Dominique Wagner works on a portion of the grand staircase at the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center in Atlanta on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
Dominique Wagner works on a portion of the grand staircase at the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center in Atlanta on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Interior design students help decorate historic Atlanta home

Nov. 27, 2018
Kristen Bowman
Brenau students work to decorate the grand staircase at the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center in Atlanta on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Brenau students work to decorate the grand staircase at the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center in Atlanta on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Brenau University interior design students recently decorated for Christmas one of the most visually notable and historic structures in Atlanta.

Callanwolde Fine Arts Center, built between 1917 and 1921, was the home of the family of Charles Howard Candler from 1920 until 1959. Candler was the oldest son of Asa Griggs Candler, the Atlanta pharmacist who in 1891 purchased the rights to the formula for Coca-Cola, which had been developed by another Atlanta pharmacist, John S. Pemberton, in 1886 as a tonic for most common ailments.

Known today as a community arts conservatory and events venue located on 12 acres in the heart of Atlanta, Callanwolde is decorated seasonally for the holidays. Brenau interior design students have worked alongside professional designers to decorate the mansion annually since 2016.

“It is a tremendous opportunity to get to work alongside designers from all over the Southeast,” said interior design professor Michael Kleeman. “This year, the students were tasked with the decorations for the grand staircase and stair landing. This is a central feature to the home and the setting for many movies, TV shows and countless weddings.”

Decorations by Brenau Interior Design Department students at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center in Atlanta. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Decorations by Brenau Interior Design Department students at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center in Atlanta. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Students in the department styled ornaments and decorations that would be appropriate for the period of the home with some innovations reflecting the youthful energy of college students. They created fabric-wrapped and beaded ball ornaments, paper silhouettes, origami stars and snowflakes fashioned from newspaper, packages wrapped in newsprint, and glass ball drops that accentuate the iron railings of the stair. The goal was to accentuate the historical details of the home, according to Kleeman, drawing them out and celebrating them.

“This is a great celebratory wrap-up of the semester for the students,” he said. “It marks the transition toward the holidays and helps to punctuate the end of the term. It is a wonderful opportunity for the students to work together towards creating a unified vision and lets them know that design does not happen in a vacuum but through collaboration and innovation.”

The participating students and faculty members are all invited to participate in Callanwolde’s holiday gala, where they are celebrated alongside the professional designers. Items such as the handmade ornaments are for sale, and the students are able to use this as a fundraising opportunity for their American Society of Interior Designers local chapter.

Kleeman said the energy around the home is always very positive, as is the feedback the students get on their designs.

“I also love that the house generally inspires the inquisitive nature of the students,” he said. “It is one thing to discuss design history in the classroom and quite another to see firsthand how it was lived.”

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