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Trees aren’t confined to just being real or fake

O Christmas . . . decal?

Don’t rule it out. In recent years, websites such as Apartment Therapy, which specializes in small-space living and related urban conundrums, have featured wildly imaginative galleries of alternatives to traditional Christmas trees for those who are short on square footage – or just hate picking pine needles out of their socks until July. (Winner in both the Creativity and Ease of Execution categories: the eight-foot ladder strung with colored lights.)

For those who are looking for an abstract take on a superannuated holiday theme, ladder-trees and their creative brethren – treelike wall constructs made from driftwood or buttons or washi tape – have an appeal that transcends the merely practical. Do-it-yourself alt-trees have become a seasonal meme on Pinterest, and artisanal trees abound on crafter retail sites, such as Etsy. And, increasingly, they can be found among the holiday-decor offerings of mainstream retailers from Anthropologie to Walmart.

Substitutes for real Christmas trees have been around longer than you might think: no sooner had hauling a conifer into the house become commonplace than people started looking for ways to simplify the process. Early fakes were made of dyed goose feathers, while later iterations – the silver aluminum trees of the 1960s, the white trees of the 1970s – reveled in their artificiality. Today, high-end fakes come pre-lighted and are nearly indistinguishable from the real thing (except for the smell, which remains the single strongest argument out there for real trees).

It’s no wonder that evergreens were synonymous with the winter solstice celebrations long before the popularization of the Christmas tree in the 1800s. After all, there’s virtually no other greenery with which to decorate in December. Even today, the mere silhouette of a conifer has strong connotations – and for many of these postmodern trees, that’s enough.

These are not your risibly unconvincing mid-century bottle-brush trees – these are elegant abstracts made of glass or paper or vinyl or light.

Glass: At the abstract end of the spectrum, the Glass Rod Tree tree from CB2 is made of green borosilicate glass, and, like most things, it looks even more festive when illuminated from within ($15, cb2.com).

Wood: The Wooden Wall Tree from West Elm – its hooks standing in for branches – is infinitely personalizable. Hang it with holiday baubles now; in the off-season, it can be used for jewelry or other tiny treasures ($19, westelm.com).

Vinyl: With Decorate the Tree peel-and-stick wall decals, you can still trim the tree – after a fashion. Choose your own color combination and do it up however you please. To round out the effect, this company also makes a cozy-fireplace decal ($48-$98, dezignwithaz.com).

Paper: The Tree for Life (Not Just for Christmas) by British wallpaper designer Deborah Bowness is silkscreened by hand onto paper that can be hung like a scroll, mounted on a board or framed. There are two lush evergreen designs to choose from. ($295, deborahbowness.com).

Light: The Lumen LED shadow projector by installation artist Adam Frank casts a flickering shadow of a tree on your wall; the size is dependent on its distance from the wall. Also available with an oil-lamp light source called Lumen Flame. ($68 for LED option, $48 for oil option, adamfrank.com).

Fabric: The snow-dusted Christmas Tree Wall Hanging from Betsy Benn Designs is digitally printed on cotton fabric and features a dowel-pocket at the top for hanging. For thriftier revelers, it’s also available as a poster ($123 for wall hanging, $16 for poster, betsybenn.co.uk).

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