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December Home of the Month: Daemen House

When it comes to decorating the home she shares with her husband, Daemen College President Gary A. Olson, Lynn Worsham goes all out for the holidays.

“I’m a believer in more is better,” she said.

She is referring to the Christmas trees on the main floor of the college-owned residence that she has packed with their own collection of ornaments, ribbons, flowers, oversized toppers and other embellishments.

She created opulent garlands for the fireplace mantels, and glittered silk magnolias herself to achieve the look she wanted for the garland and wreath on the main staircase.

This is the setting for numerous special events and official receptions the couple hosts at Daemen House, the LeBrun Road residence Daemen College purchased 16 years ago. Holiday receptions are held to thank trustees, donors, cabinet members and other friends of the college, said Olson, who was named Daemen president at the end of 2012.

The couple pays for the holiday decorations themselves. These include ornaments they have collected through the years, including while living in Idaho, Illinois and Florida. Some were handcrafted by artists; others came from stores such as Hobby Lobby.

Their investment through the years has been substantial.

“This is a huge investment, but it is our investment,” Olson said. “We think of it as our contribution to the college.”

Christmas trees are displayed in the living room, dining room, sunroom, enclosed patio and garden room, with an additional trio of trees in the foyer.

A view of the living room, which opens to the sunroom. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

The Daemen Tree in the sunroom dazzles in the school colors of blue and white with gray. The blue, however, is very subtle.

The Mod Tree in the garden room is a cheery sight, with pink, red, purple and yellow ornaments and plump poppies. The tree complements the pond-themed mural on the wall and the green-tiled floor with pink border.

They call the tree in the living room their Classic Tree.

Decorating a tree is not that different from writing, noted Worsham, a retired professor and nationally known scholar of rhetoric and feminist theory.

Both should have depth and texture, she said.

Among her tree decorating tips:

• When decorating a tree, first place a thick comforter on the floor to lessen the chance of breakage in case an ornament falls.

• Put lots of ornaments inside the tree. She hangs ornaments four layers deep, beginning near the trunk . “I decorate from the inside out,” she said.

• Go big when you can. Some of the ornaments are 8 inches in diameter. Also, don’t be afraid to hang large ones at the top.

• Combine strands of lights with bulbs in different sizes. In the dining room, some individual strands have large frosted lights; others have smaller bulbs.

• Dress it up. Add wide ribbons and lots of floral picks.

• Buy velvet by the yard to create a tree skirt. Bunch two or three colors together under the same tree.

An ornate garland in the dining room. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

The decorating begins in the fall.

“I usually start Nov. 1, but this year I started Oct. 1,” she said, noting that the Daemen Tree is new this year.

The decorations come down by Valentine’s Day.

“I have bins and bins and bins,” said Worsham, noting that six to 12 bins are needed to pack up ornaments from a single tree, depending on its size. Each ornament is wrapped in tissue.

In their former home in Idaho, she also went all out with decorating for Christmas but on a smaller scale.

“This just gives me a bigger canvas,” said Worsham, who hand wires decorations rather than using a hot-glue gun.

Olson said his sole job in all this is to wire together and hang the mammoth garland displayed on the deep ledge above the doorway in the dining room (shown above).

“It’s the only thing she allows me to do,” he said.

Daemen House and a carriage house apartment total 12,500 square feet with 10 bedrooms and eight baths. Daemen College purchased the 4½-acre estate in 2002 with the assistance of a large gift from the previous owners, Richard D. Fors Jr. and his wife, Patricia. It houses the college’s president and is the site of official receptions. Built in 1932 by industrialist Samuel J. Dark, it has all original features and was used as a location for the filming of the movie “Marshall.”

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