//This blog is updated in 2020//
Talitha and Michael Bainbridge, the designers behind ZWEI Design, are used to making compromises—at work and at home. Before they were a couple, they were raised in different parts of the world—Talitha in Southern Germany and Michael in the American Midwest—and those backgrounds came with varying traditions. Take Christmas, for instance. Michael grew up with a fake tree, but it was typical for Talitha to have a real one. “As a German and American couple, we were actually surprised at our differences when it came to decorating for Christmas,” Talitha says. “I would never put an artificial tree in my home for Christmas. For me it’s either a real Christmas tree or no Christmas tree at all.”
Another reason why these two are familiar with meeting in the middle: They live in a 481-square-foot home in Southern Germany, and figuring out ways to maximize space is always an issue. That includes, of course, how to fit a Christmas tree in their living room in 2020.
“In past years when we had a Christmas tree, our home felt cramped,” Talitha continues. “So to make it feel more spacious, we would temporarily remove valuable seating. However, this always seemed counterintuitive, especially during the holiday season, when we typically host more guests. After several years we decided to rethink the idea of a Christmas tree.” Their idea? A vertical tree crafted of live evergreen boughs.
“We understand that to many people a proper Christmas tree is an essential part of of the holiday season. However, for those of us who must or choose to live more minimally, but still want the full feeling of the holidays, a Christmas hanging is a perfect alternative!” says Talitha.
Photo: Dominik Villoz/Courtesy of ZWEI Design
“Think, ‘Christmas garland on steroids,’” she jokes. “We chose to hang our new interpretation of a Christmas tree directly by our fireplace, to keep a singular focal point and make use of our limited space.” The best part about using real evergreen branches is that they smell just like a traditional tree. “Why go buy a pine tree–scented candle or room spray when you could have the real thing?”
But Michael and Talitha get that sometimes you just want a fake tree. If that’s the case, you can still work evergreen boughs into your decor scheme—either by arranging them on a mantel or tablescape—or by simply doing both faux and real decorations. “It will bring some beautiful life and smell into your home in an unexpected way,” Talitha argues. “And based on our own experience, we know that guests love the unique twist on a traditional holiday staple.”
If you also live in a small space—or you’re just tired of the same ol’ Christmas tree setup—why not join Talitha and Michael? Here are the specifics on how to go about it:
1. Head to the garden store.
“When choosing plants and flowers, it is important to select those that dry well,” Talitha notes. “We chose various evergreen branches, thistles, eucalyptus, and nonedible berries because they last a long time, require very little maintenance, and, of course, dry beautifully. You can also lightly spray your plants with water every few days to help delay them from drying out quickly.”
2. Build the structure.
Talitha says that chicken wire is the most important behind-the-scenes material for this project, since it can twist into whatever scale you need. She notes that you can also use it to create evergreen wreaths to place above beds or on staircases, as well as for tablescapes.
“With standard florist wire, we attached the evergreen branches that we freshly cut from our garden hedge onto the chicken-wire structure hung from our ceiling,” she says. They peppered in the more colorful boughs as they went. The final touch? “We then decorated it with various Christmas ornaments in combination with some classic ones.”
Remember to check these 11 brilliant ways to decorate you Christmas tree.
Some Christmas Decorations Selected by archiparti