‘Christmas at Swan Hall’ features 18-plus decorate trees

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At Lewiston-Auburn’s Community Little Theater, he has acted in productions of “The Full Monty” and “The Lottery.” He’s even taken on director duties with productions of “Children of Eden” and “Nunsense.”

Living in Portland, he has associations with the community theater troupes The Portland Players and Portland Lyric Stage.

“When I bought my current home, it needed a lot of sprucing up,” said Carr, who is owner/publisher of “The Smart Shopper,” a southern Maine buyer’s guide. “It is an 1886 14-room Victorian house that appears fairly plain from the outside, but which has quite a few nice original features, including 10-foot ceilings, four fireplaces, butler’s pantries and natural stained varnished woodwork throughout.”

It was living in this house that turned Carr’s interest to holiday decorating.

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“The first year in the house, I set up my one seven-foot artificial tree in one half of the double living room. I’ve always joked that owning this house is like having a mistress that says, ‘Buy me things. I want this! I want that.’”

Carr explained that chandeliers were added, cherry and marble floors installed, ceiling medallions and decorative frescoes put up.

“The fancier the house got, the more it seemed to want. The seven foot tree was replaced by a nine-foot tree in each of the living room bay windows and the seven-foot tree was moved to another room,” said Carr, noting that his partner at the time, Paul, had some impressive decorating ideas such as sprays of pearlescent beads and ribbon garland.

“We added one tree in each downstairs room, and then a year later decided to have a tree in each bedroom. Trips to local craft stores gave inspiration for different themes, so we had to find new places to put trees,” said Carr.

In the ensuing years, trees were added to two office rooms, an upstairs hall, the kitchen and even the hot tub area in the basement, which sported a four-foot tree with clear plastic soap bubble ornaments and over 100 rubber duckies.

As of last year, Carr’s house had 18 full-sized Christmas trees and three “mini” Christmas trees. Themes and ideas continue to grow.

“Rustic ornaments were popular one year, so we added a servant’s tree in the rear hall, with the names of actual house servants taken from the census records in the 19th century,” said Carr.

Carr’s favorite of all is the peacock tree decorated in vibrant teal and electric blue colors with an elaborate tree topper made out of feathers and gold glitter ornaments.

“We also choose a theme for the front hall, that changes every two years,” added Carr. “One year was crushed satin and dried flowers, another was flocked evergreen fronds, silver and white, and the last two years has been red satin and glitter gold accents.”

Carr said that the trees remain in their respective places from year to year, although recently the tree toppers have been changed to less conventional things such as top hats, bird cages, owls, elves holding the star and bundles of golden Calla Lilies. Recent additions to the decor have included 25 harlequins and dozens of Santas.

As friends began to experience Carr’s elaborate decorations, they encouraged him to hold tours for the public and to charge admission for the experience.

“Last year, the house was open for three weekends of tours,” said Carr, adding that all proceeds went to benefit local community theaters. “Volunteers served as guides with many dressed in period costumes.

“The tours are called Christmas at Swan Hall,” said Carr, who came up with the name for his house based on a large reproduction chandelier in gold and alabaster that he placed in the front foyer. “The original was commissioned by Napoleon for the Empress Josephine, and swans were her favorite.”

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