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Kari Berkner, owner of Earth and Tree Miniatures and Dollhouses in Amherst, decorates a dollhouse for Christmas. (NANCY BEAN FOSTER PHOTO)

The holiday season may be miniaturized, but it's no less bright at Amherst dollhouse shop

AMHERST -- If holiday decorating has become too big a chore, going small may be the perfect way to capture the spirit of the season without hauling boxes from the attic, vacuuming pine needles, or struggling to pay the electric bill.

At Earth and Tree Dollhouses and Miniatures on Route 101 in Amherst, everything you need for holiday decorating - only smaller - is in stock. There are frosted Christmas trees that stand five inches tall, tiny stockings that hang over tiny glowing fire places, and festive wreaths that hang gaily on miniature front doors. Strings of old-fashioned Christmas lights dangle from dollhouse roofs, and Santa and Mrs. Claus, both jolly and diminutive, share smiles and good cheer.

There are also lots of decorations to celebrate Hanukkah including tiny menorah, little Stars of David, even miniature boxes of matzos.

All of these miniature decorations span the decades from the ever-popular Victorian Era to the sleekly stylish Mid-Century Modern. And they serve as a perfect antidote or addition to decorating for the holidays on a grand scale.

Earth and Tree is a family-owned business started by Kari Berkner and her husband Tom in 1986. Kari, a potter, and Tom, a woodworker, decided to pool their talents to create the company. Tom designed and built original dollhouse kits in his woodshop on the property, and milled a lot of the special details like window frames, doors, and interior finishes. Kari set aside her potter's wheel and began seeking out the best miniature accessories made by artisans and craftspeople across the country. From tiny silverware to ornate furniture, Kari brought it all together under one roof.

Though Tom has since passed away, Kari has continued her commitment to all things tiny and has enlisted the help of her daughter, JaNeen Lentsch who manages the store, and son-in-law Ryan who has stepped into Tom's shoes and still recreates the original doll-house kits and millwork.

"It really is a family affair," she said.

Many of Kari's customers are parents or grandparents who want to create memories for their children or grandchildren and find Earth and Tree a good place to begin building those memories.

But there are also a good number of grown-ups who own dollhouses and look forward to the change of seasons all year long to change up the décor in their little homes, said employee Melodie Jones.

"In the winter when it's cold outside, people like to be indoors decorating their dollhouses and getting them ready for the season," she said.

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