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5 D.I.Y. Christmas trees that will blow your mind. (No. 5 is sheer genius.)

It's that time of year again.

Time to reminisce about Christmas past, recalling piles of gifts under the generous branches of a spruce tree in your family home. When it comes to Christmas present, it may be time to look around your apartment and wonder if you'll ever have enough space for a real evergreen conifer.

Instagram to the rescue.

We found five people who've come up with some crafty alternatives to the traditional space-hogging tinsel holder.

1. Wine cork tree

Andrea Whalen is the manager of Montage Boutique Spa (@montagesb on Instagram) in Manhattan Beach. When a wine bar opened next door, she decided to welcome the new kids on the block with something a little different: A Christmas tree made of corks. "It was their first Christmas at their location, and I thought it'd be a fun little gift," she says. "I do lots of arts and crafts."

Materials: a mesh or metal cage-like Christmas tree or tomato cage turned upside down (check dollar stores for a tree or a gardening supply store for the tomato cage), a short string of about 20 Christmas lights (another good dollar store find), wine corks (available in bulk online), hot-glue gun (available online and in craft stores) and a glittery star (which, Whalen says, came from a flower arrangement).

Whalen wound the strand of lights around the base and glued the corks to the metal, then stuck the star on top.

Cost: $3-$15 for the base, $8-$15 for bulk wine corks, $3 for lights, $10 for a hot-glue gun

Time spent on project: 30 minutes

2. Washi tape tree

Ananda Kuchinsky (@nandasketti) and her fianc rent their home in Altadena, and she says she was averse to the idea of buying a big tree and then throwing it away right after the holidays. "I wanted to do something reusable that wouldn't take up too much space," she explains.

Materials: a roll of washi tape (available at craft stores and online), a piece of plywood (available at lumber yards and Home Depot, though most washi tape can be applied directly to the wall without harming the paint) and pompoms (available at craft stores and online).

Kuchinsky found the design for the shape of the tree on Pinterest and copied it on the plywood board, which she already had left over from a previous project. She attached the pompoms, which she'd made with leftover yarn, with loops made from the washi tape. For the "pot" at the bottom of the tree, she used a different color of washi tape, then outlined it with the black.

Cost: $10-$12 for a 2 feet by 4 feet piece of plywood, $5 for a roll of washi tape, $12 for a bag of pompoms or $5 for a skein of yarn if you want to make them yourself.

Time spent on project: 20 minutes

3. Particle board tree

Artist Kim Gibson (@misguided_designs) has done something a little different every year to celebrate the holiday season since 1988. The Mission Viejo resident and her husband have made Christmas trees out of wooden wine boxes, mannequins, bamboo skewers, and skeletons. (You can check them all out on her site, www.misguideddesigns.com). "We don't put lights on the house or anything like that," she says. "We just want to be different. And it's fun for me because it's being creative."

A couple of years ago, she decided she wanted something they could use to cover their fireplace while it was being refinished, so she made a flat tree covered in wrapping paper and adorned it with toothpick stars.

Materials: an 8 feet by 5 feet sheet of particle board, available at hardware supply stores and lumber yards, a box of toothpicks, wrapping paper, a string of Christmas lights

Gibson traced the shape of a tree onto a sheet of particle board and had her husband cut it out with a circular saw. She used striped black and gray wrapping paper to cover the board and strung lights around it. (For a tutorial for making toothpick star ornaments go to lat.ms/toothpickstars, although Gibson notes that hanging flat ornaments on the light strings or pinning them directly into the wood would also work.)

Cost: $10 for a large piece of particle board, $7 for wrapping paper, $5 for toothpicks, $5 for a string of lights

Time spent on project: 3-4 days, in bits and pieces

4. Hanging pine cone tree

Marquette Mower (@marquettelaree) recently moved with her husband and young son from Silver City, N.M., to Winslow, Ariz.. Their new house is on the smaller side, she explains, so she didn't have enough space for a "proper" tree.

"We needed something that wasn't going to add clutter," she says. Browsing Pinterest, she found instructions for "trees" made by hanging ornaments from fishing wire. But she didn't want to buy a bunch of new ornaments — again, no clutter — so she used what she had: The pine cones on the ground around their house.

Materials: pine cones (available in bulk online, or on the ground, depending on where you live), ornaments (optional), fishing wire or illusion thread, metal cooling rack

Mower says she already had a small circular cooling rack, and the pine cones were free courtesy of Mother Nature, so she just had to pick up some fishing wire and a small box of ornaments for extra sparkle. She tied the wire to the cooling rack at the top and attached it to her ceiling, with the pine cones and ornaments at the other end.

You can check out her blog, www.marquettelareeblog.com for a complete tutorial on making the tree.

Cost: $7 for bulk pine cones, $5 for fishing wire, $12 for a cooling rack

Time spent on project: four hours — most of that time was spent measuring wire and tying it around the pine cones

5. Ladder tree

Buying a fake Christmas tree means giving up precious storage space where it can live the rest of the year. What about decorating something that already has real estate in your closet? Amanda Urban (@cypressresortandmarine) is in the process of restoring a resort in Antioch, Ill. She's no stranger to construction, so when it was time to decorate for the holidays, she turned to something familiar: A ladder. "I don't have time to be home and domestic all the time," she says, "but I like decorating for Christmas."

Materials: a ladder, string of icicle Christmas lights, ornaments, upholstery thread

After opening the ladder, Urban strung the icicle lights around it, pausing to attach the strand to each step level with upholstery thread. (It's a step that is particularly important for cat owners, says Urban, who owns two sphinxes.) Then it was just a matter of popping on a few ornaments.

Cost: $15-$60 for a ladder, $5 for Christmas lights, $6 for upholstery thread

Time spent on project: 1 hour

Follow Jessica Roy on Twitter @jessica_roy, and find her on Instagram @jess_mag.

jessica.roy@latimes.com

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A version of this article appeared in print on December 19, 2015, in the Features section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Christmas trees branch out" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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