Thursday, December 12, 2013

     The final project of the fall semester is Mary's House a live-in group home in Greensboro, NC for drug/alcohol  addicted mothers and their children.  Mary's House is one of the few facilities in North Carolina that allows children to remain with their mothers as they strive to free themselves from the grip of addiction.
     The project involved teams of students who selected individual rooms in Mary's House and gave them a much-needed facelift.  Each room had a $20,000 budget.  The work was then combined into one presentation for Craig Thomas, executive director of Mary's House and interior designer Betsey Isley.  This presentation will be used to raise funds and acquire donations to make the recommended improvements.  The presentation will also be submitted later  this spring to a contest for non-profit design, sponsored by HDTV.  Winning non-profits will receive $20,000.00 to upgrade their facilities.   
     My room was the kitchen, which must be configured as a commercial restaurant facility due to the particular status of Mary's House.  My teammate Kaylan Providence and I made a number of changes to make the existing kitchen easier to clean and provided more storage and work surfaces.  

     The new floor plan and a list of changes made to the room.
  The new tile walls include the colors of milk matte, cookie, goldfish, zest, splash, and teal agate.

                                          Furnishings and Finishes Schedule with Pricing


Monday, November 4, 2013

Camp Second Floor Floorplan

     The second floor space plan is now complete for the Camp Activity Center.  One would think that designing this space to be barrier-free would be the most difficult portion of this project, but marrying a living space with an executive office and conference room on the second floor was very demanding due to tight space requirements.  The project specified that the living space needed to be approximately 1100 square feet, leaving little room for the office areas.  It took creativity (and a lot of patience) to arrange the rooms in the allowed space.

      The second floor is entered through either an outside staircase or an elevator located on the first floor.   A private hallway connects the executive office and the conference room, encircling the massive tree trunk that rises from the first floor Activity Area.  A door in the hall leads to the living quarters, which can also be accessed through the second floor front balcony.  The living Quarters include a kitchen, living/dining area, master bedroom and bath, a half bath with laundry, and a guest bedroom/den.  As with the first floor,  sustainable features were required in the furnishings and finishes of the offices and living quarters.  All rooms feature carpets and flooring produced with rapidly sustainable fibers and all furniture is produced from either sustainably produced or recycled wood products and finished with low VOC varnishes to improve indoor air quality.  It was refreshing to see the large selection of furniture that is now being produced with green considerations.  The furnishings are very compatible with the tree theme which begins on the first floor and is carried throughout the living quarters and office areas.  The result is a relaxing environment that reflects the respect for nature that the camp itself strives to foster.

Monday, October 14, 2013


     The materials and finishes specified for the first floor of the Camp Activity Center must have sustainable features as well as functioning beautifully.  Growing awareness of green design and the desire for properties to achieve LEED ratings has meant that more products are being produced with sustainable features, yet finding the right material can still present a considerable challenge.

     The most obvious feature in the Activity Center is the use of whole tree architecture.  This form was adapted in America by Roald Gunderson and utilizes full-form trees that have often been reclaimed from urban areas, parks,  or national forests.  The technique qualifies for LEED credits in materials and resources, rapidly renewable sources, regional materials, and certified wood.

The Lipse Stackable Chair from Davis Furniture has selected for its clean, modern lines and the fact that it is Indoor Advantage Gold Certified for its low VOC finishes.

The Wheelchair Accessible Butcher Block Table by Hausmann  also earns the Indoor Advantage Gold Certification for its low VOC finish and features a hank crank to adjust its height.  The thick natural maple top can hold more than 300 pounds.

  The floors of the Activity Center are extremely important because they must not only be easy to maintain under heavy traffic, but also serve as way finding tools for the visually impaired campers.
Armstrong Commercial Natural Linoleum with Naturcote was selected  in two contrasting colors for its durability and its unique sustainable features.   The material is naturally sustainable and 100% USDA Certified Biobased.  It is also 35% pre-consumer recycled content and 36% rapidly renewal materials.  The Naturcote finish is low VOC.

