Stage Designs

Trees Aglow

Joshua Hoegh from First Baptist Church of Elgin in Elgin, IL brings us this variation of pallet trees.

From Joshua: If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the 5 years I’ve been doing this, it’s that the easiest way to address the “how will you top this next year??” concerns is to make sure that each year is a stark contrast to the year prior. In terms of style, scale, texture – any way that I can swing the design pendulum as far as possible from the previous year will prevent anyone from being able to “compare” year-to-year, and will then allow each design to stand on its own and speak for itself.

Last year we went over the top visually with our paper chain design – utilizing nearly 40,000 paper loops, and hanging them from the ceiling for our first ever “top-down” stage design ( So in order to contrast that with this year’s design, I considered the style, scale & texture of the paper chains – soft, over-the-top, paper. In addition, I had to consider the use of our snow-covered evergreen trees as well.

So this year, I contrasted each of those concepts – instead of “soft”, I went with clean, hard lines. Instead of over-the-top, I significantly simplified the scale of the design by placing fewer elements on stage. Instead of paper, I contrasted with the use of wood and lights.

The result was inspired by the Tightly Treed design, submitted by Restoration Life Church ( We created a cleaner variation on the concept of a pallet tree, using new 1X6 boards, spaced evenly, and cut cleanly into our tree shapes. We created variety by having different sizes of trees, and placing them at varying depths on the stage. I then fed globe light strings through each of the spaces in the boards for a clean (borderline OCD) look to the lights on each tree.

As always, I wanted to make sure that the design was not limited to the Worship Center. Trees were placed at the front entrance, in the lobby and seating areas to allow the design to consistently spread through the whole building.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of this design is that I had the back wall painted a deep gray. Previously, the wall had been painted white (to match the rest of the room). A white wall presented obvious challenges. Any natural light (or artificial light) in the space would bounce off of the white and “wash out” the existing stage design. Stage elements did not “pop” effectively, often times blending into the wall behind it. Our screens were often washed out by light reflecting off of the white walls.

The new color allows these trees (and any future stage design elements) to “pop” off of the negative space it creates. It also absorbs any natural light much more effectively, giving us more control over any artificial light used on stage. Additionally, the screens now display much more clearly, as they’re surrounded by negative space (allowing them to appear more dynamic in contrast to the dark color).

All in all, this stage design was a huge success. Many have even asked if they can purchase the trees after Christmas to use at home for their own personal decorations next year.
















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7 responses to “Trees Aglow”

  1. Mark Gillis says:

    Fabulous! I’m planning to use this next year and have a few questions.
    What angle/ratio did you use? What’s a typical height/width?
    1 by 4’s for the back supports?
    Where did you get your lights?
    Do you have an approximate cost per tree?
    Thanks for sharing this beautiful design.

    • Joshua says:

      Thanks, Mark!

      First off – my deepest apologies for not responding to your comment earlier! I don’t receive email notifications when comments are posted, so I completely missed you. Again – I apologize.

      Second – I’d love you answer your questions the best I can. Here goes :)

      1 – I believe we used a 25 degree angle on the top, with 77.5 degree angles at the base
      2 – Yes, the back supports are 1x4s
      3 – I purchase the lights on Amazon, in 25ft lengths, although they offer a few different length options. Forewarning, remove the bulbs before wiring up/attaching the strings, then put the bulbs back on LAST. The bulbs are incredibly fragile, and after shattering 4 of them, we decided to remove them all first – not a single bulb was broken after that, haha :) (link for the lights:
      4 – Cost per tree is tough, because all of our lumber was repurposed from a previous design (so the wood didn’t cost us anything) but they’re just basic pine 1x6s, with 1x4s for mounting. The greatest cost was the lights, which added up fast. Sorry I can’t be more helpful on that :(

      Hope that at least gives you SOME direction and clarity! Thanks for your interest – and again, my apologies for the delayed reply. Feel free to email me directly with any further questions, Thanks again!

  2. Jared says:

    Beautiful and simple! Nice work! I may have to borrow the ideas for next year.

  3. Kristie says:

    Hi. Love this! I am going to do it this year for our church. Do you remember the heights of the trees. It looks like you have small, medium and large size trees. Also do you know the length of the bottom board of each size tree? Even a rough estimate would be awesome:) Thanks for sharing your beautiful idea!!

    • Joshua says:

      Hey Kristie! Thanks so much for your kind words – this was definitely a fun design to put together and even MORE fun to see come to life :) To answer your questions, YES – we had 3 variations in sizes. The small trees measured 3′ 6″ tall (with a 19″ base), the medium trees measured 5′ 6″ tall (with a 28″ base) and the large trees measured 7′ 6″ (with a 40″ base).

      I hope that’s helpful! I purchased the lights on Amazon. If you’re interested in the link, or have any other questions, let me know – my direct email is Best of luck to you!

  4. Paul Michalik says:

    Can you please tell me the spacing you used between slats? I want to make sure the light sockets fit (I’m making some trees but my lights haven’t come in yet). Thanks.

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