How Faux Can You Go?

In the Gates household it is not foreign to start hearing Christmas music in July. A certain someone who shall remain nameless (ahem…ANDREW…ahem) is a bit crazy for Christmas. Like if Buddy the Elf and Clark Griswold had a baby it would be Andrew Gates.  Nothing makes this guy happier than the holiday season. So much so that whenever we have looked at real estate he tends to skim over a crappy kitchen or less than ideal layout and laser focus on one thing- OMG WHERE WILL THE CHRISTMAS TREE GO AND CAN WE HAVE MORE THAN ONE (his ultimate dream– a multi-tree house)?  While I am not psyched to hear “Baby It’s Cold Outside” when it is in fact 98 degrees and humid, it is a rather endearing quality, and one that will make this time of year so special for Henry as he grows up.

So, here we are in November and you better believe Buddy Griswold is rearing to go.  But having a toddler makes the whole tree thing a bit more precarious than in years past.  Henry will most likely try to scale the thing and/or pull every ornament off it and run around the house screaming “I got it! I got it!” Which also means needles EVERYWHERE.  And sappy fingers.  And water splashed on carpets. And so I asked the most un-holy of questions the other night…..

Just what would my resident Santa Claus think of getting a FAKE TREE?


His reflexive reaction was “no f*$king way” but then as I showed him some of the amazingly realistic trees and reminded him of how we still find needles from last Christmas in random spots, he started softening. I then reminded him we buy pre-cut trees anyways- it’s not like we’re hiking out into the Maine forest and cutting one down while we sing carols and sip cocoa.  We pick one from a parking lot, hardly a holiday tradition that needs preserving.

And then I brought out my most important piece of evidence to back up my case I came across the other night while reading… let me enter into evidence, the following:

Yup, Martha herself loves a fake tree. Basically, the most holy being in holiday decorating has deemed fake trees worthy.  And you know what? IT WORKED.  The Gates family is giving a fake tree a whirl this year!

Which brings us back to our different approaches to Christmas. I like a more sparse/ rustic tree while Andrew wants a full, robust tree. So I found a great compromise in the Terrain Grandis Fir (available pre-lit and un-lit).

I also personally love the Noble Fir version

I’ve got a basket collar to go at the base, amping up the “natural” feel.

Other similar styles:

Balsam Hill is know for having very realistic trees, I love these two versions below (click images for links).  Fake trees can cost a small fortune if you want a super realistic, high end one so be prepared!

They also have great slim profile trees for those who have tighter quarters.

Frontgate also has some very high end options, like this full and classic Balsam Fir.

Of course, while it’s nice to be able to invest big bucks on a tree, that’s not always realistic.  There are tons of great options at lower price points too (click for link).

Martha has her own line of trees at Home Depot (click for link)

Or maybe a tiny tree for a tiny apartment or as a second tree in an entry or den?

So tell me, how many of you go faux (and why?) I’d love to know the ratio of real to faux!

And side note- my holiday candles are available and I must say, SO good. I especially am loving Cozy Holiday. Not cloying or like you face-planted into a Christmas tree– we had it lit all day int he office yesterday and every few hours I’d be like “Man, I love this candle!”.  That said, Allison thinks she may prefer the Birchwood Pine, also subtle but fragrant. (Click images for link)

Also available are my festive little pillows ( just a hint of shimmer/ metallic) and an truly awesome faux fur pillow that is large, in charge and uber-fluffy!! (The fig velvet pillow is sold out that is shown, but a square version is available!)

And also my navy velvet Greek Key stocking and skirt!






  1. I love your writing style Erin, so clever and humorous. We converted to a faux tree 3 years ago despite numerous protests from our daughter (she and Andrew could be buddies) and the three of us couldn’t be happier! We can put it up early, leave it up longer, and no mess to deal with. And the pre-lit versions save so many (gasp!) arguments about “not enough lights”, “this string doesn’t work”, and “can you re-do the lights on the bottom of the tree, they look too sparse”! Here’s to faux trees and peace on earth starting with our family!

  2. Another point for Andrew the elf to consider; you can put up an artificial tree weeks earlier and it won’t dry out! No fire hazard. I finally sold my husband on an artificial tree the year our only spot was right next to the fireplace … and my husband LOVES wood burning fires.
    You do have to have space to store them between holidays (assuming Andrew will ever let you take it down) which is why we gave ours away when we moved into a condo. This year I’m actually considering a very small living tree we can keep on our balcony or give it to family to plant in their garden.
    On the other hand, some of those artificial trees are pretty stunning….

