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Local notables' memories form Leu House decor

Harriett Lake's vivid red coats adorn the living room of Leu's Holiday House.
Photo credit: Tony Firrolo

Seminole State College of Florida’s interior design students have transformed the Leu House Museum into Leu’s Holiday House based on holiday traditions and memories from six Central Florida notables, including Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, philanthropist Harriett Lake and former Florida Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings.

The College’s interior design faculty reached out to well-known Central Floridians to provide inspiration for this year’s holiday décor.

Each room in the Leu House features a bio and personal story associated with the individual who inspired the décor for that room, says Cheryl Knodel, interior design program manager.

“Harriett Lake tells a story that dates to when she was five or six years old,” Knodel says. “Every year she always wanted a red coat.  Now whenever she sees a red coat, she has to buy it. She’s bringing her coat rack with 15 or 20 red coats.”

This year’s themes are:

  • Living Room: Harriett Lake’s red coats will be the focal point in a setting that honors her gracious gifts to the community, including a tree of gratitude filled with well wishes and thank-yous.
  • Dining Room:Toni Jennings’ memories of her holidays as lieutenant governor will set the tone. The room and tree will honor the beauty of Old Florida, with a unique centerpiece that reflects the state’s Native American history.
  • Children's Bedroom: Buddy Dyer’s first holiday as Orlando’s mayor, which included lighting the official Orlando Christmas tree, will inspire the décor. An interactive “surprise” awaits visitors. 
  • Sitting Room: Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins and his wife, Juliet, have shared their memories of New Orleans, where they met and married, for this room’s décor. The theme will be an intimate dinner for two, featuring New Orleans traditional Christmas meals.
  • Mrs. Leu's Bedroom: Former Orange County Commission Chair Linda Chapin has provided many antique, English cottage items to illustrate her “Home is Where the Heart Is” theme of six generations sharing the same house – her current home.
  • Mr. Leu's Bedroom: Gerry Weldon, widow of Seminole State’s first president, Dr. Earl Weldon, has shared memories of children and toys that will form this room’s décor.

The holiday display runs through Dec. 31 in the museum, which is at 1920 N. Forest Ave., Orlando. Guided tour hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. For more information, visit the Leu Gardens website.

For more than 30 years, Seminole State’s Interior Design Program has been a leader in Florida. Seminole State offers the only public four-year interior design program in Central Florida. For more information, visit the Interior Design website.

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