Happy Holidays to one and all! This year at YLiving, we have an exciting new addition to our stable of holiday choices – Modern Christmas Trees. As modern-yet-retro-cool as these trees are, the history of them is deeply personal for owner Matthew Bliss. In his own words:
My Grandpa’s name was Lawrence Stoecker, although most people called him “Bud”. To us, he was simply Grandpa.
He designed his first version of a modern Christmas tree made of concentric rings in the mid 1960’s. He loved making things with his hands and even had his own business building and selling A-frame cabins in the Rocky Mountains. The business meant long hours of work and required the support of the entire family. His four sons and daughter were all his employees.
The tree was originally made of card board, then Masonite board, before he finally settling on Plexiglas. He refined the design as well throughout the 1970’s and 80’s. The tree was a highlight of Christmas Eve’s spent at their home near Boulder. As kids we would put our heads under the tree and look up. Then he would slowly spin the tree. So beautiful!
In 2006 we helped move my Grandma and Grandpa into a retirement community. When moving some stuff in their garage, I uncovered his tree. Although he hadn’t put it up for Christmas in nearly 15 years it still brought back many great memories for me. I asked him if I could have it and of course he said yes. I think got a kick out of me even wanting it.
I put the tree up in my house that Christmas and it returned each year thereafter. Unfortunately, shortly before Bud passed away he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. That is when I decided to share Grandpa’s design, which inspired our family’s Christmas celebration for years, with the rest of the world. I tweaked and updated it, and revealed it at the Denver Modernism show in 2011. We wondered if people would love it like we did. They did!
Sadly, he passed away on September 25th 2012 a week before I was issued a patent on the design. Weeks later our family celebrated his life at an exhibition of his trees at the original Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California. The exhibit continues to be a part of Disney’s annual holiday festivities.
The tree has also been photographed in a few of the most important mid-century modern homes in the United States, including the Stahl House in Los Angeles, designed by Pierre Koenig and immortalized by the photographs of Julius Schulman. The list also includes the Sculptured House designed by Charles Deaton, later coined the Sleeper House, made famous by the movie Sleeper, directed and staring Woody Allen.
My Grandpa’s signature is laser engraved on the bottom ring of every tree made and a portion of the proceeds are donated to the Alzheimer’s Association in his name.
So ring in the holidays with one of these very cool trees!
Darren is one of the Merchandise Managers for YLiving, and has had a long career in the Home Furnishings industry with companies like RH, Gumps and ABC Carpet & Home. He has a passion for art and design inspired by his time at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He spends his free time in his garden picking lemons and avoiding mowing the lawn, while playing with his long-haired dachshund.