  3. I’m all about the real tree (and we have no space to store an artificial one). For the first couple of years we didn’t have a car and I have great photos of my guy in his plaid “lumberjacket” as we carted the tree home on the city bus or streetcar! It’s definitely a ton of work and I’m not looking forward to the state of my poor hands after stringing the lights this year, but I am still so excited. I can imagine I might think twice if there were kids in the picture – it’s good to know there are such great artificial trees out there! The real question – are you a multi-tree house now with your new room? :)

  4. We do both! We are blessed enough to live just an hour away from the mountains so we do have a tradition of tagging and cutting down our tree which my husband I love and now our small children enjoy as well! I am the crazy that buys coordinating flannels for the boys and something fun for my daughter and I so that we can all match while picking our tree. We also have a fake tree from Anthro that we put up in our front room. We are with Andrew on this one, the more the merrier when it comes to multiple trees ;)

  5. Go faux-yes! After 3 years in a row of trees falling over, due to too small stand ,top heavy ,or the bottom being cut like a gourmet carrot, I was defeated. The kids would look at it with an indifferent glance and I would think I was crazy for all the effort. Like I need another Christmas task. Trying to keep things natural and simple- grrr! Then I meet my now husband in November of one year . As we dated,December came and I arrived at his home to see this little 3 foot faux tree with fiber optics that faded in and out- I walked past him as if I saw God finally! I said “I do” to him and that tree! We have used it every year since. I call it “ Vegas on the table” . I love it ( and him) still.

  6. Two tress….YES!
    We are having one inside and one outside on our deck.

    Fake Christmas trees…I am sorry, NO!
    Maybe faux garland…..nah!

  7. Erin, remember that time you lost your mind and considered getting rid of your leopard stairway carpet? This is like that time. Please, for the love of God, no faux tree. Plus– I’m a fellow Bostonian and I also get my tree from Allandale. It’s part of my family’s holiday tradition (seems it may be yours as well) to go to Allandale and get the tree, the cider, and ALL the holiday greenery. No faux tree. Just no.

  8. I am the Buddy Griswold in my house. As a kid, I strong armed my family into converting to a real tree . They agreed to an every other year basis. As an adult, I’ve had nothing but real trees, from tree lots and freshly chopped down in the woods.

    BUT this year, I found a beautiful faux that looks just like what we’ve been chopping down for the last five years. Ordered it yesterday and am excited to have it up early. And for my 100 lb Great Dane mix to NOT follow me under the tree every day for watering.

    At under $225 on sale, I won’t feel guilty if I get the urge to put a real one up again another year.

    Here’s the link:

    1. Yes! So nervous about my dogs and my real tree each year. And years ago I sent wrapped boxes of chocolate to my parents and grandma and my mom later admitted that their dog had torn into the packages under the tree and ate the chocolate, nuts and all—so dangerous! For safety’s sake and a rescue dog who likes cardboard our gifts stay up high on bookshelves til Christmas morning.

  9. For many years I was in charge of decorating my workplace, from scaling a very tall ladder to decorate the branches of a exceedingly tall faux tree to hanging faux garland and wreaths. It was a JOB but one I took great pride in and always did much research beforehand! I have since retired to enjoy the holidays! Faux trees are not all made equally, and less expensive ones can be nightmarish because each and every branch must be fluffed and re-shaped because of the brush-like branches that become flattened and distorted when stored. Higher-end trees are made of materials that don’t require as much fluffing and re-shaping, if any at all. Buy the highest quality you can afford to save all that re-shaping; otherwise, you will quickly return to the real, fragrant tree-lot trees.

    1. That is a good point. My cheap Martha Stewart for HD one definitely requires some time fluffing. Last year my husband and kids started decorating before I had a chance to fluff because I was upstairs stringing lin gets on the real tree, and I had to live with a sparse looking fake tree in my basement all season.

  10. Once you go faux…….Yep, you won’t go back. Ha. Pre-lit is awesome, especially with young kiddos. It’s a time saver and one less tedious task to do while keeping the littles from strangling themselves! Ha
    Get that artificial tree and don’t look back! You will have a lovely Christmas even still. :)

  11. I’m with Andrew! Christmas music in July and working on getting trees in all rooms. We do a real tree in the entry and have slowly added faux to the rest of the house. Maybe let him have a small tabletop tree somewhere!

