By Avery Walts
Photos by Tony Bennett
Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree. Make that Christmas trees – 16 to be exact – at the home of Matthew Presley and Brian Bell.
When the pair started dating 13 years ago, their collection of Christmas decorations grew along with their relationship. A few trees in the beginning evolved into more and more each year. Today, their 7,000 square foot home nestled on a hill in New Albany embodies Christmas on an extravagant level.
From the first step into the crystal-chandelier lit foyer, a myriad of Christmas-scented candles greet guests along with a traditionally-decorated tree and greenery arrangement. After the grand entrance, literally everywhere you look there are beautifully- and intricately- decorated trees, all representing a different theme and color scheme.
A trio of trees in gold and red take shape in front of the great room window and dark wood ceiling beams, some displaying fleur de lis ornaments. If Santa Claus himself were playing “Jingle Bells” on the grand piano this writer wouldn’t be surprised. I am in Christmas heaven.
Brian, a real estate broker, and Matthew, an account executive for an insurance company, both enjoy the process of decorating their home every year, but Brian is the admitted “Christmas fanatic.” The excitement in his eyes while showing me around their home is undeniable. He is like a kid on Christmas morning. “I like the reaction I get from people when they see it all,” Brian explained. “I like the joy it brings them. It’s always been a favorite season of mine.”
In order to accomplish the task of setting up 16 trees, greenery, ribbons, ornaments and all other Christmas accouterments, the couple begins in early October and recruits family and friends to help set everything up. It’s not much of a persuasive request, though. “Our family loves it so much they actively seek out helping us pull it out every year and set it up to decorate,” Matthew said. “In addition to the decorations, it’s become a nice tradition for the family to put it all up and enjoy it as much as we do.”
“Plus, they get a kick out of the fact that I put it up in October,” Brian replied.
The purchase of the immense home was the product of a happy accident. After the previous homeowners passed away, their estate belongings were put up for auction, including a dining room table Matthew had his eye on. After arriving at the home, Matthew called Brian and said, “You’ve got to come look at this house. This is going to be our next new house.”
In August 2014, the couple began to remodel this, their new home. They moved in just shy of Thanksgiving that year along with their three Shih Tzus: Milo, Shazzie, and Olivia. On move-in day, the floors were still drying and countertops were being installed. Yet, Brian’s first thoughts were about his beloved Christmas trees, and he was thrilled the large layout of their new home would allow them to spread out decorations far more than had been possible in their former Jeffersonville residence. “I think it enhances the themes, too, because we’re able to do a full room in that theme rather than having three or four different themes in one area,” Brian said. Additionally, the warm hued walls, an updated kitchen slathered in marble and steel accents, and a great room featuring a massive fireplace fit for Santa allow the trees to fit with the deco like perfectly matched puzzle pieces.
Matthew and Brian have a massive collection of ornaments from around the world and those that have been gifted by friends. Trees vary from the Grinch-themed one located in a half bathroom downstairs to a merman-themed tree upstairs. Most of the ideas come from personal style, catalogues and a yearly trip to New York City filled with plenty of peering at the gorgeous window displays. “We usually try to make a trip to New York every holiday season just to look at the windows and get that Christmas cheer,” Brian said. “We get a lot of ideas from Christmas trees in the Macy’s. It’s amazing!”
The half-cut, upside down tree in the kitchen is a showstopper. Propped on a metal base, the tree is dripping in silver and white ornaments topped with brightly shining silver glitter stars. It’s both bizarre and beautiful. With the amount of effort put into setting everything up for the holidays, the decorations come down in stages through the end of February.
Although Matthew and Brian haven’t yet considered opening their home to the public, the displays get plenty of traction throughout the holiday season. Friends bring their family members by to take in the spectacular holiday home, which has resulted in an annual Christmas party that grows in number of attendees each year. Forget Santa’s list; if you love all things holiday, this is the list you want to make.