Interior design students compete at home improvement show

February 17, 2014

From jsonline.com: “Home improvement show serves as teaching tool” —For the 8th consecutive year, the Interior Design Contest between students from local colleges is a prominent feature of the Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Show.

Sponsored by Nehmey Construction, the contest pits students from Gateway Technical College, Milwaukee Area Technical College, Mount Mary University and Waukesha County Technical College in a competition to design and construct a 12-foot-by-12-foot room display with a 2014 theme of “Bring the Outside In.”

The participating schools, who will each receive $1,000 for the school’s interior design program from the Milwaukee/NARI Foundation, created and built the following designs:

  • Gateway Technical College: A dining room uses elements inspired by the outdoors with warm, neutral tones and earthy prints that creates a classic and informal space. A unique room selection is a dining table created from a reclaimed section of fence that was painted and distressed. The walls have salvaged window shutters, exterior lanterns and a mirrored window, while birdcages function as artistic light fixtures.
  • Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC): A child’s playroom has an urban concept of the outdoors, utilizing bold colors and kid-friendly furniture selections.
  • Mount Mary University: A rustic and feminine-style home den includes natural wood textures combined with light and airy colors. This design also focuses on the use of sustainable and reclaimed products.
  • Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC): A pergola includes rockers, a table and chairs, a screen door and siding.

Gateway, participating for the 4th consecutive year and the 2013 contest winner, has six students that are part of its team. “Students in last fall’s Residential Design Studio course competed against each other to determine the space design,” said Rita Serpe, interior design instructor at Gateway. “Once design was selected, the Commercial Design Studio students work together to install and complete the display.”

MATC returned to the competition after a one-year absence, as six student members of the American Society of Interior Design were actively involved in the design process, with several other students assisting in the procurement of materials and products plus construction. “The work, from concept development through build out and show staffing, is accomplished on a volunteer basis,” said Mary Walgren, MATC interior design instructor. “Students are able to use classroom facilities, equipment, and resources to plan and meet on the design. In addition, any open lab time can be used toward their work on the project.”

At Mount Mary, the 14 students that are part of the competition are from two classes. “The freshmen class focused on project design and development, while the sophomore/junior class worked on project management skills and mentored the freshmen in the design development process,” said Leona Knobloch-Nelson, associate professor and Interior Design Student Chapter faculty advisor. “The students learn collaboration and team participation.”

WCTC has been part of the contest since its inception. This year, eight students that are members of the school’s Interior Design Club have worked on the plan. “Typically we meet over the holiday break to come up with the final plan and start working on construction,” said Brooks Eberlein, WCTC interior design instructor and club advisor. “The week prior to the show is a hustle to get everything ready for a smooth installation, and the week of the show are long hours of prepping the space and getting everything in its proper place.”

The instructors see a variety of benefits for the students, including the opportunity to network with other students, connecting with the business community for resources, and project and time management skills.

“This type of hands-on projects gives students a practical experience that simply cannot be found in a textbook or a classroom,” Walgren said. “They get real-world exposure to deadlines and are able to grow their network of professionals and vendors as they work through the product procurement process. Time management, collaborative design and team projects are standard practice for our industry and this experience exposes students to those concepts.”

“The students have fun because they get the gratification of seeing the completion of their design,” Knobloch-Nelson said.

Serpe explained that students benefit from multitasking schoolwork along with a real-world project. “Plus, they need to be creative working with a small budget,” she said.

“For many, this is a first-time hands-on experience that involves carpentry and construction,” Eberlein said. “These experiences enrich learning and also give students inside knowledge that they may share with clients at a later time. Not only do students get hands-on experience, they take great pride in their efforts. Students have also been able to network with NARI exhibitors. In some cases, this networking has led to internships and jobs. The overall experience is win-win.”

Show attendees have had the opportunity to vote on their favorite room design. The winning school will be announced after votes are tabulated at the conclusion of the show, and the school will receive a plaque.

Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Show hours are 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 16. Admission is $8 at the door. Tickets for those 60 and older are $5. Children 16 and younger and all military personnel with a military photo ID card are admitted free.

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