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The Most Festive Store in the City

A North Scottsdale boutique transforms into a festive fantasy come Christmastime.

By Carly Scholl | Photography by Jill Richards

For about nine months out of the year, the owner of Rustic Stuff in North Scottsdale is known to design professionals and patrons primarily as Paul Folk. However, once October rolls around and the delightful hint of crispness can be felt in the air, Mr. Folk is referred to by a different moniker: Mr. Christmas.

“I don’t know how that name got started,” he says with a laugh. “People know I go all out for the holidays; the name sort of evolved as a result of this annual tradition.”

“Going all out” can be considered an understatement in Folk’s case, as for the last 23 years, his cozy boutique of vintage-style furnishings and decor somehow manages to fit somewhere between 45 and 55 Christmas trees of varying colors, styles, widths and heights, each featuring a separate and elaborate theme. In between the festive faux firs are armoires bursting with sparkling garlands, cake stands piled high with velvet ornament orbs, credenzas inhabited by inquisitive-looking plush polar bears, chandeliers dripping with iridescent icicles and baskets spilling out every kind of bauble and bijou you could want to trim your tree and deck your halls.

Considering this seasonal transformation is a massive undertaking—“It takes about six to seven weeks for five of us to set up the whole store for the holidays,” says Folk—one would understand if the retailer and his team of dedicated elves followed the same template year after year. But Mr. Christmas scoffs at the idea of repeating a tree theme or copying last year’s mantel vignette. “If I do the same thing every year, where’s the curiosity? What will spark people’s interest? What will get visitors excited?” he asks. “We try to do new things that are unique and creative.”

Known as “Mr. Christmas” during the holidays, Rustic Stuff owner Paul Folk uses his background in interior design to bring jaw-dropping decorations to life during the season.

A lifesize metal nutcracker inspired the Tin Man Tree, which is filled with ornaments, snowflakes and jingle bells all crafted from tin and zinc.

“I had found a wooden gnome doll (shown bottom left) that I thought would be fun to work a theme around,” says Folk of the Gnome Alone Tree, made from stacked wood slats. Felt pine cones, sparkling glass mushrooms and woodland creatures complete the display.

“We wanted to show that Christmas doesn’t have to be serious,” notes Folk of the Tequila Bar Tree.

Conceptualizing each tree—whether it’s festooned in glitzy royal regalia or fuzzy woodland creatures—and shopping for every item certainly delights Folk and his staff, but it’s more often the emotional reactions of customers that make the store’s metamorphosis so merry. “One year, we were decorating an old-world Tuscan-style tree with dozens of beautiful angels, and I had Italian operatic music playing as we worked,” Folk recalls. “Suddenly I looked up and saw a woman wiping tears from her eyes as she watched us. She said, ‘I’ve never seen something so spectacular in my life.’ I won’t ever forget that moment. That makes the work all worth it.”

Mr. Christmas’s Holiday Decorating Tips
  • Your small space can accommodate a much larger tree than you probably think possible. Consider a tall skinny version if you’re short on square footage, or opt for a half-tree that lies flat against a wall on one side.
  • Part of the magic of Christmas is the air of nostalgia and familiarity. We don’t suggest you completely start over with your decorations every year, but we encourage people to enhance what they’ve already created. Everyone has a collection—maybe it’s snowmen, reindeer or all things red. We’re here to help you consider a new addition, not necessarily start a new tradition.
  • To me, the trees filled with childhood crafts, ornaments handed down for generations and trinkets from the past are the most precious. They’re representative of who your family is. Always incorporate your most treasured pieces, even if they’re not necessarily on theme or in style. Those are the items that really matter.

Collectible Santa Claus fairies by Mark Roberts decorate the store every year. “Mark always manages to come up with something that sparks a whole new collection,” Folk says.


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