YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


26 trees and counting

A two-bedroom home in Studio City is a wall-to-wall holiday fantasy.

December 13, 2007|Bettijane Levine | Times Staff Writer

DAVID BLAIR has 26 decorated Christmas trees inside his two-bedroom Studio City home. Still, he's used fewer than half of the 10,000 ornaments in his burgeoning collection, which now overflows his closets, garage and rented storage space. He continues to collect, cannot seem to stop.

"There are trees in every room, even the kitchen and bath. It's kind of an obsession," he cheerfully admits. But not one you'd want to cure.

Step through Blair's front door and you're awash in the cozy glow of this year's fantasy: a 30-foot-long living room that feels uncluttered despite its seven trees, each with a different theme.

His "antique tree" is tall and full-bodied, all its ornaments family heirlooms or vintage finds gathered over years. A spun glass butterfly from the 1920s is one favorite. A blown glass bunny with an expressive painted face, from 1930s Germany, is another. The tea and coffee pots made of black glass are from his grandparents' ornament collection -- a remembrance of childhood yules in Coshocton, Ohio, where his passion for Christmas decorating began.

In a far corner, his Asian-theme tree is hung with fragile pagodas, lanterns, kimonos and ginger jars, which look like paper but are actually spun glass. The room's main tree, majestic and flocked in white, announces the color theme -- all silver, blue and white -- and every ornament apparently meaningful to Blair.

Meet him in March, May or August and he'll tell you what ornament he's searched for on the Internet that day. Find him away on vacation, and he'll list all the holiday decor shops in the area. "We pull into a hotel," he says, "and I instantly grab a phone book to see what Christmas stores are around."

He and his partner, Dan Darwish, traveled to Chicago to view the Martha Stewart-designed tree at the State Street Macy's, better known as the old Marshall Field's downtown. Last weekend Blair was in New York to check out Christmas windows on Fifth Avenue. He and Darwish are planning a trip to Italy, for which his ornament-hunting agenda is already prepared.


BLAIR'S creative flair includes an eye for restraint. Sure, there's what some might call an overabundance of trees. But the ambience is muted. No glare, no ornaments with sound or moving parts, no lights twinkling on and off. Nothing to mar the serene glimmer of a home bathed in ecumenical holiday cheer.

Two matching 7-foot trees stand in dining room corners, each laden with Italian glass fruits and vegetables. Smaller trees are banked behind the kitchen sink; twig trees grace the bathroom counter. The master bedroom holds what Blair calls the favorite tree for guys: It's black and loaded with ornamental yellow and white taxicabs. That's a bow to Darwish, who collects ceramic cars.

The most fanciful tree in the house would make Curious George proud. Its brown fabric monkeys and yellow glass bananas are delights that lasts in memory long after one leaves the house. "Kids love it, and they want to come back again and again," Blair says, seemingly unaware that he has brought a sort of storybook fantasy to life.

Friends have dubbed Blair the Hollywood Christmas Guy, and he has turned his personal passion into a home-based business of the same name, decorating for parties, though he emphasizes that the creations in his house are not for sale or public viewing. They are his personal pleasure, nothing more.

Aside from the penchant to make every day a holiday, "he's a pretty regular person," Darwish says with a chuckle. When the pair met about five years ago, Darwish saw no outward sign that Blair was Christmas-obsessed.

"I thought it was odd that a guy living alone in a small apartment had such a big, elaborate tree," Darwish recalls. "But I had no tree at all, and he convinced me to buy one and decorate it."

The situation escalated from there. The men say their annual holiday party (300 guests this year) is awaited by friends eager to see Blair's latest ideas. "We change almost everything every year," he says.

For Blair, 33, the Christmas phenomenon has been building since age 5. That's when his mother, a collector of decorative eggs, and his grandmother, also an ornament collector, gave him a 4-foot bottle brush tree to decorate.

"I took packing peanuts, strung them like popcorn for garlands and made my own ornaments out of whatever I could find in the house," he says. He embellished the little tree every year until his family let him take charge of theirs.

"Then they asked me to decorate the house inside and out," Blair says. He was on his way to holiday happiness.

His Christmas obsession comes naturally, he says, because of what the holiday meant in his rural Ohio home. "We had a huge, close-knit family. My father had 13 brothers and sisters. We were always all together at Christmas -- parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins -- a big full house where we had fun. It's such a great memory. I just seem to want to carry it out again and again."


Los Angeles Times Articles