Fun Christmas Tree Alternatives for the Modern Decorator

Spruce… Douglas fir… Balsam… White pine… There are endless choices when it comes to picking a traditional Christmas tree, but with all those holiday-related chores looming, you may want to consider having your Christmas décor go without a tree this year. Before you shoot down this idea, hear me out. I’m not suggesting you boycott the holidays, but perhaps an unconventional Christmas tree could relieve a bit of your holiday stress.


When you commit to decorating your home with a live Christmas tree, you have to deal with watering it, cleaning up fallen needles, and your pets or children breaking any glass ornaments. With a Christmas tree alternative, you can celebrate everything warm and beautiful about the holidays without any of the arbor-related labor.


Artificial evergreens are not your only décor option this year. Depending on your style, the size of your space, and your personal decorating goals, there are several different things you can transform into an attractive Christmas tree alternative.


Check out some of these ideas and see if you can picture yourself celebrating Christmas without a traditional tree this year.


1. Haul Out the Plywood

You can make a DIY Christmas tree using several pieces of plywood and a bit of elbow grease. By creating a 3D tree from plywood pieces, you still have the creative freedom of adding a few ornaments, garland, and contemporary holiday decorations. Break out a few cans of paint (in the garage or some other place you can get messy), and let the kids paint the plywood “tree” and its accessories. With this alternative Christmas tree idea, decorating still remains an interactive family project.


Photo by Zastolskiy Victor on Shutterstock

If assembling the plywood sounds too advanced, sketch/paint a tree on one flat piece of plywood. The same decoration tactics apply. Even if your decoration skills aren’t up to par with Monet and Picasso, this unique tree will be something you and the family remember for years to come.


2. Shelf Tree

Use existing shelf space to create your own version of a contemporary Christmas tree. If you have a bare wall in your living room area, you may want to consider investing in temporary removable shelving, especially if the extra storage space isn’t something you want or need.


Photo by Rakic on Shutterstock

If you have bookshelves but they’re not pyramid-stacked and narrowing like the one above, have no fear. Gather a bunch of green-colored stuff (books, stationery, and a briefcase, for example), and stack them in the shape of a tree on a rectangular bookshelf. Just don’t forget to include a topper!


3. Ladder Tree

The alternative ladder Christmas tree is one of the biggest bohemian-chic trends this holiday season. No needles, no water, no mess. And best of all, an expandable ladder has more or less the same silhouette as a Christmas evergreen.


Photo by Marcin Wos on Shutterstock

String holiday lights around the ladder to give this alternative Christmas tree an extra holiday glow. You may also consider placing plywood through the steps of the ladder to create shelves and then decking those shelves out with Christmas decorations.


4. Repurpose Christmas Cards on a Photo Tree

Wondering what to do with all of those Christmas cards you receive from your friends and family? How about displaying them all together on your alternative Christmas tree? This option is great for any space, but works quite well in a small apartment because it doesn’t have to take up much space. A photo tree can work as either a tabletop decoration or a full-size Christmas tree, especially if you want to add photos of past Christmases and other memories. You can still decorate the tree with ornaments and tinsel like the one in the photo below, or you can fill the whole thing up with just photos.


Photo by Africa Studio on Shutterstock

5. Plank Tree

Who says Christmas trees have to be green and bright? Add some farmhouse charm to your foyer with a rustic wooden tree. Either adhere the pegs to a post (as seen below) or alternate the direction of the planks on the post for a more 3D display.


Photo by Mallmo on Shutterstock

A sturdy alternate Christmas tree like this one is perfect for either the home of the front yard.


6. DIY Christmas Mobile

If you have a small space, dorm room, or maybe just a fancy lamp on a nightstand, consider making a hanging tree mobile. Attach four wires of equal length to the base of a rack and tie the ends together. They should be evenly spaced to create a level rack when the mobile is hung. String wooden discs of varying circumferences on the wire, decorating however you please as you go.


Photo by Lineas_1703 on Shutterstock

This modern Christmas tree alternative is definitely a bit more abstract than the others, but when draped over a lamp, the lighting will cast a warm glow onto the mobile and evoke the coziness of the holiday season.


7. Chalkboard Tree

It doesn’t take much time at all to turn the chalkboard wall in your children’s playroom into a snowy white Christmas tree. For an added burst of Christmas spirit, string up holiday lights on the “tree” and attach them to the wall with removable hooks.


Photo by Maglara on Shutterstsock

If you don’t have a chalkboard wall but you’re ready to make a commitment to something similar, designate a wall (or part of one), coat it with chalkboard paint, and change up the decorations and drawings on it according to whatever season it is. As a bonus, the dusty texture of the white chalk will make it appear as if a fresh blanket of snow has blanketed your wall.


8. Christmas Cactus

You don’t have to worry about the cat climbing this Christmas “tree!” The Christmas cactus puts a whole new twist on the holiday spirit. Maybe the traditional Christmas evergreen is just not your thing. That’s OK, but if you’re still looking to add some type of green to your home this holiday season, consider a Southwest-style cactus “tree!” You may choose to opt for a smaller potted plant topped with a bow, or you can buy a larger plant. (A fake cactus is also an option.)


Photo by ArtCookStudio on Shutterstock

Whether your home is too small for a traditional tree, you live on the sixth floor of a walk-up apartment, or you’re just looking to try something artistic and different this holiday season, a modern Christmas tree alternative may be just what you’re looking for.

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