  12. I despise the Christmas season. Too much PRESSURE. Every task related to the holiday falls on me and I’m Jewish. My Catholic husband also is not a fan. For him, it’s the religious meaning of the holiday that’s the one and only focus he’s ever wanted. But we had 3 kids, so both Christmas and Chanukah were celebrated in our house.I tried my best to make it festive and we always had real trees. Every year my husband spent hours securing the stupid thing, with many a tree crashing to the floor. Finally, I, the Jew, agreed to a faux tree and it’s ranks up there with the best decisions I’ve ever made. We have a toddler grandson who will be visiting this year, so the decorating will be more sparse (and 3 feet off the floor). Faux works for us. I wish I’d done it sooner!

  13. We’re faux all the way. My SIL is allergic to pine and thus cannot be in our house at the holidays if we have real. I invested in a Balsam Hill tree 5 years ago and it is fantastic. So beautiful and easy to put up. They do great black Friday deals which get to you within a week so you can use it that season!

  14. As soon as you said Andrew is Buddy I thought “faux” since you can put it up so early and leave it up so late. My kids have been asking for the Christmas decor literally since we took down the Halloween stuff. Looks like this weekend they win! It’s such a cozy season that I’m game for early decorating too. Enjoy the faux tree, light your pine candle and don’t look back.

  15. We are going fake for the first time this year as well. We are both big on Christmas, but have a 19mo old and a full kitchen remodel under way. Like most things with kids, sometimes you trade things “you’d never do” for sanity. We might do two trees next year, but maybe I will just embrace the convenience. I’m originally from New England, living in LA now for 15+ years, so maybe California finally got me. Still torn on Balsam Hill vs Costco, since we aren’t sure if we are doing fake long term. They have so many options at Balsam, what’s your pick for a fuller tree?

  16. REAL TREE all the way. I understand the allure of the faux and that it is less work, but the holidays are work! All of it- decorations, cards, gifts, baking, it is all work. And it is all a pleasure. As a family with two working parents we take so many shortcuts – groceries delivered, Amazon prime, child care/sitters, pre-cooking meals on the weekends for the week etc. Over the holidays I want to relish knowing I am going to all the extra lengths for our son so he will remember a classic Christmas, just as my parents did for us. Maybe it is silly or stubborn, but I love the tradition of it all. Oh and there is mess associated with the holidays with or without pine needles., that part is unavoidable. ;)

    1. Wow! Maybe I have it all wrong! So interesting to see all the opinions and faux tree lovers. Aren’t we lucky to live in a time and place where we have all these options? Thanks Erin for awesome content and sparking a conversation that I hadn’t even realized I was so interested in. :)

  17. We have three (!!) full size trees every year. I have collected ornaments since I was a little kid. Last year we bought two of the Grandis fir trees from Terrain. They sold out out after so this year I bought one more. I love them!!! They are easy to set up, the branches look good and the ornaments show up beautifully, I like them hung all the way in up to the trunk so it gives the tree some dimension. A good investment. I set them into planters instead of using skirts. I have the big square charcoal gray ones that look like lead and its gorgeous! We had a room with a very tall ceiling when my sons were toddlers and we put a full size tree on a round table so they couldn’t remove ornaments. Crazy but it worked and it was cool looking.

  18. I can’t decide!! I have horrible allergies and get so sick–like in bed for a week!–every time we put a tree up but I can’t get myself to buy a fake tree.

    1. When our son was a newborn we had to take down our real tree the week before Christmas. Our son had become ill and the doctor thought it could be allergies, possibly related to the tree. Fast forward a few years and we are a multiple (3!) faux tree family. I have beautiful silver ornaments that are from a collection spanning 30 years on one tree, Radko on another and our kids have a tree upstairs between their rooms with their special ornaments. They sleep with their doors open this time of year so they can enjoy the lights. It is the memories you create at Christmas that count. If you switch out real for faux, start a new memory with Henry. Maybe sledding , Santa and hot cocoa. Drive around and look at the lights. Take him to see the baby in the manger if you believe. Make cookies. Well, you get the idea. Merry Christmas, and Happy Thanksgiving!

  19. After 38 years married, my husband and I went “faux” last year. He reminds me of Andrew, in that every time we’ve looked at a potential new home he too wonders “where the tree will go”. He never met a tree he thought was “too big”, even while living in a NYC apartment. After much research we purchased from Balsam Hill and love it! So easy to put up and amazingly easy to store.

  20. We do a real Fraser fir tree in our living room, delivered and set in place in a stand by the Tree Elves (Google for availability in your city—they are awesome). Then we do an inexpensive Martha Stewart for Home Depot pre-lit fake Fraser fir in our basement family room. The fake tree is where the less aesthetically pleasing ornaments go, and the real tree is where the nicer ornaments go. :-). Works for us. I wouldn’t be opposed to going all fake down the road but for the fact that the fakes are a bear to store!!

