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Deck the Halls: 3 Unique Christmas Homes in the Valley

From modern to traditional these families channel their own form of holiday cheer in each of their homes.

Christmas Tall Tale

In Tempe, Larry Lake and Miguel Madera’s holiday tree is a showstopper.

By Nora Burba Trulsson | Photography by Austin Larue Baker

Larry Lake (left), Miguel Madera and their dogs, Kooper and Kash

If you’re flying in or out of Sky Harbor International Airport at night in December, you’re likely to see Larry Lake and Miguel Madera’s Christmas tree. Wrapped in shimmering green lights, the 17-foot-tall silvertip fir is visible through the floor-to-ceiling corner windows of the couple’s penthouse apartment overlooking Tempe Center for the Arts and Tempe Town Lake.

“We’ve been doing a big tree since we moved here in 2015,” says Larry, an interior designer, “but doing Christmas trees has been my passion since I was 10 years old, when my mother wanted to get an artificial tree and I wanted a live one, so she put me in charge of the family tree.”

Larry and Miguel—who also works with Larry in the design business—start tree logistics shortly after Thanksgiving, aided by Brian Blake, owner of Whitfill Nursery. Blake helps choose a tall tree with a narrow diameter to fit the corner space, which is normally the dining area. Brought to the ground floor of the building on a flatbed truck, the tree gets hoisted to the couple’s fourth-floor balcony by a crane. “It looks a little like Whoville up here when we pull the tree sideways through the door and put it up in the corner,” says Larry.

By tipping the tree and standing on the adjacent kitchen counter, Larry can wrap the tree in lights. “I’ve learned to do this at night, so I can see what I’m doing,” he says. Though he’s experimented with different colors of lights over the years, Larry has found green to work the best. “They read like a tree from a distance.”

The next day, Larry climbs a tall ladder to hang the ornaments so he can see the placement in daylight. The tree’s decorations vary over the years, culled from a large collection the couple keeps in a storage locker. “I’m always adding new pieces, but I usually follow design trends because a Christmas tree is temporary,” Larry notes. “This year, I’m going with darker, moodier decorations, with bronze and copper colors. I also added some ‘Harry Potter’ floating candles I found online.” He also points out that he’s not a design snob when it comes to tree ornaments, finding pieces on travels, shopping for inexpensive ones in discount stores and searching websites to add to the collection.

Because of the tree’s height, Larry says that it seems to stay fresh for most of the holiday season as he and Miguel entertain family and friends or enjoy its ambiance with their two Dalmatians.

And after New Year’s? “The Whitfill people come back,” says Larry. “They chop it up, take it down the elevator and recycle. Then, Miguel gets back on a ladder and re-hangs the dining room chandelier we took down.”

A Merry Modern Holiday

An interior designer’s festive decor is a monochrome, luxe dream.

By Sara Crocker | Photography By Madi Robison

Kristen Forgione starts thinking about Christmas in January. “It provides an ample amount of time to create cohesive trends and color stories,” says the interior designer. To create a holiday home that is cozy and tasteful, she draws on her “organic desert living” aesthetic—a blend of calming neutrals and natural elements—and then adds luxurious touches to create a cohesive, sophisticated holiday design. “Neutrals provide a balanced foundation to add accent colors as desired, and mixed metals are typically layered throughout our designs,” Forgione notes. “Natural and textural elements in fabrics and upholstery, such as bouclé, furs and chunky wovens in various weights and color tones add warmth.” To read more tips from the interior designer for decorating your home this holiday season, go to

In lieu of traditional red and green baubles, interior designer Kristen Forgione chose a neutral palette for her Christmas home. Shades of cream, beige and gold create warmth while throw blankets and snow-flecked garlands add texture.
Rustic touches such as brown paper-wrapped parcels are a chic yet unpretentious touch.

Keeping With Tradition

A Phoenix family’s home comes alive with warmth and nostalgia.

By Lauren Tyda | Photography by Ryan Wilson

Dana and Ali Ardebili embrace the magic of simplicity while decking their halls for Christmas. “Don’t feel like you need to be on-trend,” explains Dana. The mother of two young boys says traditional elements, such as giant sugar pine cones, garlands, oversized cinnamon sticks, cozy blankets and holiday-hued pillows, add cheer to every room in their Camelback Corridor estate. Regarding Christmas firs, the more the merrier. “We have three trees, so they are visible in rooms we spend the most time in,” she says. “The tree in our family room is our most treasured. We only use ornaments that are either handmade by our boys or purchased while on a family trip, so we can recall the memories as we unwrap each one for hanging. We love the touches that make the home feel well-collected and personalized.” To add a warm radiance to their home’s exterior, the couple prefers incandescent lights over LED. “We use retro-colored bulbs for our exterior Christmas lights,” she notes. “It makes it feel like a cozy gingerbread house.”

A Christmas village gleams in the Ardebilis’ Christmas-adorned family room.
Dana and Ali Ardebili are not shy about having traditional Christmas elements in their Phoenix home. “The twinkly lights, scent of pine and cinnamon and a warm fire really make us feel cozy,” Dana says. “Add in some fresh cookies and wine, and we’re in for the night.”


Christmas tree: Whitfill Nursery, Phoenix,
Craning service: Tempe Crane,
Interior designer: Kristen Forgione, Phoenix,


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