From the December/January 2013 Issue:

To Each His Own

    Writer: Robin Amster | Photographer: Peter Rymwid | Decorator: Tracy Salerno |

A Washington Township family’s Christmas trees celebrate their individuality

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enlarge | The sitting room, part of an addition at the back of the Tracy and Peter Salerno home, features large windows that overlook a treed yard. Its location led to a nature-inspired Christmas tree decorated to bring the outside in with animal, leaf and rustic ornaments.
That Christmas is all about the family is hardly a novel idea. The Salerno family, however, makes that sentiment tangible every holiday season with multiple Christmas trees that reflect each of their interests along with a few trees dedicated to the entire family.

“Like our house, our Christmas trees have evolved,” says Tracy Salerno. She and her husband, Peter, and their two children, Anthony, 25, and Gabrielle, 22, live in Washington Township. If the name sounds familiar, Peter is principal of Wyckoff-based Peter Salerno Inc., a custom kitchen and bath design company.

The Salernos decorate seven themed trees each year. They started more than 20 years ago with a “family” tree in their living room. With the birth of their children, they added trees for Anthony and Gabrielle. The kids also wanted a tree for their playroom, which has since become the music room. An expansion of the home some 10 years ago added a sitting room and a wine cellar and two more trees for those spaces. Peter and Tracy’s own tree in the master bedroom brought the total count to seven. The living room tree stands 10 feet tall, the sitting room tree is seven feet, the music room tree is six feet and the trees in the bedrooms are each four feet.

“Christmas is a family holiday, and everyone should get into the mix,” Tracy Salerno says. “Trees are a big part of it, and we have different trees reflecting our family’s interests. It’s about celebrating the life we’ve built together and where the new year will take us.”

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enlarge | The Salernos wanted this tree to fit the Venetian style of the music room and evoke a ballroom. Placed behind the family’s 1901 Steinway piano, it’s adorned with ornaments of sheet music, instruments, masks and shoes in the room’s color palette of taupe and antique pink and gold. The shimmering winged angel atop the tree holds a mandolin.
A Holiday Evolution
Like the evolution of their home, the trees have evolved also. “When Anthony was born, his tree had blue and white ornaments,” Salerno says. “That later turned into wooden trains and boats, and when he became a musician in high school, the ornaments reflected that. Today, he is a filmmaker so his tree is filled with ornaments on moviemaking.” Anthony is founder and executive producer of Grr-illa Film and Photo, a film production company.

Daughter Gabrielle’s tree has remained more constant, her mother says. The interest she showed in dance as a toddler has never wavered and, today, she is a choreographer. Her tree ornaments are costume- and dance-related.

Other themed trees in the home showcase family interests. The living room tree, for instance, is a family tree featuring ornaments Tracy Salerno has had since she was a baby, some given to her children when they were young and others received as gifts from family and friends. The music room tree is done up in Venetian style with sheet music and instrument ornaments.

Decorating seven trees is no small task, Salerno acknowledges. She estimates she has about 40 boxes of ornaments stored in her basement along with other Christmas decorations, such as her son’s nutcracker collection. The family starts decorating the weekend before Thanksgiving with plans to be done by the first weekend of December.

“Everyone kind of moans when dragging things up from the basement,” Salerno says with a laugh. “But when the boxes are opened and we all start working, it’s ‘remember this or that,’ and all the memories begin. We make eggnog; we put the football game on. It’s a fun weekend with all of us being together.”

Robin Amster is a Madison-based writer and editor.