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Trend Alert: The Foraged Christmas Branch

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Trend Alert: The Foraged Christmas Branch

December 12, 2023

We’ve been noting the slow rise of sparse-chic, Charlie Brown-style Christmas trees in the homes of trendsetters the past few years. But these versions—large, artful, completely foliage-free branches decorated with colorful ornaments and lights—may be the sparsest and chicest of all (not to mention most eco-conscious).

We spotted the festive branches on designer Amy Ilias’ Instagram account recently and reached out to learn the what, why, and how behind her arresting holiday decor. Read on to find out how to make your own.

Photography by Amy Ilias.

Amy and her husband, artist Jim Denney, started the tradition of the holiday branch back in \20\10. Their first &#8\2\20;was a large branch that Jim C-clamped to our dining table in Brooklyn. It was very humble, kind of sad, and very much inspired by Charlie Brown’s tree. It was a way of re-entering festivity after a long and difficult personal stretch,&#8\2\2\1; shares Amy. After moving into a large Victorian in the Hudson Valley (see the house tour here), they transitioned to much larger, free-standing branches.
Above: Amy and her husband, artist Jim Denney, started the tradition of the holiday branch back in 2010. Their first “was a large branch that Jim C-clamped to our dining table in Brooklyn. It was very humble, kind of sad, and very much inspired by Charlie Brown’s tree. It was a way of re-entering festivity after a long and difficult personal stretch,” shares Amy. After moving into a large Victorian in the Hudson Valley (see the house tour here), they transitioned to much larger, free-standing branches.
The branches are each secured to planks of wood with long screws. Large stones weigh down the planks. &#8\2\20;During the Covid pandemic, we had a tradition: Jim would read to me while I did jigsaw puzzles at the coffee table. It was around the holidays, and he was reading Richard Power’s beautiful book The Overstory . It was that reading, and listening to Hans Christian Andersen’s &#8\2\16;The Fir Tree&#8\2\17; for the millionth time on NPR that made my decision to commit to fallen branches,&#8\2\2\1; says Amy.
Above: The branches are each secured to planks of wood with long screws. Large stones weigh down the planks. “During the Covid pandemic, we had a tradition: Jim would read to me while I did jigsaw puzzles at the coffee table. It was around the holidays, and he was reading Richard Power’s beautiful book The Overstory [a novel about trees and the interconnectedness of everything]. It was that reading, and listening to Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Fir Tree’ for the millionth time on NPR that made my decision to commit to fallen branches,” says Amy.
Amy decorates the branches with colorful ornaments, beads, and, of course, string lights.
Above: Amy decorates the branches with colorful ornaments, beads, and, of course, string lights.
Above: Pictured on the left are the branches they foraged for the 2021 holidays. Pictured on the right is where they found those branches that year: in a brush pile next to a parking lot near their home. “We have a very small car, so our parameter is that we need to be able to carry it home,” says Amy. “The other is that it needs to be fallen. We usually find the branches in brush piles on vacant lots. Maybe someday we will get an old pickup and our range will expand.”
A few days after we connected with Amy about her branches, they came crashing down, likely from one of the couple&#8\2\17;s three overzealous cats. Curiosity killed the Christmas branch. &#8\2\20;A bunch of ornament and branch casualties. Practicing non attachment,&#8\2\2\1; she wrote on Instagram.
Above: A few days after we connected with Amy about her branches, they came crashing down, likely from one of the couple’s three overzealous cats. Curiosity killed the Christmas branch. “A bunch of ornament and branch casualties. Practicing non attachment,” she wrote on Instagram.
The suspects.
Above: The suspects.

To see Amy and Jim’s inspiring home, check out The Lavender Ghost: In the Hudson Valley, a Creative Couple’s Victorian Home with an Old Soul.

To see their garden, go to Before & After: A Creative Couple’s Daring Garden Do-Over in Upstate New York.

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Frequently asked questions

What is the trend of foraged Christmas branch tree?

The trend of foraged Christmas branch tree involves using branches and foliage from the outdoors to create a unique and natural Christmas tree alternative.

How do I create a foraged Christmas branch tree?

To create a foraged Christmas branch tree, you can gather branches and foliage from your surroundings, arrange them in a tree-like shape, and decorate them with ornaments and lights.

What are the benefits of a foraged Christmas branch tree?

A foraged Christmas branch tree allows you to bring nature into your home during the holiday season, making it a more sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to traditional Christmas trees.

What kind of branches and foliage can I use for a foraged Christmas branch tree?

You can use a variety of branches and foliage like pine, fir, spruce, cedar, holly, eucalyptus, and other seasonal greenery to create a diverse and visually appealing foraged Christmas branch tree.

What decorations can I use for a foraged Christmas branch tree?

You can decorate your foraged Christmas branch tree with ornaments, lights, ribbons, pinecones, berries, dried flowers, and any other natural elements that complement the overall theme.

How long does a foraged Christmas branch tree last?

A foraged Christmas branch tree can last throughout the holiday season if properly cared for. Make sure to keep it hydrated by misting the foliage and avoiding direct heat sources.

Are there any safety considerations for a foraged Christmas branch tree?

When using branches indoors, ensure they are properly secured and won't pose a risk of falling. Additionally, be cautious with flammable decorations and keep them away from open flames or heat sources.

Can I reuse the branches and foliage for future holiday seasons?

Yes, you can reuse the branches and foliage from your foraged Christmas branch tree in future holiday seasons, as long as they remain in good condition. Store them in a dry and cool place to preserve their freshness.

Are there any alternatives to a foraged Christmas branch tree?

If a foraged Christmas branch tree doesn't suit your preferences, other alternatives include potted plants, tabletop trees, or artificial trees made from sustainable materials.

Where can I find more inspiration for a foraged Christmas branch tree?

For more inspiration and ideas on creating a foraged Christmas branch tree, you can visit websites, blogs, or social media platforms that specialize in home decor and holiday crafts.

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