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McMansion owners supersize trees

Massive conifers are must-haves this Christmas

WASHINGTON -- With a living room ceiling that soars 22 feet above the carpeted floor, no ordinary Christmas tree would do. A standard 7-footer, Daphne Kessler decided, would look ''kind of weird," dwarfed by the second-floor balcony and the towering Palladian window.

Kessler needed a tree as grand as the five-bedroom, 6,000-square-foot home in Great Falls, Va., that she moved into almost four years ago with her husband and two children. So she bought a 12-foot behemoth that her interior designer decorated by climbing so high up a ladder that, he said, ''I feel like a monkey up here."

As huge homes have popped up across the suburbs, they have spawned a must-have seasonal accessory: supersize Christmas trees. McMansions with two-story foyers, cathedral ceilings, and great rooms are fueling a demand for trees fit for Paul Bunyan with price tags fit for Daddy Warbucks -- from $100 to more than $1,000.

A walk through Joseph Coates's tree lot in Ellicott City, Md., is like a tour of a magical forest, where even pro basketball players might feel like elves. He specializes in 12- to 15-footers that can weigh a few hundred pounds and that spread as wide as a small car.

This season, he said, ''a lot of people, maybe 50 or 60, have driven up and said, 'Show me the biggest one you've got.' "

Coates's supplier, Marshall Stacy, owner of the Pinetum farm in western Maryland, estimated that sales of trees taller than 10 feet have risen 3 to 5 percent a year in the past decade. When he started selling Christmas trees in the late 1960s, Stacy needed only a 7 1/2-foot pole for customers to measure their trees. Now, he needs poles 10 and 12 feet long.

''There are an awful lot of those giant foyers," he said. ''I mean, I'm glad I don't have to heat one of those houses."

Big trees mean big tree stands -- and big ornaments. To handle the huge trunks that don't fit in a traditional Christmas tree holder, Johnston sells special stands for $100 or more.

Interior Concepts, a design store in Annapolis, Md., sells $21 Christmas tree balls the size of cantaloupes and $116 fairy ornaments as big as teddy bears. ''You need ornaments to go with the proportion of the tree," said Betsy Caulk, the store's merchandiser.

Tall artificial trees also are becoming increasingly popular, too, said Leon Gamze, owner of Treeclassics.com, an website that sells trees. They're easier to get home and set up, and after the holidays they can be folded up and stored.

By mid-November, Gamze was sold out of faux trees in the 12- to 15-foot range, which cost $1,000 to $1,500.

''The trend caught me by surprise," he said. ''Usually, I'm very well stocked with everything I sell. All of a sudden this year, as the kids say, it went bananas with the 12 and 15s. It was astounding to me."

Most of the trees he sells come pre-lighted, he said, ''because the biggest hassle is always who is going to light the tree."

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