Fir Better or Worse: Alterna-Trees for Every Scenario

Come December, few sensory experiences can top that first whiff of pine air. Unfortunately, even the most festive forces of nature can be thwarted by allergies, pets, and landlords (to name a few). Don't spend the season pining away -- if you long for a tree but can't swing the real deal, buy a sap-scented candle and give one of our favorite stand-ins a try.

For Protective Parents: Suspend Your Disbelief

Don't let grabby hands (or paws) hold your holiday dreams hostage. This ceiling-suspended "tree" uses foil pailettes to catch the light like ornaments on the real thing.

Metallic Foil Paillette Tree Mobile

Cutting mat
Metallic foil board in gold, silver, and teal (double-sided is best), 12 inches
Spray adhesive (if card stock is single-sided)
Circle cutter,
Micro hole punch
Metallic embroidery thread
4 wire wreath forms in 8-, 14-, 20-, and 24-inch diameters,
Small silver ring or S hook

1. For single-sided foil board: Use spray adhesive to attach 2 same-color pieces back-to-back.

2. On cutting mat, cut paillettes from foil board with circle cutter, varying their diameter from 4 to 8 inches; they will hang in graduated sizes on the "tree." When using the circle cutter, cut around each circle a few times to ensure a clean edge. Reserve one 4-inch gold circle for the "star" at the tree's top.

3. Use hole punch to punch 1 hole near edge of each paillette.

4. To assemble tree, cut 3 pieces of thread for each of the top 3 tiers; we spaced our tiers 13, 17, and 20 inches apart. Tie the strings to wreath forms, attaching tiers from smallest to largest. Cut 3 additional pieces of string to hang tree (in a length that suits your ceiling height). Tie the strings to top tier and then tie the other ends to a silver ring or S hook to hang.

5. Cut assorted lengths of thread, and separate the strands. Use the strands to tie paillettes to wreath forms, varying the lengths at which they hang. Start with the smallest paillettes at the top, and increase their size as you move down. Tie a 4-inch gold paillette to the hanger to make the star.

Related: 22 Gift-Wrapping Ideas for Turning Any Gift Into Something Spectacular

For Neat Freaks: In Full Plume

Shedding needles can lead to sneezing, slipping, or simply a mess. Replace them with feathers, or try a PVC-pipe wall tree that doubles as an organizing solution.

Feather Christmas Tree

For Feather Tree: White turkey feathers (long, medium, and short lengths)
Hot-glue gun and hot-glue sticks
Styrofoam cone (We used a 12-inch cone, but any size will do.)
Popsicle stick or tongue depressor
Bamboo skewer
Heavy-duty wire cutters or pruning shears
For Glittered Star Tree Topper: Vellum
For star: Star template
Double-sided tape
Spray adhesive
Fine crystal glitter

1. Sort feathers into short, medium, and long piles.

2. Carefully make a line of hot glue along the quill of a long feather, from the point of the quill to about 1 inch in.

3. Attach the feather to the bottom of Styrofoam cone so that the end of the feather sweeps out and just brushes the table below.Tip: Hold feather in place while the glue cools using a popsicle stick or tongue depressor to avoid burning your fingers.

4. Continue gluing long feathers around the cone, lining up the bottoms of the feathers, completing a row. Add rows of long feathers, with about an inch between each, until a third of the cone is covered.

5. Repeat with medium-length feather rows to cover the center third of the cone. Finish the top third of the cone with short feathers.

6. To complete the top of tree, push a bamboo skewer about 3 inches into the point of the cone. Carefully add feathers around the skewer, about an inch from where the skewer meets the cone, lining up the quills to make a point

7. Snap off the skewer right above the quills with heavy-duty wire cutters or pruning shears. If you like, you can add more feathers to the tree with dabs of hot glue to add depth.

8. Cut a 3-inch vellum circle in half. Curl one half into a cone. Secure with double-sided tape.

9. Cut three 3-inch squares of vellum and fold them to make three 8-point stars, as shown in the star template instructions.

10. Glue two or three stars onto the cone with hot glue. Spray the entire tree topper with spray adhesive and cover in glitter. Shake off excess glitter and add to top of tree.

For Clutter Queens: Read 'Em and Heap

If you can't squeeze a living thing in amongst your piles, transform your heaps instead. These sparkling stacks give old newspapers a headline-worthy makeover.

Shimmering Stacked Trees

4 ounces Sculpey clay
10-inch, 6mm thick knitting needle
Craft glue
Clear glass glitter
Receipt spike (optional)
2 pieces 6-by-6-inch card stock
Utility knife
Bone folder
Adhesive spray
Hot-glue gun and glue
2 paper Dresden stars

1. Roll and flatten 4 ounces sculpting clay to form dome shape. Poke knitting needle horizontally through flat area of clay dome. Remove knitting needle.

2. Bake clay in oven at 275 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Reinsert needle into baked clay. Glue felt on bottom of base for surface protection.

