There are people who love Christmas and then there’s Kevin and Tammy Kruger.
The Krugers, who have been decorating each holiday season for two decades, created a unique setting, using practically every inch of their property at 640 Mechanic St. in Southold. For that, they’ve earned the grand prize in our first Deck the Halls holiday decorating contest, which includes a $1,000 gift certificate courtesy of Riverhead Building Supply.
The front yard of the Krugers’ home is simple and elegant, with giant snowflakes hanging from tree branches and a life-size Santa standing on a ladder near the front door. The couple even has a trio of lit-up reindeer on the far side of the frozen pond in their backyard. When the last of us arrived to judge their house Sunday evening, we found our colleagues roasting marshmallows in a backyard bonfire.
In order to get the full holiday effect of the Krugers’ home, however, you have to step inside. Literally every room in their house was decorated when we visited — from the perfectly set dining room table to the hundreds of Santas in the living room to the pillows in each bedroom. They probably even had soap shaped like St. Nick’s sleigh in the bathroom, but we didn’t have to go.
“Our house is all about the love of Christmas,” said Mr. Kruger, who owns a company that hosts children’s parties and said he and his wife spend three weeks decorating inside and out. “We find things, we buy things, we collect things. We use what we have.”
It’s true. The hood of a vintage Mercedes-Benz in the driveway was adorned with a big red bow, Christmas-themed topiaries lined the front stoop and the Krugers even decorated with gingerbread houses from years’ past. They have not one but two large decorated Christmas trees.
Our judges were floored, assigning the house an average score of 9.3. The Krugers earned a contest-best four perfect scores and five nines. One Grinch scored it an eight and the rest of us couldn’t understand why.
“It looks like a show house or something out of a movie,” said judge Michael White, one of two people to rank the house No. 1 (five other judges had it in a first-place tie). “They’re great hosts and they do creative work.”
Judge Rachel Young agreed.
“It’s decorated from top to bottom,” she wrote. “I can tell they really love Christmas.”
Click on the tabs below for more photos of the Kruger family’s home and images of the honorable mentions.
The Berry family
345 Willow Pond Lane, Southold
Average score: 8.8
As we dove in to each of the entries in our Deck the Halls contest, there were often moments we laid eyes on a beautiful display and said “Wow!”
No house had that effect quite like the home of George and Sandy Berry.
Unfortunately, not many people on the North Fork know about this gem, which is tucked away off Main Bayview Road. But it’s worth the detour.
Mr. Berry began taking his Christmas decorating to the next level about 20 years ago, after previously stringing lights along a front hedge. He now spends three weeks setting up for Christmas.
He does it mostly to see the joy his 12 grandchildren and five great-grandkids get from it. The neighborhood kids get a kick out of his decorations, too.
“They’re here all the time running around,” he said.
Five judges placed the Berry house in a first-place tie. Three assigned it a perfect score.
“It really looked like a wonderland,” said judge Sonja Reinholt Derr.
Judge Melanie Drozd was particularly impressed by the interior design, which featured Christmas villages and a Lionel train set Ms. Berry received for her first birthday.
“I could have stayed there for hours,” she wrote.
The Perivolaris family
1155 Love Lane, Mattituck
Average score: 8.4
For the past 15 years, Michael Perivolaris said, he has decorated his house similar to the way his father styled his childhood home in Queens every Christmas.
And it’s clear from just one glance at the beautiful waterfront property that a classic look is what the Perivolaris’ are going for.
They use large, multicolored vintage bulbs to line the front of their home and the manger on the side of their property has been in the family since 1968.
The Perivolaris’ even use speakers installed in son Marcos’ front yard batting cage to play holiday music.
“We used to [decorate] so Santa could find our house,” Michael said. “Now we do it to spread Christmas spirit.”
Two of our judges ranked it as their favorite house. Three others placed it in a tie for first, giving the home three perfect scores.
“Tasteful and classic,” wrote judge Lauren Sisson. “And what a beautiful setting.”
Judge Daniel Welch agreed, saying the clean, simple layout of the lights and decorations helped set it apart from some of the other entries in the contest.
“Sometimes less is more,” he remarked.
The Perivolaris clan said they want to string lights on their chicken coop next year, potentially making them an early frontrunner.
The Marchetti family
52 Josica Drive, Aquebogue
Average score: 7.7
John Marchetti understands spacing.
His outdoor Christmas decorations are almost too perfectly laid out — as though he measures the distance between items and makes certain not to overdo it during the three days it takes to set everything up.
“A lot of people think the more lights the merrier,” he said. “I don’t think so.”
We agreed, and that’s probably why his house earned the highest score of any home in Riverhead Town. Two of our judges gave the house a 9. Three more scored it an 8. “It’s just so nicely laid out,” said judge Tina Volinski.
Judge Cerria Torres was impressed with the attention to detail. “I loved the star on the top of the tree,” she wrote.
Mr. Marchetti, who was nominated by his wife, Janine, said he’s been decorating their home for 17 years. He was inspired by the way his father decorated his childhood house.
“And I hope my son will do it when he gets older,” he said.
It’s a standout home that adds a level of joy to the family’s beautiful Aquebogue street.