A Northwest holiday wonderland is woven from treasured collections on a farm in Orting
Christmas decorations are collectively festive
Time is key to creating memories
Crafting a Christmas house from the front porch to the upstairs bedrooms is time-consuming.
"I'm a stickler on the mechanics," says Waller, who engineers the decorations so there's just one switch per room to turn them on and off. "That's important at night when it's time for bed," he says.
While it takes a full day to decorate each tree, and another day just to put all the candles in the windows, it takes just as long to put things away. All dozen trees are individually wrapped to protect them during their 11 months of hibernation. Each ornament is wrapped in tissue paper, then nestled into its own individual box.
Waller, after all, is storing memories as valuable as his collections.
"These aren't just Christmas decorations, they're collections," Gary Waller says of the sparkly welter of cool, nostalgic stuff that transforms the 100-year-old farmhouse he shares with Greg Graves into a holiday wonderland. Waller and Graves moved to this three-acre farm near Orting in 2005, and from the looks of it, Waller has been decking the halls ever since.
Not true. He devotes only about two months of the year to yuletide bling. "I wanted to have Santa and Mrs. Santa on the front porch, with a sleigh on the lawn," sighs Waller. Instead he found a tree trunk, cut a bunch of branches and wired them into the shape of a porch-sized tree. He covered old crates with fabric to make the tempting-looking presents and garnished the tree with huge ornaments from Wal-Mart. "It took about a day to make the tree," says Waller cheerfully. The effect? You feel like a kid walking beneath its branches to enter the house, where jolly snowmen greet you in every room and a candle burns in every window.
Waller is a veteran floral arranger who used to work for Molbak's. He's been collecting decorations from Italy, Germany and Austria for decades, but he builds wreaths from scratch every year and makes sure rooms are scented with fresh greens. His biggest collection is the snowmen. "I loved making snowmen as a kid," Waller explains. And he still does. The ones atop the hutch have real carrot noses, rock buttons painted to look like coal, and arms made of mossy branches.
As much engineering as artistry goes into Waller's exacting work, where cords never show and everything is carefully wired in place.
Every tree takes a full day to decorate, and this year there are a dozen of them, with themes ranging from "The Wizard of Oz" to "The Grinch." The cats and dog have their own tree in the mudroom. Upstairs there's a woodland wolf tree with frosty snow globes and wolf faces from Czechoslovakia.
The most elaborate of the trees, and the one closest to Waller's heart, is "The Wizard of Oz" tree in the dining room, with decorations spilling over onto the sideboard, table and window seat. "It's my favorite movie," Waller explains. "I must have seen it 50 times."
The original MGM plates adorn a swag, and all the characters from the movie dangle from the tree, including munchkins and a tiny medal of courage won by the lion. A yellow brick road runs down the middle of the dining-room table, with Kansas at one end and Oz at the other.
On the sideboard the witch has her own castle, complete with crystal ball.
"I have great fun," says Waller. "It's just my time of year."
Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer and author of "A Pattern Garden." Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Mike Siegel is a Seattle Times staff photographer.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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