I Was Team Real Christmas Tree Until I Tested Home Depot’s Viral Tree
We recently tested The Home Depot's Home Accent Grand Duchess tree to see for ourselves why it was going viral and if it was worth it. Check out our review here.
Testing an artificial tree was a reach for me—I’m a total live-tree devotee. I’m a sucker for the smell. After a few days with the Home Decorators Collection 7.5 ft. Grand Duchess Balsam Fir, though, I’m totally on board with a faux tannenbaum—though I will still probably spring for a Balsam Fir room spray or something so my home still smells like Christmas.
Home Decorators Collection Grand Duchess Balsam Fir: At a Glance
- Available heights: 7.5, 9, and 12 feet
- Tree type: Balsam fir
- Lighting: LED color-changing
- Straightforward instructions and labels make for fast, easy assembly and disassembly
- Full tree with a classic shape; branches and needles look fairly realistic
- Ample number of lights with a variety of light settings to suit just about everyone
- Some of the 10 light display settings are virtually indistinguishable
- Some light settings have a strobe effect, which may affect those with sensory sensitivities
- Plastic on-off pedal for the floor is pretty flimsy
Get the Home Decorators Collection Christmas tree at The Home Depot for $349.00. Out of stock? Check out our alternatives below!
This 7.5-foot tree comes in four parts: a collapsible metal X-shaped stand and three rather bulky sections of branches that snap one on top of another. From start to finish it took me 11 minutes to put the stand and tree parts together—no tools needed. The Grand Duchess is equipped with Power Pole technology, which connects the electrical wiring of the three tree parts through the central “trunk” and activates the connection when the sections are snapped together. The only electrical connection I made was plugging the tree into the wall outlet. Though there were fold-out paper assembly instructions in the box along with a one-page “quick start”-type informational card, I loved that Home Decorators Collection also printed basic assembly instructions—in a font much larger than it was on the instruction guide—on one of the box’s inside flaps.
Overflowing, Glowing Lights
I didn’t anticipate how much of a time- and stress-saver it would be not to untangle strings of lights and get them into place. This was an entirely new experience for me. Prelit trees for the win, forever! The number of lights on the Home Decorators Collection Grand Duchess is more than sufficient. The rule of thumb when hanging lights on a tree is to aim for about 100 lights per foot of tree. By that measure, this tree should have about 750 lights. Instead, it has 2,250 lights. They are also nicely distributed, balanced from top to bottom and trunk to tree tips.
Inflated Number of Light Settings
The Grand Duchess has 10 light settings on its remote control, which can display the LEDs as all multicolored, all clear, both clear and multicolored together, flashing, not flashing—there’s a host of cycles from which to select. However, a few of the settings seem indistinguishable from each other; there are 6 or 7 distinct settings, rather than 10, I’d say. Still, it’s a good number of settings and enough variety to suit many types of holiday-lights lovers. Those who crave a high-energy Christmas may appreciate the “slow color variable” and “fast flip” settings, which mimic the lights of the Gravitron at the carnival or even a Chuck-E-Cheese arcade. (Be aware that these settings have a strobe effect and may negatively impact those with sensory sensitivities.) If your vibe is more hygge-with-Hallmark-movie, opt for “twinkle WW” and “slow fade WW,” both of which cast the room in a warm, white glow. The lights can be turned off by remote, the tree’s off-on floor pedal, or simply unplugging the tree. Though the button floor pedal functioned as it should, its plastic construction felt a little flimsy and didn’t inspire a lot of confidence—I felt much safer just unplugging the tree from the outlet every night.
Real-Looking…for a Fake Fir
The Home Depot’s website categorizes this artificial Balsam fir tree in the “most realistic” category in terms of realism, and I’d say that’s a fair assessment, particularly if you are looking at the tree from a distance. The tree’s needles look fairly close to the real thing; touching them is the real giveaway that the tree is artificial. But really, are your guests going to be petting your Christmas tree? Probably not.
Sturdy, Durable Base and Branches
In the 4 days that I left the tree up for testing, it never toppled over, even with three kids and a half-dozen cats, thanks to its sturdy, X-shaped metal base. In addition to the potential for daily wear and tear, I also tested the sturdiness of the branches. I looped heavy, round Marquis by Waterford glass ornaments onto the Grand Duchess’ branches, and though the artificial boughs bowed a bit under their weight, the orbs didn’t fall off. The tree’s Memory Wire branches are bendable, which is generally useful in covering bald spots in the tree’s overall shape, but also, as I found, for hanging heavy ornaments. I recommend bending the tips of branches upward to safeguard overly heavy ornaments. (I’m looking at you, Hallmark’s Harry Potter keepsake collection).
Is the Home Decorators Collection Grand Duchess Balsam Fir worth the money?
I think I’ve been spoiled by my first adult experience with an artificial tree. The Home Decorators Collection 7.5-foot Grand Duchess Balsam Fir tree has a classic, conical Christmas tree shape, full, realistic-looking branches, and more lights than I’d ever have the skill or patience to put on the tree myself. The Grand Duchess’ $349.99 retail price is a great time-saving value, given that a strand of 500 color-changing lights retails for $26.99 (and often much more). You’d need five strands to get roughly the number of lights on this tree—not to mention the time you’d spend stringing them and the cost of the tree. The Home Decorators Grand Duchess Balsam Fir tree more than pays for itself, looks beautiful, is easy to put together, and there are no needles to clean up. I’m in!
What To Do If It’s Out of Stock
The Grand Duchess went viral this fall, and buyers went wild for it. In many markets, this tree is out of stock in every height, slim or full. If it’s out of stock in your area, here are three things you can do to get the tree of your dreams or at least achieve the same look.
- Get an email from The Home Depot when it’s back in stock. On the Grand Duchess product page, type in your email in the blank field next to the orange Notify Me button. The Home Depot will send you an automated email once your product selection is back in stock.
- Purchase an unlit tree and strand lights. The National Tree Company’s unlit Dunhill Fir is a favorite of the Bob Vila team, with a sturdy build and full silhouette. It’s a blank Christmas tree palette ready for any strand of lights. Five strands of these lights would amp up the illumination of any tree.
- Consider a Home Decorator’s alternative. The Home Decorator Collection 9 ft. Pre-Lit LED Eastcastle Balsam Fir Artificial Christmas Tree features 1,550 warm white mini-lights and arrives pre-lit for your convivence. Add a twinkle to your holiday decor with the Home Decorator Collection 9 ft. Pre-Lit LED Jackson Noble Fir Artificial Christmas Tree, which features color-changing lights. The Home Decorator Collection 9 ft. Pre-Lit LED Kenwood Fraser Flocked Artificial Christmas Tree creates a dazzling appeal.
Meet the Tester
Bob Vila’s deputy editor of Service & News, Daryna Tobey is an avid writer and editor. As a home and garden book editor at Reader’s Digest, she edited such titles as Save $20,000 With a Nail and Forbidden Advice. Product testing and nitpicking come second nature to her, having blind-tasted and reviewed thousands of wines for publications such as Eater, Food52, Fortune.com, and Wine Enthusiast. Tobey lives in a 1930s Cape Cod home where she loves to DIY and grows Hatch chilies and heirloom tomatoes out back.