DIY Christmas Tree For Small Spaces

I recently (5 months ago) moved from my tiny one bedroom apartment into a small mid-century style house. It's much roomier than my apartment, but with two apartments merged into one house, we're somehow still bursting at the seams. Eventually, we'll cull the furniture collection and have just what we need, but in the meantime, we're short on space but I still want to decorate for Christmas!

If you, like me, love decorating your home for the holidays but are struggling to find the space for a big Christmas tree, I've got a great solution for you. And it's something you can do easily yourself!

Photo by Susie Roupe

Photo by Susie Roupe

Introducing....THE LADDER TREE!

It's easy to do and you probably already have most of the items you'll need to make it happen. The best part? You are only temporarily changing a ladder into a tree. It will still work as a ladder and fold up for easy storage when Christmas is over and you can still use it to change light bulbs in your ceiling fixtures!

Photo by Susie Roupe

Photo by Susie Roupe

STEP ONE

Gather your materials.

  • Wooden ladder (I found mine Grandmama's shed)
  • Table saw
  • Medium grit sandpaper
  • Wood (we used plywood) + blocks for cleats
  • Painter's tape
  • Primer 
  • Green paint (I used Rust-O-leum "Spruce")
  • Good quality garland
  • LED Christmas lights
Photo by Susie Roupe

Photo by Susie Roupe

STEP TWO

Give the ladder a good sanding. If there are globs of paint, give those a little extra attention. Even if your ladder is new, sanding is a good idea as it will help the paint to stick and go on smoothly.
TIP: Paint your nails with OPI nail polish if you want them to stay looking decent after you complete this project. I am astounded by this, but even with sanding AND spray painting, my nails still look fine! 

Photo by Victor Prince

Photo by Victor Prince

STEP THREE

Tape off all of the metal parts on your ladder to keep them from getting painted over. Keeping the working parts from being painted will keep your ladder more able to open and close and it also looks much prettier with the metal details in the end!

Photo by Susie Roupe

Photo by Susie Roupe

Photo by Susie Roupe

Photo by Susie Roupe

STEP FOUR

Have your handsome partner in crime (or you can do this yourself!) trim* down your wood planks to fit across the steps of the ladder. We measured for a 5 inch overhang on either side to best fit our space. You'll want the wood to fit snuggly between the steps, but not be so tight that you can't remove them.

*We do not have a table saw, so we used a circular saw but this is not the best way. Please use a table saw if you have one!

Photo by Susie Roupe

Photo by Susie Roupe

STEP FOUR AND A HALF

Check to see if your board will sit level across the step to the rungs on the other side. If not, you'll need to add some simple cleats for your board to sit level. We cut some small blocks, measured for levelness, and screwed them into the side of the ladder. The board will now sit level on these cleats, but will appear to sit on the rungs!

Photo by Susie Roupe

Photo by Susie Roupe

STEP FIVE

Prime it! I love spray primer, but I'm also a huge spray paint fan. Use whichever primer you feel most comfortable with, and go to town! Watch for drips and get the most even coverage you can, being sure to get the underside sprayed as well. At the same time, prime your boards. You'll have two sides to do on those, so be sure they get nice and dry before flipping. Let it dry until it's no longer sticky to the touch.

Photo by Susie Roupe

Photo by Susie Roupe

STEP SIX

Paint your ladder and boards your desired color. Again, I used spray paint because I love it. My ladder took two even coats to be completely covered. Always get one more can of spray paint than you think you need. Remember to spray your boards green now, too!

Photo by Susie Roupe

Photo by Susie Roupe

Photo by Susie Roupe

Photo by Susie Roupe

STEP SEVEN

Remove the painter's tape, place the boards on the rungs/cleats and begin wrapping in garland! Wrap however you like! I did a criss-cross pattern on mine. Be sure to fluff, fluff, fluff your garland! Look up photos of live garland to see how it lays naturally if you think yours is looking a little funky. 
TIP: Do your garland wrapping and other messy decorating over a drop cloth to make clean up easier. You can shake out a drop cloth easier than you can sweep up every little piece of stray garland.

Photo by Susie Roupe

Photo by Susie Roupe

STEP EIGHT

Wrap your garland in lights, following the same pattern you did earlier. Pretty!!

Photo by Susie Roupe

Photo by Susie Roupe

STEP NINE

Decorate with ornaments! 

Photo by Susie Roupe

Photo by Susie Roupe

STEP TEN

If desired, get a shimmer blanket/batting and make a soft surface of fake snow on each plank. How festive! We used a white blanket with a snowflake pattern under our tree instead of a tree skirt. You could use fabric, or even go no tree skirt! 

Photo by Susie Roupe

Photo by Susie Roupe

Pile presents on each step and even under the ladder. This tree is a great solution for small spaces. Not only does the ladder itself take up less space than a traidtional Christmas tree, but it offers tons of storage for your presents all throughout AND under! Don't forget to pin these photos to your Christmas Pinterest boards!

Happy decorating!