Polar Express Yourself: 4 Ways to Personalize Your Christmas Tree

Like snowflakes, no two Christmas trees are alike. Where one person loves sparkle and color -- the brighter, the better-another prefers the reserved elegance of a muted palette. And, of course, many people's style and tree vary from year to year, inspired by the nature outside the window or, in Martha's case, the beloved grandbabies gazing up at the tree in wonder. Let the four distinct and pretty themes in this story spark your creativity, whether you aim to adopt a new look from topper to trunk, or make a sampler of easy ornaments to mix in with your treasured standbys (or give away to friends and loved ones).

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

Bright, Cheerful & Playful

Eclectic Mix

Every little thing you love -- from teensy toys to mismatched collections of vintage holiday items -- has a home on this tree. Start by choosing a palette (we picked bright, happy colors), then fill pipes accordingly: We spray-painted plastic toy animals, spelled out joy and merry with letter magnets, and interspersed tiny wrapped presents, Advent calendar-style. Play around with the placement until you like the overall look (avoid grouping similar objects).

Small-Space Friendly

No room for a fulsome tree in a smaller den or living room? No problem. This tree is less than six inches deep and can hang on or lean against a wall.

About the Tree

Everything you need to make this tree is readily available at your local home center: plywood, PVC pipe, a saw, and epoxy. This wood is four by six feet, but you can adjust the size.

PVC-Pipe Tree

Materials
White paint and paintbrush (optional)
Birch plywood, 4 by 6 feet
Miter box saw or pipe cutter
PVC pipes, in 1- to 4.5-inch widths
Sandpaper
White matte spray paint (optional)
Painter's tape
3 tubes five-minute epoxy
Popsicle sticks
Mirror-hanging hardware, rated for about 50 pounds (optional)

1. Optional: Lightly dilute white paint with water. Brush onto plywood; let dry.

2. With miter saw, cut PVC pipes to various lengths (2 to 3 1/2 inches). Sand one end of each. To make trunk, cut a 1-foot-long piece of 3-inch-diameter pipe in half lengthwise; sand both long cut edges.

3. Optional: Spray-paint all cut pieces of pipe.

4. With tape, create a 3-by-5-foot isosceles triangle on plywood. Place pipe pieces within perimeter, playing around with positioning to get a layout you like.

5. Mix a quarter-size batch of epoxy. Remove a piece of pipe from layout; use Popsicle stick to spread epoxy on unsanded end. Replace pipe, pressing down. Continue process, mixing more epoxy as needed. Use epoxy to attach trunk. Remove tape. Epoxy will dry quickly but should be left to cure overnight.

6. Lean board against a wall, or hang with mirror-hanging hardware.

Martha Teaches & Inspires

All About ABCs

This year, Martha created her tree to stimulate the curiosity of her toddler grandchildren, Jude and Truman. The crisp graphics of homemade alphabet flashcard ornaments play off the shapes and textures of letter cookies that sparkle with colorful sanding sugar. (You can also use the flash cards as personalized gift tags or spell out names with cookies.)

Rainbow Brights

Martha used a playful palette of fresh, kid-friendly colors. The sides of plain wooden blocks were painted in a range of contrasting colors and made into simple, Montessori-inspired ornaments. She rounded out the look with classic metallic ball ornaments -- shatterproof, so they're safe around the kids.

About the Tree

Silvertip firs tend to be symmetrical and have plenty of space between branches to hang large ornaments. This kind of tree is fairly lightweight; here, it's anchored in a bucket filled with rocks and water, which is placed inside a wooden crate painted to match the ornaments.

Flash-Card Ornaments Project

Materials
Ruler
Self-healing cutting mat
Craft knife
Mat board
Screw punch
Painter's tape
Craft paint and paintbrush
Stencil kit
Foam pouncer
Silk ribbon, 1/8-inch wide

1. Using ruler and cutting mat, cut mat board into 2 1/2-by-4-inch and 3 1/2-by-5 1/2-inch sizes.

2. With punch, make a hole at top of each card.

3. Use tape to create 1/8-inch borders on short sides of cards. Paint borders; let dry. Repeat on long sides. Center stencil on cards with tape and apply paint with pouncer. Let dry.

4. Thread an 8-inch piece of ribbon through hole; knot.

Get the Block Ornaments Project

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

Natural, Earthy & Elegant

Terrarium on a Tree

Pine trees aren't the only plants to incorporate into your holiday décor: Make ornaments by nestling popular terrarium plants (succulents, ferns) inside balls of angel vine, and hang them from a cluster of bare branches for an understated, sophisticated style. Succulents are best in smaller balls. Selaginella and other small ferns work well in large balls.

Made with Moss

The branches are rounded out with ornaments fashioned from Styrofoam balls covered with reindeer moss in shades of chartreuse and dark green. Any of these crafts is a sweet little gift -- prepare a bunch and send them home with friends when they stop by around the holidays.

About the Tree

This arrangement of branches is designed to resemble a leafy tree. It's set in a patinated vase with a bed of mood moss; rocks hold the branches in place. Use deciduous branches foraged from your yard. Look for ones that will radiate sideways, so that ornaments hang easily.

Moss Ornaments Porject

Materials
Green paint
Styrofoam balls
Reindeer moss
Hot-glue gun
Bank pins, 2 inches long
Twine

1. Paint balls green to match color of moss; let dry.

2. Break moss into quarter-size pieces. With glue gun on low setting, squeeze a quarter-size amount of glue onto ball; press on a piece of moss. Repeat until ball is covered.

3. Press a bank pin into each ball, anchoring a loop of twine under head of pin.

Get the Angel-Vine Ornaments Project

Plentiful, Plaid & Celtic

Lots of Tartan

Red- and yellow-based tartans are a twist on the traditional Christmas colors of red and green. The ornaments are easy to make by winding bias strips of plaid fabric around Styrofoam balls, or by folding and snipping ribbon into banners and finishing them with kilt pins (for either a Scottish or a decidedly punk vibe).

The More the Merrier

This can be a wonderful starter tree. Not only are these ornaments speedy to make, they're incredibly economical. You can churn out dozens -- and complete the look with inexpensive gold balls and picks.

About the Tree

This stout, radiant Norway spruce has been flocked using a nontoxic spray kit, so it appears as if it's dusted with snow. The tree is in a traditional stand that has been placed inside a galvanized tub.

Plaid Ball Ornaments Project

Materials
Rotary cutter
Ruler
Self-healing cutting mat
Plaid fabric
Fabric glue, such as Magna-Tac
Styrofoam balls
Ribbon, 1/8-inch wide
Bank pins

1. With rotary cutter and ruler on cutting mat, cut 1/2-inch strips of fabric on the bias. (A few will be too short to use.)

2. Use glue to tack end of one strip to a ball. Wrap rest of strip around ball, gluing end when strip runs out. Continue wrapping with more strips in various directions until ball is covered. Glue to secure.

3. Cut an 8-inch piece of ribbon; fold over and knot. Press a bank pin into ball, anchoring knot under head of pin.

Get the Ribbon Pennant Ornaments Project

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

From tree to table, your Christmas decor should feel like you. Here are a few more fun ways to decorate.