CARBONDALE — Dale Budslick gave permission for her upstairs tenant, Mark Davis, to decorate a tree outside the office with lights. She watched during the days that Davis strung lights on the tree, using a cherry picker to reach high branches.
When the switch was finally set to be turned on, she and her husband, Alan H. Kim, left the building at 706 W. Main St. in Carbondale. They returned shorty after to get the full effect.
They were blown away.
"We were astounded," Budslick said. "I mean, we knew it was going to be beautiful — we had no idea. He worked so long on it. It's a sculpture."
Looking back at them were about 11,300 lights — white lights wound around the trunk or base of the magnolia tree and yellow from the bare canopy top — adding joy to the nighttime.
Theirs is a true bright spot along a darkened strip of West Main Street in Carbondale, leading to several inquisitive and helpful telephone calls, emails, walk-up visitors and those who drive into the parking lot for a closer look and pictures.
The installation is a second for Davis, an interior designer who was invited by Budslick to establish his studio-workspace on the second floor. He is also the interior designer for Budslick's office space on the main level, where the walls are a light grey and a natural-looking area mat covers part of the living room floor.
Also on Davis' level there are several rooms, including a bathroom with an antique tub, a kitchen decorated in black and a bedroom — big enough for a bed with an old-fashioned bed frame — converted from what was once a back porch.
"His touches are what give it that feel," Budslick said.
The house once belonged to John Taylor, one of the founders of Memorial Hospital of Carbondale.
Though Davis and Budslick had talked about decorating the tree for Christmas since they moved in five years ago, they never got around to it until this past year, they said.
"It's been hectic here," as they adjusted, by redoing the floors and kitchen and apartments throughout the building, she said.
Buzz about the tree made its way to Keep Carbondale Beautiful, a group that awards business and property owners for landscaping and other displays that beautiful the city.
The project won January's Bright Spot Award.
“Oh man, there has been nonstop enthusiasm for that display that he made," said Sarah Heyer, the executive director of Keep Carbondale Beautiful, "and since I posted it on Facebook, people are saying, ‘I want one, too.’"
This is the second tree that Davis says he has decorated this way; the first was a tree in his own yard that he laced with red lights. The May 2009 superderecho that blew through Southern Illinois, however, destroyed the tree.
What would it cost someone to have him replicate that artwork?
Davis says he still hasn't figured that out, but noted that he labored for about a week, working alone all day, to put up the lights and make adjustments where needed.
Those who want to see the tree or get a final look at it can do so until February, when Davis plans to turn off the lights.