A Christmas Story

What stemmed from a single flea market ornament flourished into a grand selection of holiday embellishments. One Honolulu couple showcases their one-of-a-kind finds.

As the saying goes, mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow—likewise, one humble flea market ornament find has spawned a grand Christmas ornament and décor collection so large that it can break the tallest noble firs.

Our collectors are a husband and wife team whose ornaments span themes, styles and materials. The collection is carefully inventoried and stored until the time comes in early fall to start planning which decor pieces will grace their East O’ahu home for the holiday season.

“I follow the retail schedule,” says the wife. “I start once football season starts. This means that the decorating begins in October and “hopefully ends in December.”

While the collection encompasses various categories, the showpiece of the house is the 12-foot tree in their living room. The weight of all of the ornaments began to overpower natural trees long ago, and the couple decided a pre-lit artificial tree would be the only way to display their colorful collection.

The tree—hung with glass ornaments—is a Candy Land of hues. There are sections dedicated to themes as diverse as Coca Cola, Alabama and Ireland (castles, a donkey and a cottage). There’s a section highlighting Patricia Breen’s artist-themed Christmas tree ornaments that pay homage to Van Gogh, Warhol and Dali among others. Like the performer it’s modeled after, there’s an Elton John ornament (signed, even!) that stands out as a beacon. Tucked on a branch, just about midway to the top, you’ll find that simple flea market find that started it all.

“My husband saw it, and liked it,” says the wife of the shellacked dough decoration purchased in the 1970s. “It predates me,” she says with a warm laugh.

The fact that it holds its own amongst the brighter, newer baubles is a testament to the fact that every piece of the couple’s collection is something that spoke to their hearts.

A blue low sofa snakes its way along a wall of the living room, lined with holiday-themed needlepoint pillows.

From the living room, guests behold the formal dining room: set with the couple’s wedding china, set off by décor trees displaying crystal ornaments by Waterford and Tiffany & Co.

Our lady collector is known for many things, not the least of which is her divine cheesecake. “It’s my claim to fame,” she says. As she heads to her kitchen to serve up some slices, it’s no surprise that there’s a miniature tree in her kitchen as well, decorated in glittery produce.

The festive décor flows into the den as well. Here, a third tree is decorated with delicate dated pieces by Steuben, Lalique, Limoges and more. On a low coffee table, the couple’s collection of crystal and porcelain Christmas trees creates a magical table scape.

One of the couple’s most fanciful trees is found in their guest room. Bedecked in heels, this “Shoe Tree” started with the Baroness de Rothschild’s Holiday Shoe ornament from the Metropolitan Museum of Art Shoe Collection. This tree started as a tabletop tree and has now grown to require a 7-foot tree to accommodate all of the fancy footwear it displays. Naturally, women need the right handbag to go with their shoes, so the tree also displays an array of arm candy and shop bags. A gorgeous garland of pearls ties it all together.

There are quite a few themes that run throughout this collector couples’ home— you’ll find Jay Strongwater ornaments throughout—but the major theme that you’ll find the couples’ love and care for their collection, and the joy they have in sharing it with their guests. And, since the couple moved into their home on December 31, 1977—”We bought this house and haven’t moved since!” shares the wife—it seems fitting that the holidays should be an extra merry and bright time for this duo.

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