BASEL, Switzerland — Windows shimmering with festive eye candy lure shoppers into Johann Wanner’s Christmas House. Inside the shop, light dances off ornament displays and bijou trees decorated in a perpetual state of holiday cheer. Wanner calls himself the “couturier of Christmas trees,” and it’s hard to argue with a man who trims trees with the same care a Paris designer dresses a runway model. But that’s only part of the story.
“My life’s work is to save the Christmas ornaments of my childhood,” Wanner says, referring to the mouth-blown glass ornaments and Bohemian crystal baubles handmade in Eastern Europe. He began visiting the dwindling number of traditional glassblower workshops in the 1960s, buying not only the ornaments, but also the molds. He not only saved the ornaments from extinction, but also preserved their handcrafted production.
Now Wanner designs annual collections, and his creations — lustrous, luminous, and glittery balls; traditionally and frivolously themed ornaments; glossy glass birds; and ornate Fabergé-style eggs — grace Vatican, White House, royal palace, and Hollywood trees.
Wanner’s Christmas House, in Basel’s Old Town, is open year-round. The nearby Christmas Parlour shop, where visitors can peruse Wanner’s Christmas magic while sipping coffee, tea, or champagne, is open only during Basel’s traditional Christmas market season, from late October through early January. Christmas House, Spalenberg 14 and Christmas Parlour, Schneidergasse 7, Basel, Switzerland. 011-41-061-261-48-26, www.johannwanner.ch