In reality, no two Christmases are ever alike. Traditions grow or change. Artificial trees and decorations age and need replacement, and ornaments break or are passed down to grown children.
Each season is also different at Treetime Christmas Creations, a Lake Barrington shop that creates a magical Christmas showroom that changes each year in an effort to keep people coming back to see what they have done differently, says Laurie and Joe Kane, owners of the seasonal business, 22102 N. Pepper Road.
And just according to plan, it has become an annual destination for many Chicago-area Christmas lovers as they excitedly add to and update their Christmas displays. In addition, the Treetime's owners recently acquired the Carol & Company boutique in Barrington, as well as its website, so the shop has added Nora Fleming serving pieces, jewelry, candles and other gift items to their store's offerings.
"We would like Treetime to become people's yearly Christmas destination. We want to be everything Christmas for them," Laurie said. "So we shop the world -- literally -- to bring the latest, most unique and most beautiful Christmas items to our customers so we can help them create the magic of Christmas in their own home."
Treetime also offers decorating hints, supplies Christmas lovers with high-quality holiday decor, inspires shoppers with fun, interesting and groundbreaking displays, and teaches decorating classes. The business even has a do-it-yourself room that shows Pinterest-lovers easy ways to make wonderful decorations themselves.
"Our aim is to share our holiday vision with our customers, not just sell them an artificial tree," Laurie said.
"We also serve coffee, hot chocolate and cookies. We have a big-screen television so the men can watch sports. We are a Toys for Tots donation location, have an annual Breakfast with Santa and even offer pet and child photo shoots with Santa. We want to become a family tradition."
Treetime is open each year from Labor Day through the second or third week of January, and sells artificial trees through its website, www.treetime.com, as well as in the store. But the Kanes actually spend much of their year traveling the world and preparing for the next Christmas season. Laurie and one of her buyers travel to Europe's biggest Christmas décor show each year and she and Joe travel to their tree factories in China twice each spring.
While decorating trends come and go, at the core of every year's celebration are the trees and those trees are what set Treetime apart from big box retailers and other competition, Laurie said. All of its trees are custom designed and then hand-assembled, hand-wired and hand-lit.
"We introduce six or seven new, custom-designed trees each year. Joe and I are extremely picky because of our engineering backgrounds, so we make these trees the most beautiful we can," she said.
"We bring photos of real live trees and molds of real branches that we want them to copy and they do that right down to replicating spring growth on trees by making them a lighter green at the ends. They will also make flat or pointy needles, dense or sparse. Then we work on the tree's overall branch density and placement and also the color. They are real custom designs," Laurie said.
"We work with them all day and then they build samples overnight and we go back and refine them even more. We tell them to make this branch shorter or to make the tree wider at the top," she continued.
The Kanes also give the designers and factory people customer feedback if they have found that a particular tree, garland or wreath is too hard to work with or selling at too high of a price.
Once they have given all of these details, they ask the factory to build the trees, wreaths and garlands in different sizes and then they make a return trip in April to double check and make sure everything is as they wanted it to be.
"It seems that every year the decorations in local homes only get more and more elaborate," she said. "Homeowners want to see little touches of Christmas throughout their homes."
So, Treetime creates themed trees of all sizes and shapes so homeowners can decorate multiple rooms in their houses. There are slim trees for corners, potted trees often placed near the front door and even small potted trees to place along the banisters on a staircase. Gone are the days when there was only one tree per house, covered with an eclectic mix of ornaments.
Flocked trees now come in many different sizes and types of flocking, from a very cool frost-kissed flocking that shows just a hint of white to the heavier applications of white and, according to Laurie, the flocking has been vastly improved so it actually stays on the tree and doesn't make a mess of your house.
Mantles, hearths and doorways are other focal points for holiday decorating.
"The pine garland is the heart of every mantle," Laurie said, "and most of them are lit. Then we usually weave a soft cascade of ribbon through it and accent the garland with picks of something to coordinate with the rest of the room, like berries or fruit or packages or whatever. We often also put potted trees on the floor on either side of the hearth and a large wreath above the mantle."
Doorways, particularly exterior doorways, are also often festooned with pine garlands and wreaths.
Treetime Christmas Creations can be reached at (847) 527-8880 or by visiting www.treetime.com.