3. Apply glue, then glitter, to the base. A receipt spike can be used to create a smaller tree instead of building a base using the above instructions.

4. To form tree, place 2 pieces of 6-by-6-inch card stock onto spike for stability.

5. Cut newspaper into 50 sheets of each size:
- 6 by 6 inches
- 5 1/2 by 5 1/2 inches
- 5 by 5 inches
- 4 1/2 by 4 1/2 inches
- 4 by 4 inches
- 3 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches
- 3 by 3 inches
- 2 1/2 by 2 1/2 inches
- 2 by 2 inches-1 1/2 by 1/2 inch

6. Cut 25 1-inch sheets of newspaper.

7. Begin poking pieces of newspaper onto spike in descending order, folding and unfolding each piece of paper using a bone folder.

8. Spray tree with adhesive and immediately sprinkle with diamond dust. Set aside and let dry for 10 minutes.

9. Using a hot-glue gun, adhere 2 paper Dresden stars back-to-back to top of tree.

Related: 65 Quick and Easy Holiday Decorating Ideas from Martha Stewart

For Eco-Crusaders: Top the Presses

You may question the wastefulness of the annual tree routine. You probably also hold onto magazines with the intent to "recycle" them later. Well, that time has come -- and the result is more glam than granola.

Magazine Christmas Trees

Old magazines of any size
Gold, silver, or clear spray paint
Glitter in desired colors
Bone folder (optional)

1. Open magazine and bend to break spine.

2. Fold individual page from top right corner to inside seam. Fold same page from bottom right edge to gutter.

3. Fold bottom triangle of each additional magazine page up, making the bottom of the tree flat. Then, fold top of all pages down to form tree shape.

4. Spray-paint folded tree desired color. Immediately sprinkle glitter over wet paint. Let dry.Tip: Use a bone folder to smooth paper edges if desired.

For Die-Hard Floral Fans: Rosy Peaks

If your thumb (or your taste) is more red than green, you'll love this flowery fir. A foam cone core creates the familiar Christmas tree shape, though we can't say the same for the smell.

Yuletide Topiary

The white porcelain-urn "planter" and a scattering of miniature gold and green Christmas balls complete the picture. Just like the big evergreen in your living room, this mini Tannenbaum will stay fresh long enough to greet the New Year.

It is simplest to carve the entire tree form out of a single block of floral foam, commonly 4 by 9 inches. If you cannot find a large enough block, glue a smaller block and cylinder together with floral adhesive. Because our tree is 13 1/2 inches tall, including a 4 1/2-inch "trunk," we added a second block at the base.

One block of floral foam (or one block for the cone and another for the base)
Floral adhesive
Serrated knife
Cachepot or urn
Basin or tub
Florist's cutters
Small Christmas balls with wire hangers

1. With a serrated knife, carve a foam base that will fit snugly into the cachepot or urn. Set base into pot before shaping the rest of the foam.

2. Carve from top to bottom in long strokes, sloping outward until you produce a symmetrical cone. This cone should be several inches thinner than you want finished tree to be, since carnations will thicken it considerably. Fill a large basin or tub with water, remove foam from pot, and float it on the water. Do not submerge foam; once it has absorbed enough liquid, it will sink by itself. Remove foam from water after 20 to 30 minutes (or when bubbles stop rising), and replace it in pot.

3. Using florist's cutters, trim carnation stems so that they are just long enough (about 1 inch) to insert securely into the foam. The few stems that will be positioned atop the arrangement may need to be even shorter, so that they don't push one another out of the foam.

4. Keep adding carnations until all of the foam is hidden. Intersperse flowers with Christmas balls by sticking their wire hangers into foam.

For the Indecisive: Centerpiece on Earth

If you can't commit to a tree and all the trimmings (or your building code strictly forbids one), a centerpiece delivers a lift with no liability. These tabletop trees, made of pipe cleaners, tinsel, ribbon, and cardboard, are on point.

Sequined Christmas Tree Centerpiece

Several pieces of 11-by-17-inch pearlized card stock, 120 lb., in Quartz
Craft ruler
Craft knife
Bone folder
Tacky white glue with a fine applicator
Assorted loose sequins and small paillettes

1. Measure and cut 2 card stock triangles for each tree; ours are 8 by 12 inches (base by height), 11 by 17 inches, and 9 1/2 by 12 1/2 inches. Measure and mark base on card stock. Find midpoint; measure from midpoint to height.

2. Using ruler as a guide, run bone folder along vertical center line to crease each triangle; fold in half.

3. Apply glue along outside edges of triangle's centerfold; press together until glue sets. Stand up each tree and let dry.

4. Working 1 side at a time, apply small dots of glue and attach sequins and paillettes in desired colors and sizes. Let dry.

More from Martha Stewart Living:
15 Kitchen Shortcuts That Will Change the Way You Cook
19 Tips for Perfect Laundry Every Time
47 Ways to Maximize Space in Your Kitchen
20 Super-Efficient, Super-Effective Ways to Clean All the Things

This homemade branch "tree" can be used all year long.