multinational organizations, hotels and destination management companies. For more information, visit

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