Shirin Woods designed this Gold Coast Christmas tree, which features...

Shirin Woods designed this Gold Coast Christmas tree, which features some "Great Gatsby"-like decorations: champagne glasses with pearls in them, bubble lights, Art Deco ornaments and jazz note garland. Credit: Audrey C. Tiernan

Welcome to the new era of customization. Everything is getting the personalized treatment, from beauty and fashion products to home design. Even Christmas trees are getting into the act.

With this in mind, author Carrie Brown lays out a novel approach to decorating for the Christmas season in her new book, “The New Christmas Tree” (Artisan, $29.95). Instead of allowing the rampant commercialism of the holidays to encroach on her family’s celebrations, Brown began designing unusual and innovative trees — first in her home, and later in her California country store and cafe — that reflect her personality as much as they showcased the joys of December.

For the trees in her book, Brown encourages readers to embrace serendipity and discovery. “Start with a theme you want to celebrate,” she says. “If you’re drawn to nature, you can make an ecological statement, like The Bee’s Trees (the book’s cover picture). Or make a color statement using, for example, variations on the color red.”

It’s in the spirit of the trees in Brown’s book that we asked four local designers to interpret the bounties of Long Island. Each designer created a special Christmas tree to showcase four areas — North Shore, South Shore, North Fork and The Hamptons. Whether it’s seashells and bleached driftwood or gleaming pearls covering the branches, each designer found a way to marry Long Island and Christmas themes, creating a quartet of trees that are as fanciful as they are festive.

If you’re inspired by these trees, then heed a few words of advice from our designers about finding your own Christmas tree style. First, make sure your tree is a reflection of what you care about. “Don’t try and come up with something perfect,” says Drew Allt, owner of Drew Patrick, a wellness center and home design store in Bay Shore. “Come up with your own style, and bring your own experience to it.” And don’t forget to involve the kids. “At Christmas, there’s always room for macaroni art,” he says.

It’s also important to showcase what you love. “Back in the old days, we were stuck on everything being as-is,” says Shirin Woods, owner of Shirin Woods Interiors in Glen Cove. “But creating a new tree is about celebrating both the tree and the season. So find what excites you. Think about what Christmas means to you.”

The North Fork Tree

Designer: Lori Guyer, owner of White Flower Farmhouse in Southold, which makes and sells recycled furniture and custom farmhouse tables

For her North Fork tree, Guyer insisted on creating something which contained nothing purchased (except the candles, which she bought from Santa’s Christmas Tree Farm shop in Cutchogue). She says she wanted to make sure her tree was green in every possible way. “I wanted to do something without any plastic, because out here on the North Fork, people are very environmentally conscious and into recycling and preserving and keeping the integrity of the North Fork,” she says. When Guyer told her friends she was designing this tree, they came together to help. “The tree was grown on the North Fork,” donated by Shamrock Christmas Tree Farm in Mattituck, she says. “Then, because food is so important out here, I got apples (donated by Woodside Orchards of Jamesport) and I sliced them and baked them dry, and just put them on a hook.” Next she sourced shells from Little Creek Oyster Farm in Greenport; driftwood sailboats from the shop next door to hers (called Coast); and a cross topper and Christmas tree stand made from her own pile of scrap wood and tree branches from her yard. And then there was the matter of the pine cones and corks. “One day I came home, and these pine cones were on my door as a gift from Rena [Wilhelm] of the Weathered Barn in Greenport,” she says. “Then word got out I was looking for wine corks, and there were shopping bags for me full of wine corks, and shells, and pine cones, just left at my doorstep and at my shop.” For Guyer, the creation of the tree is a perfect example of the spirit of the season. “Out here,” she says, “Christmas is more than a tree. It’s very spiritual.”

The South Shore Tree

Designer: Drew Allt, owner of Drew Patrick, a wellness center and home design store in Bay Shore

The winter beaches of the South Shore served as Allt’s muses when it came time for him to design a tree. “The South Shore has so much to do with the beach,” he says. “You get these beautiful, long vistas with skinny clumps of beach grass. So we wanted the tree to look salty and bleached by the sun.” Using items from his shop, Allt created a tree that reflects local seasonal colors and traditions. In a large iron urn, Allt collected natural birch branches and fallen logs, and then added bleached shells, mercury glass ornaments, driftwood garlands and ribbons to mirror the area’s winter hues and textures. He then added lights to remind him of the sparkling water. “When you walk along the South Shore beaches in the winter, you see the pines and the red berries behind them,” he says. “Then there are lights that sparkle and flash like sunlight off the water.” Finally, Allt added one last, local Bay Shore touch. “On this tree, there are silver holiday bells,” he says. “In Bay Shore, the shops give out silver bells every year at Christmastime. The bells are an inclusive symbol of the holidays, and it’s a neat local tradition that’s been growing for years.”

The North Shore Tree

Designer: Shirin Woods, owner of Shirin Woods Interiors in Glen Cove

For her North Shore tree, Woods was inspired by Gatsby and the Gold Coast. “I grew up on the North Shore,” she says. “ ‘The Great Gatsby’ is the North Shore, and there’s still Gold Coast mansions. Think about the Roaring ’20s, and parties, and extravagance, and lots of money before the crash.” To honor that time, Woods brought all things bubbly and jazzy. “We got plastic champagne glasses,” she says, from Cedarhurst Party “because glass would have been too heavy.” She put gold ribbon around the top so she could hang them on the tree. She then filled the glasses with faux pearls from Michael’s to simulate bubbles and echoed bubbles again with vintage-style bubble lights from She added white ostrich feathers from Feather Paradise and a white-and-gold angel from Martin Viette Nurseries at the top. “The Art Deco era had to do with women, getting the vote, and getting rid of our corsets,” says Woods. “So we stuck a champagne glass in the angel’s hand and used a paper ribbon with music notes on it (also from Martin Viette Nurseries) to represent jazz.” The overall effect is one any flapper would appreciate.

The Hamptons Tree

Designer: Purvi Padia, principal at Purvi Padia Designs, with offices in Manhattan and Bridgehampton

Blending luxury, beach life and refined elegance with just a hint of tongue-in-cheek excess, Padia’s Hamptons-inspired tree is all about the finer things. “First of all, we wanted to have the tree dripping in pearls,” she says, so she draped fake pearl lariats purchased from all over it. “I like pearls because of their decadence, but also because they give a nod to the beach life,” she says. The designer then layered two sizes of faux fur orbs from Restoration Hardware alongside large feathery orbs from West Elm to create an explosion of white and cream that’s both fanciful and posh. She added oversized faux diamond rings from Pier 1 to the branches and hand-tied taupe silk bows. The tree is finished with a generous sprinkling of metallic and mercury glass birds, crabs, seahorses and shimmery traditional ornaments from various stores, including Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware and West Elm. Grounding the tree is a snowy faux fur skirt, and crowning it is an actual crown (both from Restoration Hardware). The overall effect is a tree that reflects the multiple personalities of the Hamptons. “This tree represents the luxury and opulence of the Hamptons,” says Padia. “It’s rooted in neutral colors, with elements that give it texture and glamour, but the Hamptons is the beach, and I wanted to reflect that with crabs and seahorses.” And of course, it’s just a little bit silly. “There are parts of the Hamptons that are over the top, and even ridiculous, and so we also played on that.”


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