Christmas trees haven’t changed much in the last 150 years. “The holidays have gone high-tech, like computer-controlled outside decorations, but Christmas tree design has stayed the same until now,” said Matt Bliss, owner of Modern Christmas Trees.
Bliss’s Modern Christmas Trees are space-age representations of the traditional holiday staple. They are concentric rings made of acrylic that hang from the ceiling, with a light inside that casts multicolored reflections on the walls and ceiling.
Bliss has made and sold the trees since 2011. This spring he quit his 13-year job as a loan officer to make Modern Christmas Trees his full-time business. “I wanted to dedicate my time to make it what it should be,” he said.
The modern tree was designed in the early 1960s by Bliss’s grandfather, Lawrence “Bud” Stoecker, an engineer who built A-frame cabins in Colorado mountain towns. “He knew about smart design and he understood the triangle shape,” Bliss said. “The family was not rich, so he made things out of his engineer’s brain. He didn’t make the trees to sell, just to make something creative for the family.”
Stoecker’s design evolved in the 1970s and ’80s. “Grandpa made the first trees out of industrial cardboard, then masonite, with a pole in the middle,” Bliss said. “When he changed to acrylic Plexiglas, they got lighter and more functional. They are beautiful, but his main goal was to build something to last. ”
The trees have a modern look that fits with modern and mid-century modern houses, said Bliss. “Lots of my customers appreciate the modern design of the trees.”
He said people are attracted to the design but appreciate the convenience. “The tree collapses into a flat box for storage,” said Bliss. “It weighs 15 pounds decorated and it’s simple to put up. I sell to people in high-rises because of their space challenge, and to commercial buildings because it’s a simple alternative.”
The Denver Art Museum purchased a tree to hang upside down in their gift shop and commissioned artists to design unique ornaments for it. One of the trees is also on display at the John Fielder Gallery, 833 Santa Fe Drive. The tree comes in blue, red, green or pearl. It includes ornaments of various shapes: chandelier crystals, glass balls and “illusion discs.” “The cool thing is you can change it up, put your own ornaments on it,” Bliss said.
Included is a light fixture, a mirror ball with rotating device, installation hardware and instructions.
Bliss donates $50 of each sale to the Colorado Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association in memory of his grandfather, who succumbed to the disease in 2012. He’s sold 260 trees and donated about $10,000 so far.
Trees range in price from $299 for a half-tree that abuts a wall, to $799 for a 7 1/2-foot-tall tree. Bliss has about 220 trees left in stock. “Grandpa would be happy that I’m preserving something of his,” Bliss said. For more information, see www.modernchristmastrees.com.