Huimin "Anne" Ying, left, and Jingyuan "Samantha" Ye place decorations on a tree.

Interior design students decorate Callanwolde for the holidays

Dec 4, 2019
Kathryne Davis

Courtney Wilson looks on at a mostly decorated room before making a few more finishing touches. Brenau University interior design students once again decorated for Christmas at the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center in Atlanta.

Callanwolde is decorated seasonally for the holidays and Brenau interior design students have worked to decorate the mansion with professional designers annually since 2016.

The center, built between 1917 and 1921, was the home of the family of Charles Howard Candler from 1920 to 1959. Candler was the president of Coca-Cola from 1916 to 1923 and was the oldest son of Asa Griggs Candler, the Atlanta pharmacist who purchased the rights to the formula for Coca-Cola.

This year, students from five area design universities were given rooms on the first floor to decorate and to compete for a grand prize of $1,000 and other rewards. Brenau students were given the task of decorating the dining room. To decorate the room, Brenau partnered with BoBo Intriguing Objects and Bravest Balloons, both in Atlanta.

“The students get to see a historic house but get to design and decorate in a more contemporary manner,” Kleeman said. “They get to see how much effort it takes to pull something like this off.

“It’s community outreach for us but it’s a chance for the students to be on a bigger stage and to understand it’s not just about their studio projects. They’re gaining a lot of skills that way, but they also see the bigger picture here with all of the designers and the struggles that they go through. It’s very much about learning.”

Kleeman said long, upholstered, high-back benches were used around the dining table to “emphasize the coziness of the space.” Chairs and harvest baskets were also used to decorate the room. Students decorated three Christmas trees and some were able to use last year’s handmade ornaments. Kleeman said the goal of the design was to strengthen the architecture that is already there.

Courtney Wilson and Angie Sanchez, both seniors, participated in the decorating for the first time.

Wilson helped with the finishing touches and was excited to work on a show house, which is not something many students are able to do.

“It was a great experience and opportunity,” Wilson said. “It’s impactful to my career.”

Dining room tableSanchez was there at the beginning of the process and helped with the balloon installation, which took a good amount of time.

“It was a lot of fun,” Sanchez said. “I really enjoyed it. We don’t get to do a lot of things like that. Being there and doing something hands-on that has to do with our major was really nice, especially with other people we don’t get to see in class.”

New to Brenau and the Interior Design Department are Chinese students from the university’s partnership with Anhui Normal University. The students were able to decorate Christmas trees for the first time, which they are unable to do back home in China.

“It was all brand new to them,” Kleeman said. “Even just pulling the ornaments out of the box. They had never done that before. It’s something that we take for granted because we’ve been doing it since we were kids.”

Kleeman enjoys decorating Callanwolde because it’s a chance for students to try something new and gain experience.

“I love to see their eyes open wide when they go in,” he said. “They sort of think as history as a stuffy thing, but they see it here and it’s alive and people are making new things. They get a chance to see how people are interpreting their rooms as well. I think it’s an interesting and engaging learning environment.”