  21. got the most perfect pre lit pencil tree last year, from where? Michael’s! On sale 50% off..$49.99. It’s perfect for a corner..absolutely in love with it. Hate to say it, but I think real is becoming a distant memory.

  22. We bought a fake tree from Balsam Hill last year, and I couldn’t be happier with it. We did it because our son was one and was just starting to realize the magic of Christmas. I actually already have our tree up (since last weekend), just lit, not decorated with ornaments, we’ll wait until post-Thanksgiving for that. My son, now 2, loooooves turning the Christmas tree lights on. He actually talks about it on his ride home from daycare. If we had a real tree, we certainly couldn’t have it up this early. I say, get a fake one and light a yummy pine scented candle. Merry Christmas ;)

  23. I have always loved real trees because of the smell and ritual of going to get one, but some years we got trees that didn’t have the pine smell, and after the annoying watering, cleanup of needles, and removal/trash of the tree, we decided to get a nice pre-lit tree and I have loved it ever since. To get the pine smell I just burn Thyme Frasier Fir candles and it’s wonderful.

  24. I finally got a fake tree a couple of years ago because I have two cats constantly trying to drink the water. And watering a real tree is a major pain in the butt. My only regret is buying from Balsam Hill. That had to be one of the worst customer service experiences of my life. I should have done more research because it wasn’t even exactly what I wanted and it was very expensive.

    1. I had the exact same experience with Balsam Hill. Worst customer service ever. Luckily, my credit card was great and got me a full refund.

      Erin, about five years ago I bought a Martha tree at Home Depot and it’s been great. It looks beautiful and no yearly aggravation with hanging the lights!

  25. My husband flatly refused to bring a fake tree into our house, even when our children were toddlers. He doesn’t care about the pine needles everywhere (one kid tried to eat them), the sappy fingers or what an enormous pain in the neck it is to take the thing down after the New Year. We invested in kid-friendly ornaments that we still use, even though the kids are now 13 and 17.

    Your deconstruction of the tree-picking tradition was hilarious. Clearly, you were better prepared to defend your case.

    Fair play to you.

  26. Erin I always enjoy your posts but one cracked me up. I was the die-hard fresh-tree person until last year. I switched for a couple reason but mainly just to be able to put the tree up whenever time allowed. I can’t imagine going back to the project of putting up a fresh tree. My living room is much longer than wide, so I found a slim profile noble fir type and it was truly perfect. I can put it next to my fireplace without fear of drying the tree out and it does not take up 3 feet of space, meaning one does not have to walk around the tree when walking through the living room.

    I will also note that I purchased one from my local greenhouse – it was a much better deal than anything I found online and it had a 30 warranty on the lights.

  27. We went faux after we realized that my son has a pine allergy. It is the best (and I was the one who didn’t want it). We have a very realistic one from Frontgate that is pre-lit. Once it is decorated you cannot tell. No needles, no watering, just plug it in and you are all set. Love it!

  28. I love the trees you linked!! I have a faux tree and always have. I don’t like the idea of having to buy a new tree every year. Also i tend to kill any living plant in my house…so there’s that. Overall i think faux is the way to go!

  29. Erin,

    On a similar note, can you recommend where to source high quality artificial topiaries for outdoor use? I don’t have the best green thumb and think artificial might be the way to go with that.

    Thank you!


  30. I’m portuguese and in my country everyone has faux trees! I wouldn’t even know how to get a real one: I don’t think they’re sold in regular garden stores and I’m pretty sure it’s forbiden to get one in the woods!

  31. I love this post Erin! We have had a Balsam Hill Tree for a few years now and we LOVE it. People always ask if it is real. I too live with a Buddy The Elf type and we put the tree up the day after Thanksgiving every year (bonus of a fake tree! *and maybe a selling point for Andrew!)

  32. Real trees only! At least for our main tree. We have a three story atrium over our basement, but somewhat limited horizontal space, so we search for the tallest Charlie Brown Christmas tree EVER. Always at least 11 ft tall, tallest every was 14 ft.

    I do also have a silver vintage one that goes up some years, but that’s just for looks, not Santa :-)

  33. I prefer real trees. I like the adventure of going to cut a tree or at very least, looking through the trees at a tree lot with Christmas music playing. There is something special about this tree you picked and brought home on or in your vehicle. It’s Tradition and I like to keep some of those alive. Two of my three children do the same, I’m happy to say. We are all different and one should do whatever makes them happiest.
    I’m loving those tree baskets.

