5 easy ways to elevate your Christmas lights and make them look more expensive

Lights are a key part of your Christmas decor, here designers share their easy tips for ensuring they look chic and professional

Christmas decor by The White Company
(Image credit: The White Company)

Christmas lights are an integral part of my decoration. I add more every year. Last year I strung them around all my windows and they remained there well into the New Year, adding a cozy glow to post-holiday wintery days. I love how instantly warm and festive they make a room with relatively minimal effort. 

But ensuring your lighting really elevates your Christmas decor does take some effort and this year I want to make even more of my string lights and ensure they look as chic and professional as possible. So I asked interior designers for their tips on how to make Christmas lighting look more expensive. From the colors to choose to where and how to hang them, I'll be sure to remember these simple tips year on year.

How to make holiday lights look more expensive 

There's nothing groundbreaking or tricky about these tips, just easy designer-approved ways to make your Christmas lights look more expensive and elevated. It can take a bit of patience when you are dealing with lengths of wire that have been left in a box, and probably been put away without any thought for the future you that will have to deal with them a year later, but putting the extra time in to carefully position bulbs, disguise wires and ensure everything works together is well worth it. 

1. Get the color spot on

Christmas decor by The White Company

(Image credit: The White Company)

Picking the perfect colored Christmas lights has been years of trial and error for me, and I have finally found the perfect warm white lights that don't change color year on year so I can add new sets to my collection too. They aren't too yellow (a lot of 'warm white' lights really are just yellow) and not too blue either. Plus they are the perfect size, rather than being bulbs they are small, tiny even LED lights that really have that twinkly effect. 

I've always been of the opinion that warm white Christmas lights are the most expensive looking and the best suited to a more quiet luxury Christmas style. Designer Kathy Kuo agrees, 'When aiming for a chic and upscale look with your Christmas lights, less is usually more. I recommend using white lights over colorful ones unless you have a very specific color-centric decorative motif in mind for the colorful lights. I also find that the slightly smaller bulbs, or the icicle style lights, tend to look a bit more elegant.'

kathy kuo home
Kathy Kuo

Kathy Kuo is a celebrated interior designer and international guru within the home and lifestyle space. She has 20+ years of experience in the design industry. 

2. Get the right amount of lights

West Elm Christmas collection, Christmas tree ornament

(Image credit: West Elm)

Simpliest way to ensure your Christmas lights look more expensive? Make sure you have enough. More than enough even. This goes for your Christmas tree, but also anywhere else you want to use lights - the mantle, around windows and doors, along shelves, around wreaths - you don't want it to look like the lights are really stretched to fill the space with just a glow every now and then, you really want them to create a lovely even all over glow.

'For me dressing the tree signals the start of the festive season and all its associated rituals, getting the decorations down from the attic, checking the lights work, and deciding where it's going to be placed for maximum impact and enjoyment. There’s something so magical about a Christmas tree's twinkling lights.' says Chrissie Rucker, founder of The White Company (incidentally where my favorite string lights are from).

'We recommend at least 170 lights per meter of tree. Start from the bottom and wind then up and around for the easiest way to ensure coverage. Today many lights have timers so you can make your lights magically flicker, and softly glow. And don’t limit your lights to your tree these look wonderful wound around Christmas wreaths, nestled into garlands and added to banisters to stunning effect.'

The White Company
Chrissie Rucker OBE

Chrissie Rucker OBE is the founder of iconic British homeware brand, The White Company. Founded in 1994, Chrissie has traveled the world to find the best bed linen and interior products for the brand, and has extensive experience in the world of design.

3. Disguise the wires

Close up of Christmas tree in front of a dresser

(Image credit: Simon Bevan / Future)

One way to really bring down the look of your Christmas decor is for wires to be super visible and distracting from the lighting itself. So disguise all wires! There are some really simple ways to do this, firstly just get the right color cord for where you are hanging your lights. 

'I prefer a subtle green flex that can bend around the branches of your Christmas tree, making it look as if the lights are almost magically suspended in place. The bulbs sit closely together to create a richly lit, tinsel-like effect when illuminated.' explains Chrissie. 

And Amy Pigliacampo agrees, 'Always have the right color strand; green for green and white for lighter or flocked trees. And have lots of extension cords on hand in the right colors; nothing worse than seeing the lights trailing off the back of a tree into the wall outlet.'

4. Keep your lights classic and cohesive

Christmas dining room with tree and festive table

(Image credit: PAUL MASSEY)

This is why I like buying all my lights from the same brand, because 'warm white' can vary so much depending on where you get your sets from. So find a shade you like and stick with it, as Amy recommends, 'Make sure your lights are all the same brand for consistency in color and spacing.'

'I'm a huge fan of classic and minimalist Christmas decor which includes small, warm white Christmas lights (no icicles please)!' adds Jennifer Jones, principal designer at Niche Interiors. 'Keep the exterior and interior lights consistent and avoid colorful bulbs. Instead of installing lights on the roof like the rest of the neighborhood, consider a more minimal look by installing lights on hedges, planters or stair railings.'

5. Perfectly position plenty of lights

Calming, scand-inspired living room decorated for Christmas

(Image credit: Layered Lounge)

'To make Christmas lights look more elevated, go for lots of light and spend lots of time placing them,' recommends Amy. 'If you've ever looked at professionally decorated spaces, they use so many lights and really dial in the placement. Lights at regular intervals are key, you can use twist ties and various cables to keep it all together.'

Take your time with your lighting positions. When I am adding lighting to my tree and Christmas mantle I do it at night, so I can really see where the lights are positioned and as I am arranging I am also stepping back and looking for gaps or where I have focused too much lighting. You want an all-over, even glow, and yes that takes a bit of time and patience but it's worth it to make your Christmas lighting look more professional. 

Christmas lights are like the base of the rest of your decor, the backdrop for ornaments, and getting them right is key to ensuring your holiday setup is looking at its best. These tips are all super simple and easy to implement, and I will be following every single one this year. 

Head of Interiors

I am the Head of Interiors at Homes & Gardens. I started off in the world of journalism in fashion and luxury travel and then landed my first interiors role at Real Homes and have been in the world of interior design ever since. Prior to my role at H&G I was the digital editor at Livingetc, from which I took a sabbatical to travel in my self-converted van (not as glamorous as decorating a home, but very satisfying). A year later, and with lots of technical DIY lessons learned I am back to writing and editing, sometimes even from the comfort of my home on wheels.