When it comes to decorating a Christmas tree it can be all too easy to end up with a pyramid of tinsel-coated carnage.

Like most decor, there's a fine balance between tacky and elegant. This year, here's how to avoid going overboard when attempting your festive masterpiece.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Australian home design expert Carlene Duffy has explained the basic do's and don'ts of Christmas tree decorating.

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Too much tinsel

Tinsel is a classic Christmas tree decoration, but we can often go overboard with it.

Duffy says the ideal Christmas tree is one that makes a statement without dominating the living space.

Tinsel can be over-the-top - keep it subtle or try an alternative. Photo / 123rf
Tinsel can be over-the-top - keep it subtle or try an alternative. Photo / 123rf

"The problem with tinsel is that it tends to be attention-seeking and makes the process of carefully curating your ornaments almost futile," she says.

Duffy says tinsel should either be used sparingly or replaced with other ornaments. Alternatives such as ribbon bows for the branches or paper bunting can be found at Spotlight or Kmart.

Take it easy with colour

Take some time to decide on an understated colour theme if you really want to wow this year, says Duffy.

Carefully curating colours will help avoid garishness - either go with the classic red and green palette or try a modern take with pastel colours.

Avoid using cheap hooks

Christmas baubles are fairly cheap, but one problem with that is they also often come with fabric hooks, meaning they can fall off the tree easily.

Replace these hooks with wire, Duffy suggests, then you can "mould" decorations on to the branches. This is a great idea if you're going to have kids running around at Christmas time.

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"You'll be glad you did when curious little hands notice they have a whole new bunch of 'toys' to play with and start grabbing any decoration in reach," Duffy says.

Lights add a festive touch, but keep them to a minimum. Photo / 123rf
Lights add a festive touch, but keep them to a minimum. Photo / 123rf

Avoid the use of garish lights

Christmas tree lights are a favourite with many people - often the more the better.

But while bright lights add a festive touch, they can make your tree look outdated and a little tacky.

To play it safe and keep that special glow, layer strings of more delicate lights on your tree - including lights you may not think are "Christmassy", says Duffy. Think paper lantern string lights - these are relatively cheap to buy.

Say no to cheap plastic baubles

Cheap Christmas decorations can be found practically anywhere - but often these don't last and tend to chip or break if dropped.

Cheap baubles can break easily - try investing in some durable ones this year. Photo / 123rf
Cheap baubles can break easily - try investing in some durable ones this year. Photo / 123rf

You don't need to splash out on baubles, Duffy says, but if you want them to last you a few Christmases, look at some made from fabric or other hardier materials.

"Tree decorations can now be found well beyond the supermarket variety," she says.

"Homeware retailers supply a wide range of ornaments to their house-proud clientele."