Dec. 2008: Minneapolis man double-decks the halls

  • Article by: CONNIE NELSON , Home+Garden Editor
  • Updated: November 21, 2009 - 11:36 AM

A Minneapolis man decorates his home with childlike glee, a well-trained eye and two, count 'em two, Christmas trees.

For most of the year, Larry Pfarr's Minneapolis house takes a page from House Beautiful.

The Tuscan-inspired colors flow seamlessly from room to room. The furnishings are a perfect blend of modern and vintage. And the accents -- not too big, not too bold -- add just the right touch.

And then there's Christmas.

Starting on the day after Thanksgiving, Pfarr transforms his home into an over-the-top, no-holds-barred tribute to his favorite holiday. From the monochromatic Christmas tree in the basement to the beaded swags in the kitchen to the living room ... oh, the living room. There are arrangements of antique ornaments on the end tables, the mantel is draped with layers of garlands and the Christmas trees are dripping with brightly colored bangles, baubles and beads.

Yeah, that's right, trees. Plural.

One entire wall of Pfarr's modestly sized living room is devoted to the two artificial trees that he wraps with dozens of strands of lights, adorns with thousands of ornaments and strings with glass garlands.

For Pfarr, the head of merchandising and display for Bachman's, putting up two trees wasn't extravagant -- it was practical.

"I had a big fat tree in there and it took up too much room, so I thought it would be great to have two trees," he said. Besides, he needed somewhere to display the 20 tubs of decorations he's amassed over the years.

Pfarr mixes practicality with a heady dose of punch. He readily admits that he's pleased by the reaction his twin trees have gotten from guests at his holiday parties. "The year the two trees went up, jaws dropped," he said. "I heard a lot of 'OMG!'''

And when it comes to trimming the trees and decking the halls, that's what Pfarr is all about.

"I want a big 'Wow!' rather than a little bit here and there," he said. "I think a lot of people, when they're decorating, tend to spread stuff out a little too much. It dilutes it."

There's nothing diluted about Pfarr's more-is-more style, which he refers to as "early Bachman." But that doesn't mean he covers every surface of his home with Santas and snowmen.

He tends to stick with tasteful, traditional decorations -- glass ornaments, beaded branches and ribbons -- and chooses his targets carefully, focusing on a table in one room, a window in another. He decorates every room in his 2,200-square-foot house because he uses every room when he entertains.

"We start in the basement with drinks, then go to the dining room, then have dessert in the living room. It keeps the energy up," he said.

In the rare year when he isn't hosting an intimate dinner party or a big blowout, Pfarr can't resist decorating.

"Even if I wasn't going to have anybody over, I'd still do it," he said. "Christmas is my favorite holiday. It's about the getting together, the decorating, the parties. It's about kids and the child in each of us."

Pfarr is single and doesn't have kids, but decorating for Christmas is still a family affair. For the past nine years he's enlisted his niece, Kelsey Brandt, to help. By now, they've got it down to an art.

"We've got the Christmas music on, we're working on the two trees and every once in a while, Kelsey will step back and say, 'Your tree needs a little bit of work.' "

Once the trees are up, they start on the lights, wrapping them around each branch from trunk to tip. Then they tuck in artificial berry branches to give the trees more texture and depth. Next, they weave in lengths of ribbon, drape garlands from the ends of the branches and between the trees and, finally, they start on the ornaments.

The plain Janes are tucked inside closer to the trunk, the showier ones are hung where you can see them. And they finish some of the branches by clipping glass bird ornaments on the tips.

But they don't stop at the trees: They even decorate the floor. Pfarr and his niece arrange a makeshift tree skirt from velvet fabric and, in their one capricious move of the day, they each grab a tub of inexpensive glass ornaments and dump them under the trees.

"We decorate from the tree topper to the floor," said Pfarr. "When we've used up every ornament, we call it a day."

With the two of them working steadily, they can get the trees done in about three hours. The rest of the house, including the lights and arrangements outside, takes another eight or nine hours. Some years, they take timeouts for the Holidazzle parade or a holiday show. Other years, they work through the weekend.

But Kelsey always takes home a gift from her uncle -- a wreath, a garland, some ribbon. And Pfarr's house is always dazzling. Or, as he describes it "over the top, but tastefully restrained."

Connie Nelson • 612-673-7087

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