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How to Make a Rustic Christmas Tree Display

As an artist and homeowner, Donna enjoys creating unique decorative items and holiday ornaments to welcome all to her artistic abode.

How to make a rustic farmhouse Christmas tree display

How to make a rustic farmhouse Christmas tree display

Rustic Outdoor/Indoor Christmas Tree

This festive Christmas tree is perfect for adding some holiday charm to your home, garden, or porch. Built as a flat panel and decorated with winter greenery and berries, this Christmas tree can be used in front of a fireplace, on a porch, or against a garden wall. I used a wooden panel for my backing, but this holiday display can also be made using a stretched artist canvas (for indoor use only). This project does require some simple sawing and basic construction, but the assembly can be done in a couple of hours.

There are many ways to decorate this Christmas tree display, and I've included some ideas in this tutorial.



This is a basic list of materials for this project. I've listed other ideas for decorating and styling this Christmas tree at the bottom of the tutorial.

  • Wood panel or stretched artist canvas as backing - I used a wood panel that was about 18 inches by 25 inches. You can find wood panels in a number of sizes at most craft stores. You could also use a stretched canvas, which also comes in a number of sizes. However, do not use a canvas if you plan to display your Christmas panel outdoors.
  • Decorative trim or moulding - this is available in 6 or 8 foot lengths at most home improvement stores.
  • Some scrap wood to use as spacers with your trim pieces. I used a length of square dowel, but any scrap can work.
  • Artificial holiday greenery - I would suggest using a variety of greenery for your display.
  • (Optional) A star or some other decoration for the top of your tree - I used a laser-cut wooden Christmas tree ornament.
  • Paint for your panel - be sure to buy the correct paint (either interior or exterior paint) for your project.
  • Holiday decorative items to add to your display - these items can include small tree decorations, artificial berries, small toys, beads, and other Christmas baubles.
  • Hot glue and glue sticks.
  • (Optional) Wood glue or Liquid Nails if you are planning to put your panel outdoors.
  • Saw, ruler, pencil, and other basic tools.

Directions for Making a Christmas Tree Display

1. Choose the right size panel for your project. You can always trim down a wooden panel to the proper size if needed. Otherwise, stretched canvases come in a wider variety of sizes and shapes. However, use a wood panel if you want to display your tree outdoors.

2. Next, decide how many horizontal trim pieces you want on your display, and the lengths you're going to use to build your Christmas tree shape. I used 4 trim pieces as my horizontal "shelves" to tuck my greenery behind.

Your trim pieces should be different lengths to create the shape of the tree. My trim pieces were 5 inches, 8 inches, 11 inches, and 14 inches. Cut your trim pieces using a saw and sand any rough edges.

3. Then decide the distance you want between your trim pieces. Do not attach your trim pieces to your panel at this point, just lay them out. Leave enough space at the top of your panel for a tree topper (optional) and enough space between your trim pieces for your greenery.

I placed the top edge of my shortest trim piece 5 inches from the top of my panel. My next piece was 5 1/2 inches below the top of my first trim piece. My third trim piece was 5 1/2 inches below the top of my second piece. My last piece was placed 5 1/2 inches below the top of my third piece. This layout left enough space at the bottom of my panel to add another piece of trim as a base for my tree. However, this is optional.


4. Cut your space pieces. Your spacers will lift your trim pieces off your panel to create a space to tuck your greenery behind. I cut 12 pieces of wood that were about an inch long, about 1/4 inch wide, and 1/2 inch deep. Make sure your spacers are small enough to stay hidden behind your trim pieces.

5. Paint your backing panel. If you are putting your display outside, you may want to prime your panel first.

6. Paint your trim pieces (this is optional). I chose not to paint my trim pieces and left them in their natural state, but you can paint them to coordinate with your backing panel.


7. When all your painted pieces are dry, mark the placement of each of your trim pieces. I used a thin marker to carefully draw a line along the top of each of my trim pieces. I also marked the sides of my trim pieces.

8. Remove your trim pieces and glue your spacers just under and inside the lines that mark your trim pieces. I used hot glue to adhere my spacers, but you might want to use wood glue or Liquid Nails for outdoor use. I placed my spacers so they stood a 1/2 inch off my panel. Your longer trim pieces may also need a spacer in the center for support.


9. Once all your spacers are in place, glue your trim pieces over the spacers. Use your markings to line up your trim so that it is even and level.

10. Repeat step 9 for all your trim pieces.

11. When all your trim pieces are glued in place, paint over any of your marking lines that are still visible.


Adding Your Greenery and Decorations

1. Your greenery may come in prearranged bundles as mine did (see photo with materials). You may need to cut these floral elements apart and trim them down to fit your display.