  34. Holy Christmas!!!!! There’s a “real tree army” out there. Love the idea of a real tree, but I’m not a fan of the reality of a real tree-High maintenance and little payoff in comparison to a faux tree. Ours is from Frontgate, and we love it! No one can tell it’s not real. Throw some Frazier Fir diffusers in the room, and we’re good to go.

  35. I’ve discovered a really good reason for 2 trees: one Kids tree, one Grown Up Tree. All the random ornaments made of paper plates and popsicle sticks (which I love! I do!) go on the Kids tree…and the tree in the main room is our family tree with our nice ornaments, that we get to control placement of.
    The kids have 100% control over their tree (and so it is generally full on the bottom right quadrant and bare everywhere else). You should think about it!

    1. Yes, that is exactly what we do. Real with nice ornaments in living room & fake with kid-made ornaments in basement.

  36. Faux for the win!! I love that I don’t have to rush and drive myself crazy to dismantle the tree before leaving for our annual post Christmas vacation. Just turn it off and out the door, no worries. Hate having to come home to it…but, that’s another story, lol!!

  37. My family used to have a nursery and sell Christmas trees so a faux tree was u heard of. But when we moved into our most recent house a real tree dies in a week. No matter how much water we give it. It’s sometning to do with our heating system that dries plants out very quickly and it becomes a fire hazard and plain old looks ugly and ornaments start falling off the dead branches etc. so we had to get a faux tree. Best thing ever! You can mold the branches to fit the ornaments the way you want and NO NEEDLES!! We actually got one of the Martha Stewart ones and I was impressed with how nice it was. This year we may go get a real Christmas tree for the kids playroom since the heat isn’t as bad in the basement and it has a better chance of surviving longer then a week. That way we get to do the whole pick out your tree and tie it to the roof for the kids thing.

  38. Only real trees here in VA. We live near the Blue Ridge Mountains, so in this area most people get a Fraser Fir. I do have fond memories of my son playing hide and seek in the tree lot, and of us strapping it on the car and bringing it home. We go get it on Thanksgiving weekend, and then it sits in the garage in water until we have time to bring it in. And when I’m finished with it, it is covered from top to bottom with EVERYTHING!
    If I had to get a faux one, I would get one from Terrain probably. I love that site.

  39. Oddly enough, we switched from faux to real after the birth of our first child. Now we have three littles, a crazy Doberman pup, a mischevious old cat, and I still wouldn’t go back. We drive from Chicago to south Michigan and do a whole day of sleigh rides, tree cutting, Santa, hot cocoa, and a meal at a local restaurant. Maybe when they are older and angsty, we’ll go the easy route, but right now I’m all about the memories.

  40. They are awesome. Switched a few years back and have never regretted it. Great for the environment, less expensive over time and NO NEEDLES!!!

    You can also get them out earlier and keep them up longer. Not sure if you read the blog Honey We’re Home…but she just posted a blog about her six trees that are already up=:O That is commitment!

    P.S. My mother was in town and wanted something to read. I gave her your book (autographed in Georgetown=:) . She feel in love with you and your design aesthetic! She can’t wait for your next book!

  41. I love that everyone has their own traditions for the holidays, but I can not imagine not having a real tree. Christmas trees are usually from tree farms where they are re-planted every year, and the heavenly smell of the tree when you enter the house around the holidays is to me just the best ! I completely understand why with allergies faux is such a better alternative, but for this non allergic Elf real is the only way to go .

  42. We try to make happy memories for our daughter by cutting our own Christmas tree at the tree farm. Support farmers, not plastic factories in China! Real is classiest— real diamonds, real wood, real plants. And think of the waste — real Christmas trees become soil in no time; fake Christmas trees sit forever in a landfill. And that transportive fir smell come only with a real tree.

  43. Great choice, Erin! A firefighter, while on the scene of a fatal fire because of a Christmas tree, was telling me how dangerous they are and when they go up “It’s like a forest fire in your living room.” We bought a fake tree the next day and never looked back.

  44. There is NO tree like those at Turkey Hill Farm in Haverhill. We’re talking multi-year Grand Champion Christmas Trees at the Topsfield Fair. You go, you tag it, you go home. On the day you want to pick it up, you arrive and there is your tree, bundled up like a burrito, ready to go home. They last three weeks without losing a needle and are PERFECTLY shaped.

  45. My husband and I travel out of state every year to spend Christmas with his family but I cannot imagine not putting up a tree in our home, so we go fake. I love adding a small real fir in a pot for that gorgeous scent because Christmas is a feast for all five senses. A mini real tree can be a beautiful accent up on a high shelf away from little hands and inquisitive pups, but still accessible with a watering can.

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