“More is more” motto for Knoll Christmas decorations


Photo: Huiling Wu/Iowa State Daily

Janet Leath, wife of President Steven Leath, prepares the Knoll for the holidays with the help of student suggestions. The decorating all began with the wreath above the fireplace. 

Lissandra Villa

The residence of the University president, the Knoll, has a history extending back more than a century, to when the concept of an on-campus home for the leader of the school was first conceived.

The Knoll has undergone a lot of changes since then, usually between presidents. These changes and the building’s history are currently being complemented by festive decorations.

“It was interesting to see the history of the building. They have this panel of pictures where the building’s kind of progressed throughout the years,” said Shannon Hart, a senior in business who helped decorate the Knoll for Christmas.

Two other students, Skylar Adamson and Nicole Peterson, were nominated, along with Hart, by their professors to assist in the decoration of the Knoll.

The process spanned approximately two weeks, in which the students made suggestions to Janet Leath on how to decorate for the holidays, including giving suggestions on what might be focal points in each room.

The decorating started with the wreath that hangs above the fireplace in the living room, which became the piece that would provide inspiration for the rest of the house.

“Janet’s quote was ‘more is more,’” Peterson said.

Mrs. Leath said that when it came to Christmas decorations, you can never have enough, an attitude that is reflected throughout the garland and tinsel covered home.

The students and Mrs. Leath were able to utilize a lot of what the Leaths already had for Christmas decorations, but the decorations did not take away from the beauty of building itself.

In fact, the aim is to “enhance the beautiful bones of the house,” Janet said.

For example, the Iowa Room, found on the west side of the house, has had its walls painted a warm gold, an inexpensive way to highlight the woodwork. Snowflakes hung from the windows, adding a wintery feel to the room.

The living room has had its furniture replaced with more inviting pieces to accomplish a more comfortable feel, and has had two pictures of Iowa State in the wintertime added to its walls, one of which is estimated to be from the fifties.

The piano that previously resided in the living room was moved to what Mrs. Leath now calls the “Music Room.” Currently, the Christmas cactus that was given to the Leaths by a former student more than 25 years ago is set up next to the piano. Mrs. Leath shared that the plant entered their family on the same weekend that President Leath broke his leg horseback riding.

The President and his wife reside in the upper level of the house instead of in its entirety. President Jischke was the last to use the whole house.

Despite the fact that the Leaths do not reside in the downstairs area, “we want it to reflect how we feel,” Mrs. Leath said.

Their goal is to reach a warm, comfortable and inviting atmosphere, something that has been achievable on a modest budget because everything needed is already there. And there is a lot there, from the hand-crafted table with deer carved onto its legs in the living room to the 1910 yearbook in the Sun Room, the Knoll has history and beauty that the Christmas decorations can only enhance.