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Continued: Echoes of Christmas past still sparkle in a Minneapolis neighborhood

  • Article by: KIM PALMER , Star Tribune
  • Last update: December 14, 2013 - 10:29 PM

Still, his instincts are more honed than most. He studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York before making his career in financial marketing.

His holiday decorations range from family heirlooms, to secondhand finds, to items he “picks up on clearance,” he said. “It’s different parts of my life, all worked together. I like flea markets and consignment shops. I find something wonderful, put it next to something, and you see it in a different way.”

His century-old house was not designed for all the illumination required to keep 40 trees lit and glowing. “I max out the circuits. There are usually at least one or two disasters,” he said, recalling the time a friend asked to use his microwave oven to heat something for her child. “I had to say, ‘Let me unplug a couple things first.’ ”

All but the glitter

A week or so after the holidays, Kuczkowski always disassembled his Christmas creation and packed it away for another year. “I’m done by Epiphany,” he said. “I take Martin Luther King Day off to pack it up. But I’m cleaning up glitter through July.”

Only last January, unbeknownst to Kuzkowski, he was packing up his decorations for the final time. A few months later, he got a job offer he couldn’t refuse in Connecticut and decided to start over — with a new aesthetic.

“I turned 50 and wanted more of a Zen, calm feeling,” he said. “I thought it would be fun to try something completely different.” So this year, in his new home, he’s opting for simpler holiday ornamentation with a focus on sustainability and reuse. “I found a craftsman who makes wreaths out of recycled jingle bells,” he said. “Everybody always said my decorations looked like a department store. Well, now I’m living in one, a converted loft in an old department store from the 1890s in downtown Hartford.”

After Kuczkowski left town, he arranged for a neighborhood gift shop and estate sale company, Cockadoodle Doo, to sell many of his belongings, including his Christmas and Halloween decorations. “I was not there for the sale. It would have been a little emotional for me,” he said.

Dingmann, who was there, estimated that the sale drew 1,000 people. “You could hardly move around in the house,” she said. Competition was fierce, but Dingmann did snag some green and burgundy ornaments from the dining-room tree, plus the toy train that her son had always coveted.

“It was sad when Michael left,” she said. “No one can re-create that.” But she’ll remember his magical holiday house when she looks at his decorations on her tree. “I’ve got a little bit of him left.”

 

Kim Palmer • 612-673-4784















 

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  • Michael Kuczkowski posed with his dogs Nichols and Mae in his Minneapolis living room last December, when his holiday decor included 40 lavishly decorated Christmas trees. “Every room has some Christmas in it,” he said.

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