MORAGNTOWN, W.Va. -- Thanks to the generosity of industry partners, students at West Virginia University will have a new student lounge for collaboration and class work -- designed by two of their very own.
Interior architecture seniors Emily Oliver and Belen Turak designed the space using furniture from, West Virginia-based company Omega Commercial Interiors and its manufacturing partner Kimball International. The two commercial furniture companies partnered with the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design to provide furniture and installation for a total combined gift of $75,600.
In response to Omega’s and Kimball’s generosity, Davis College School of Design and Community Development professors turned the gift into a real-world learning opportunity for interior architecture students. Students were tasked with designing a student lounge using furniture from all five of Kimball International’s brands. The stakes were high -- the winning design would become a reality.
“I and my business partner, Peggy Lovio, are both WVU alumni, and we’re still involved with the University,” David McCormick, owner of Omega Commercial Interiors, said. “Having been to the Davis College’s Agriculture Annex to speak with students, I realized the facility needed an upgrade. After hiring talented students from the interior architecture program over the years, we were happy to incorporate the students' ideas into the space they occupy.”
The winning team was chosen by staff at Omega Commercial Interiors offices in Morgantown and Charleston and staff at Kimball International’s corporate headquarters. Shelley Johnson, interior design manager at WVU, also participated in judging along with the WVU professors of interior design. Among 12 other teams, Oliver and Turak worked together to create a flexible and accessible space for students that ultimately won the competition.
“Being a design major, you appreciate when something is done to appeal to you,” Turak said. “This place looks like a space for creative minds and that was the idea behind it.”
A large table was included for group projects and collaboration. With small tables, booths and pods, small groups and individuals have space to work, too. Acoustic paneling and whiteboard dividers allow for private spaces to be created.
They also used WVU-approved colors to design a large sunset mural for one of the walls to add some creative inspiration and visual appeal to the room.
Assistant Professor of Interior Architecture Stacey Bowers said the pair won because of how they creatively developed their own vision for the space while designing for accessibility, flexibility and adherence to regulations that impact color selection and finish materials. The pair also maintained compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“The team used several pieces of furniture that could be mixed, matched and moved around,” Bowers said. “That created a lot of flexibility in how students could use this space.”
Nicole Kreidler, assistant professor of interior architecture, noted that there was a clear concept in the design presented by Oliver and Turak, making the space more cohesive and putting them in the winning spot.
Oliver and Turak designed a lounge where students can relax, study and collaborate. The entire space is flexible, with everything lightweight and designed to be movable, which makes the space easily adaptable to students’ needs and wants at any given time.
"Focusing on regulations and ensuring every little detail was up to code was challenging. I had never actually incorporated all that information into a project before,” Oliver said. “I feel validated in our design choices and how much we learned throughout the course. It really showed that we put our skills to practical use.”
Joy VanDeVelde, marketing sales manager for Kimball International, said that Kimball and Omega got involved with the project to expose students to a lesser-known aspect of the design world. She said they hope this will help to increase the students’ knowledge and make them more confident working with commercial furniture in their future careers.
“There is a lot to consider when specifying commercial furniture,” VanDeVelde said. “Durability and cleanability are important as well as weight ratings, accessibility and other standards that need to be met for a commercial space. We wanted to show students another avenue of design and way to utilize their degree. There are a lot of opportunities out there for interior designers that they may not have been aware of.”
Oliver sees this opportunity as something future employers will be impressed with, which might get her an interview and maybe even a job.
“It’s a great portfolio and resume feature--your designs actually came to life when you were a student,” Turak said.
About the final product, VanDeVelde said, “I hope the students find this space to be comfortable and inspiring. I want them to absolutely love it!”
Omega Commercial Interior’s and Kimball International’s gifts were made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University, in conjunction with WVU Day of Giving.
The grand opening of the student lounge will be from 3:30-5 p.m. April 12 at the Agricultural Sciences Annex.
The Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design envisions a world sustainably fed, clothed and sheltered. To learn more about the Davis College, visit davis.wvu.edu. Keep up with the latest updates and news on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by following @WVUDavis.
CONTACT: Leah Smith
Public Relations Specialist
Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design
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