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Bronson van Wyck’s Ultimate Tree Decorating Tips

Meet Bronson van Wyck, the renowned designer and event planner who created the magic for our 111th anniversary event at the Plaza Hotel.  He and his team regularly dream up lush, elegant affairs for the chicest hosts and hostesses around the world, and this year we tapped the ultimate-creator to create bespoke Christmas trees for our exclusive holiday experiences featured in our 2013 Holiday Gift book

Today this transformation artist shares his tree decorating tips with 5th/58th: 

I love the Christmas season for many reasons—besides spending time with family and friends and showering them with gifts, and the treasured rituals of eating, drinking and general merriment, it’s a time when everyone gets into the spirit of the work I love to do all year-round. “Deck the halls” is a standard job description for me when it comes to designing festive events of all kinds, so Christmas is my time to shine—literally. At the center of holiday decor stands the all-important Christmas tree, which is particularly special because it offers the chance to combine time-honored traditions with spectacular new themes, and the possibilities are endless.

I’m pleased to share a veritable forest of Christmas tree vignettes, from winter white turtle doves and flocks of snowy avians to gilt-encrusted tree-scapes covered in twinkling whimsy. Check out the slideshow to see what we dreamed up for the our trees for sale on the 7th Floor, and see my tips for creating a truly magical tree.


  • ● The best tree looks cozy, harmonious and, most importantly, dramatic. To make sure it really fills the room, always cut the tree right to the ceiling, or make sure to get an artificial version sized exactly to the height of the ceiling.


  • ● Once up, the first step in decorating a show-stopping tree is stringing the lights so that the mighty pine seems to glow from within. A standard large, professional tree will have around 2,000 bulbs—a look I love so much I make sure my trees never have less than 4,000, wrapped around each branch all the way to the trunk.


  • ● With such a majestic pine tree as the foundation, I like to keep motifs natural while injecting the overall scheme with fantastical elements. Rather than stick a sparkly hodgepodge of miniatures across branches, I opt for organic accents like pine cones, extra branches and fruit (albeit bejeweled and candied), and toss in found ephemera like antique keys, weathervanes and bird cages depending on the story I want to tell.


  • ● Speaking of stories, just like a young family might adorn their boughs with children’s handmade memories I like to create trees that hide charming little vignettes on every branch. For the Two Turtle Doves tree, diminutive birds share a nest, or are arranged in pairs so it’s almost like they just flew inside.


  • ● Incorporating a variety of shapes beyond the traditional ball ornaments makes for a dynamic, visually fascinating tree. This year, I combined birds and feathers with sharp and slender icicles; angular antlers and flowers with cylindrical pinecones; and round chinoiserie lanterns with contrasting organic manzanita branches.


  • ● Ball ornaments still bring a classic element to a tree, but as I’m apt to do, I take things over-the-top by using jumbo versions, around 7-8” in diameter. The larger-than-life update adds drama and serves the important function of filling the natural holes found in real trees when you nestle them into the branches.


  • ● When it comes to the all-important tree topper, you won’t see me sticking a star up there and sitting down with my egg nog. In keeping with the unexpected worlds tucked among the branches below, the towering centerpiece should strike up delight as soon as one looks up. With free reign to be adventurous, I’ve placed taxidermied pheasant (either free or in a beautiful gilded cage) and triumphant antlers to watch over the scene.


  • ● Keeping the tree mostly monochromatic helps anchor even the most whimsically themed decor. For the Raise the Blue Lantern tree, the palette adheres to chinoiserie blue save for pops of red, while the birds stay winter white with colorless, iridescent elements, and the gilded tree takes different features, from magnolia leaves to antlers, and gives them all the Midas touch.


Bronson van Wyck is one of the world’s leading authorities on hospitality, celebrated for a style of entertaining that combines wit and sophistication with the gracious warmth of his Southern upbringing. An event planner of international renown, Bronson has organized some of the most memorable and imaginative parties of the past decade in locations all over the world for clients including Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton, Daphne Guinness, Andre Balazs, Vera Wang, Samantha Boardman, Beyonce, Lauren Santo Doming and Martha Stewart.  Additionally, Bronson’s expertise has put him in demand by international luxury brands seeking his assistance with strategic event programs, such as Chanel, Salvatore Ferragamo, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, Mercedes Benz, Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Bulgari, Hermes, Range Rover, and Van Cleef & Arpels.  Bronson van Wyck on Twitter