Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Semester in Review: Fall 2013

Since grad school is a huge part of my life, I thought I'd share what  a semester of an Interior Design Master's program entails. Interior Design is a field that is often shrugged off as something that involves "picking pillows" or a field that is just so "artsy" that it's not something you can study. I'll admit, sometimes it does involve picking pillows, but Interior Design is much more analytical than most might think and that's why I'm drawn to it. It is involves concept development, careful space planning, lighting considerations, and a whole host of furnishings and finishes that must function well in addition to supporting the design concept. Studying interior design at most university levels is similar to pursuing a degree in architecture, so much so that many undergrad programs throw architects, interior designers, and industrial designers in the same classes and studios during their first year of study, and many interior design professors are architects by training.

This semester I took four classes. That's one more than a typical full-time grad school load. I did this for one primary reason: One of the classes I took was at NOVA--an undergrad prereq that I was allowed to satisfy at the much cheaper community college in the area--and I needed 9 credits at Marymount in order to get health insurance through the university. So I had to take three classes at MU whether I was taking the class at NOVA or not. Oh, health insurance. It's fun being a grown up, isn't it?

My favorite class that I took this semester was my graduate level hospitality design studio (hotel design). The professor was wonderful. She was respectful of us as adults and let us develop a project and work on it throughout the entire semester, so we all got really invested in our hypothetical hotel designs and connected with our work.

I designed this entire floor plan within the constraints of the outer building walls and columns. We had requirements for minimum room square footage, number of fire stairs, certain distances from doors, and a number of other things.
The assignment was to design the first floor of a hotel. We picked the location of our hotel and then created a concept inspired by that location to carry through the space. I decided to place my hotel in Nome, Alaska. Nome is most notable for being the finish point to the Iditarod sled dog race, and my concept capitalized on the idea that virtually everyone staying at a hotel in Nome had traveled for a long time and weathered the elements to get there.  Whether they came by sled or by plane, this hotel would be a beacon guiding them to the end of their long journey. I also knew that a race like the Iditarod brings people of all ages and cultures together in this small town for a brief period in time, and I wanted to create spaces for people to develop relationships both in one-on-one settings and group settings. I called the hotel "Tribe"-- a nod to tradition of the native cultures of the region and the idea that the long journey to Nome and the experience there lays the foundation for people to create and nurture their own informal tribes.

We had to create a finishes board as part of our final presentation. I love the feel that this board gives off but it's a little too crowded and would be easier to understand with labels.
I supported my concept by creating pockets of warm and cool color contrast--the warm glow of a fireplace surrounded by soft navy and aqua upholstery, copper/rust-colored table tops surrounded by grey banquette seating--to draw attention to gathering points throughout the space. I also used directed light to draw people through a space--a dropped ceiling with lights peaking out from underneath it to light a path through the space and directed pendant lighting to call attention to stationary seating areas. Finally, I chose furniture and finishes that have a modern twist on traditional tribal motifs. Although some of those motifs are admittedly are more Native American-inspired than Inuit, the overall palette created the feel I wanted in the space.

This is a hand rendered elevation of my lobby space done with design markers and ink. The chairs you see are surrounding a low trough-style fireplace enclosed in glass and surrounded by granite with a metal arch drawing attention to the feature from across the room. The darker blue you see is actually a curved banquette on the other side of the fireplace and the walls are supposed to be leather.
Guys, my renderings (that's what we call pictures of our spaces in the design world) are TERRIBLE. I actually took an entire prerequisite undergrad level class in rendering this semester and they were still awful. While I plan to work on beefing up my hand rendering skills, I'm really hoping that we are able to learn more about digital rendering because there is no way I can have a portfolio of images that look like this. Also, it's 2014 people.  From what I've heard, hand rendering is fine for the ideation phase, but in the real world, unless you hire a watercolor artist to render a fancy hotel or residential interior, your renderings are almost always digital.

I was actually most happy with this rendered floorplan of my hotel lobby. The feature in the middle of the space is the one you see in the elevation above. The goal of rendering a floor plan or an elevation is to bring a third dimension, depth, to a style of ink drawing that is flat--only reflective of length and width. I was best able to achieve that goal in the floorplan above.
The other two classes I took at Marymount were Revit and Sketching for Ideation. I briefly mentioned my sketching/rendering class already. Revit is a really cool type of computer program called "Building Information Modeling" software (BIM for short) that stores all kinds of information about building modeling, so when you go to build construction documents, all the specification information like wall types, door types, light fixtures, flooring, etc. can be easily generated into lists that are a critical portion of construction documents. It also creates pretty awesome 3-D models that I hope to get more experience with over my remaining semesters in the program. Oh, and you can also build your own furniture models in it.

This is a model of the Jett Chair by Bright Chair Company that I created as a family in Revit and placed in my floor plan so that I could generate 3-D images of the furniture in the space.
The class I took at NOVA was Materials and Sources, the focus of which was textiles. After learning about various textile construction and materials, I had to create a binder that inventoried all kinds of fabrics, and included samples of each type. I also had to do a report on two textile designers (I choose Lauren Liess and Caitlin Wilson), and I had to design four textile patterns and apply them to a piece of furniture. Here's one of my designs, which I called "antlers" (really creative) created using an antler silhouette flipped and arranged in a repeated pattern. I created the design in Photoshop Elements and applied to image to a piece of furniture from the 3-D warehouse in SketchUp. I might get a yard or two printed through Spoonflower but I'm kind of low on funds right now so that's a back pocket project.

The next semester starts in a weeks and I'm again taking four classes in an effort not to be a graduate student forever. I'm taking a commercial office design studio, a lighting class, a history of architecture and interior design class, and a research class to lay the foundation for my thesis project. It will be a lot of work, but I'm already excited about what I get to learn this spring!


  1. Very interesting! Love the antler fabric.

  2. Fascinating post! I really enjoyed seeing your hotel project and your fabric design is great! I'm not much of a commenter, but thought I should tell you I really enjoyed reading this! Good luck this semester.

  3. Awsome job recapping the semester. We're going to have the same class schedule this semester...looking forward to it! BTW: your renderings are not that bad! See you next week!


Thanks so much for your comment! I try and answer any questions directly in the comment section, so check back for my answer later.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...