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The Home Front: Indulgences

December 1, 1995

The average family spends $25 for a Christmas tree. But, if money is not really an issue, how much can people spend on holiday decorating? Plenty.

The most expensive order California interior designer Andrew Levine has done totaled about $80,000. But, says Mr. Levine, the sky’s the limit: ``Basically, everyone just wants to outdo each other.″

Opulent Christmases are back, agrees Philip Colavito, Mr. Levine’s partner in Hollywood. He says his clients are requesting gold and platinum-colored trimming for their trees, making them look ``like a big piece of jewelry.″

For $62,000, the pair are creating a Roman Garden Christmas for a couple in Beverly Hills. Because the wife is Catholic and the husband is Jewish, the designers worked out a dual religious scene.

In addition to a 42-inch, bronze-gilded cherub figure atop the tree, the pair included two 12-foot topiary trees with gold and blue lights for Hanukkah.

Outside Beverly Hills, the budgets are a bit leaner. For about $18,000, New Orleans decorator Patrick Sargent will provide a custom-designed tree, decorations plus Christmas Day delivery of fresh flowers. He specializes in mansions.

Cleo Pelleteri moved into the city’s landmark Claiborne Mansion last February and wasn’t sure where to begin with holiday decorating. So she hired Mr. Sargent. ``We needed a lot of conversation about the tree,″ she says.

For people with less showy decorating goals, there is still plenty of time to get the place looking festive for this month’s holidays. For the pricier displays, however, experts recommend visiting an interior designer no later than March. Just 269 shopping days ahead.

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