2. Make sure each of your floral pieces has a short stem (see photo above) that you can tuck behind your horizontal trim pieces. You can cut back the greenery to expose the stem if you need to.


3. You can arrange your greenery and decorations behind your trim pieces as you choose. I started by making a backdrop of pine branches to build my arrangement on. I put a generous amount of hot glue on the stem of each of my pieces of greenery, then tucked them behind my trim. I put my longest piece of pine in the center and left the ends empty. As I worked, I checked to make sure the ends of my pieces were not sticking out under my trim.


4. Then I added some other floral pieces that were of different shapes and textures, filling in more space behind my trim pieces. Again, I glued them in place using hot glue. I allowed my end pieces to fan out over the side edge of my trim.


5. Next, I added some pops of color with berries. I kept my display to traditional Christmas colors, but you can add as many colors to your tree as you want.


6. To complete my greenery arrangement, I added some shiny stars that were on wire stems. I chose to keep my display pretty simple, but you can add as much color, glitter, and greenery as you choose.


7. Fill in the greenery behind each of your trim pieces. I suggest varying the placement of your items behind each piece of trim. Small pine cones or shiny Christmas balls will add visual interest to your display.


8. When your greenery is glued in place, add a tree topper if you choose.

9. I also added another piece of decorative trim at the bottom of my tree as a base. I cut the ends of this piece of trim at an angle using a miter box. I raised up this piece to be level with my horizontal trim pieces using spacers.

10. You can also add something to each side of your tree, angled from the top to the bottom, to complete the triangle shape of your tree. You can use simple pieces of wood, garland, lights, or strings of beads to create this look.

Other Ideas for This Project

This basic idea can be decorated in a number of ways to create different styles:

  • For a more rustic natural look, use lengths of thin tree branches (about 1 inch in diameter) for your horizontal pieces instead of pre-made trim or moulding.
  • To create a coastal look, choose trim pieces with a rope design (available at home improvement stores) and add seashells to your greenery.
  • For more shine and glitz, add shiny buttons or small pieces of jewelry to your greenery. You can also add a beaded garland to each horizontal ledge using Mardi Gras beads (available in craft stores).
  • You can add a bottom to each of your trim pieces to create actual shelves for displaying Christmas village buildings, holiday figurines, or Nativity figures.
  • If you build shelves, you can place numbered packages on each ledge to create an advent calendar.

There are a number of great ideas and options for building and displaying this Christmas tree panel.

© 2019 Donna Herron


Donna Herron (author) from USA on November 15, 2019:

Thanks! Yes, this project is quite easy with just some basic construction needed. The fun part was arranging the floral elements and decorations. So glad you like it! Thanks for your comment!

KonaGirl from New York on November 14, 2019:

That display really turned out nice! The instructions make it look super easy for anyone to make.

Donna Herron (author) from USA on November 12, 2019:

Hi Heidi - Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Yes, I'm enjoying the fall inspiration, but looking forward to holiday decorating too! Happy Holidays to you!

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on November 12, 2019:

Inspiration is everywhere... even at the Home Depot! :) Very cute project, as always. Hope you're enjoying the fall holidays before Christmas gets going. Cheers!

Donna Herron (author) from USA on November 10, 2019:

Thanks, Rachel! I'm glad you enjoyed this project. Happy holidays to you and your family!

Rachel Alba on November 10, 2019:

Hi Donna, Once again you created something so charming and pretty. You have a real talent for this and you make it look so simple. Thanks for sharing your work.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Donna Herron (author) from USA on November 09, 2019:

Hi Claudia - So good to hear from you! I'm quite pleased with how this project came out and I'm happy that it has inspired others too. This Christmas panel is quite easy and can be adapted in many ways. Thanks so much for your comments. I appreciate it. Happy Holidays!

Donna Herron (author) from USA on November 09, 2019:

Thanks, Jill. That's very sweet of you. I don't have any particular process, I just love decorating for Christmas and making holiday crafts. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

Claudia Porter on November 09, 2019:

What a great idea Donna!! And it doesn't look too hard either. I'm glad I saw this post. I haven't been getting emails on new posts so I think I have missed a bunch. Hope you are well.

Jill Spencer from United States on November 08, 2019:

What's your process for coming up with projects? You always have so many good ideas.

Donna Herron (author) from USA on November 08, 2019:

Thanks, Sally. This project is something I've wanted to make to display in front of out fireplace during Christmas. We rarely use our gas fireplace, so it's great to decorate it as part of our holiday mantle. Thanks so much for your comments!

Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on November 08, 2019:

Nicely done Donna. I love this idea. It looks especially good on the gorgeous wooden door.