     An interesting fact about this flooring is that it is produced
from an original linoleum formula developed in 1909.  It contains linseed oil, wood powder, and jute backing.  It is amazing to realize that a product more than 100 years old has surged to the forefront of modern sustainable design.  It proves that technology must sometimes look back to move forward!      
Flooring also plays a major part in the design of the raised stage
and prop room.  Natural bamboo planking from EcoTimber was selected because it is sustainablely  produced and is finished with low VOC varnishes.  Its light color provides a good contrast from the darker linoleum and makes it easier for vision-impaired campers to see the edge of the stage.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Camp Activity Center First Floor

     The floor plan for the first level of the Camp Activity Center is now complete and the concept is beginning to take shape.  When you enter the front door, the first things that you will notice are the trees.  Eight real tree trunks, complete with natural branches encircle the large open activity area, leading the eye toward a great Douglas Fir that rises majestically up through an opening into the second floor.   Contrasting way-finding paths lead from the door down both sides of the building, guiding campers to their destinations. Way-finding symbols and Braille labels are found on the trees as well to aid vision impaired campers as they navigate the large open spaces where canes may not be helpful.  On the right is the nurse's office, located close to the front door for easy access.  Two barrier-free bathrooms are next to the office, easily reached by campers in the activity area.  On the left hand side, a raised barrier-free stage framed by whole trees and equipped with wheelchair ramp faces the activity area.  A prop room with dressing and makeup areas  joins the stage and continues down the side of the building.   
    The center of Activity Center has tables and seating for thirty campers, including two tables that are wheelchair accessible.  The space is open to allow for a wide range of activities and projects.  The tables encircle the Great Tree, which inspires the creative spirit.  Storage bins for each camper are located on the back wall and a storage cabinet with a sink is positioned on the left wall for quick clean-ups.  The activity area has  easy access to the back door and an elevator to the second floor.  In all, the first floor provides a safe, comfortable environment for children of all abilities to express themselves.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Camp Activity Center Concept Statement

Work has begun in ernest on the concept statements for the Camp Activity Center.  A concept statement is not always easy to define, yet it is the foundation on which a project is built.  We began by brainstorming and creating a mood board to help refine our feeling about this project.  The mood board is a collage of pictures, colors, and textures that express our emotions regarding the Activity Center and its goals.

 The camp name "Awerika" is the Iroquois word for their nation, meaning literally "We Are Here in Unity".  The camp will stress the unity of the campers with each other and the greater world, regardless of their disabilities.  

 The concept will incorporate design principals and elements and such as rhythm, variety, shape, scale, and texture as it is expressed in organic materials.  The result will be uplifting and positive, designed to display the marvel of the natural world while revealing the inner strength that lives in us all.

Field Trip to Montpelier and Monticello

     An added treat to enhance our studies in historic preservation was an over-night field trip on October 10-11 2013 to the presidential residences of Montpelier and Monticello, both located near Charlottesville, Virginia.  This was our first overnight class trip and everyone was excited to experience these famous historic sites as well as the fine dining and shopping of Charlottesville.  Many historic sites operated by the national Parks Service were closed due to the government shutdown, but luckily, neither Montpelier nor Monticello were effected.  I was unable to go with the class at the last minute, but I was with the group in spirit!

     Montpelier, the home of James and Dolley Madison, was the first stop on the excursion.  The class toured the ca. 1797 Greek Revival mansion, getting a personal look at the period furnishing and architectural details of the drawing room, dining room, library, and bedchamber.  Dolley Madison had a strong local connection to our group, as she was a native of Guilford County, North Carolina.  She and James Madison entertained hundreds of guests sat Montpelier in the years following his second term as president.  Financial problems led to Dolley Madison selling the mansion and plantation in 1844, and an ongoing effort continues to locate and acquire as many of the original furnishings as possible.

     Thomas Jefferson's legendary home Monticello is much more familiar to the average American than Montpelier.  The mansion's exquisite architecture, designed by Jefferson himself, places it among the most famous of American structures.  The west front view with its commanding octagonal dome is prominently featured on the back of the nickel, with Jefferson himself on the front.  Touring this amazing residence gives insight into the true genius of  Thomas Jefferson, as the rooms are filled with his numerous inventions and experiments.
The interiors of Monticello radiate with an ingenuity that goes far beyond the standard architectural features of their time, showing a bold hand with form and color.

                            The incredible play of light and shadow in the dome room.

     In all, the experience of visiting Montpelier  and Monticello exemplifies the very best in historic preservation and shows the importance of continuing to identify and protect structures that demonstrate the best design characteristics of their time periods.  At various times throughout their long history, both Montpelier and Monticello have faced uncertain futures.  Thankfully, concerned people were there to protect these irreplaceable parts of American history.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

     Fall Semester in Commercial Design II kicked off with an exciting interior design competition sponsored by the Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library.  Randolph Community College was the only community college to compete last year and was proud to have a fourth place winner.  This means that we have a lot to live up to this year!  A prize of $10,000 to the winners assures that the competition will be keen.
     This year's challenge is an activity center for a co-ed sleepover camp located on 1200 acres in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.  The camp specializes in activities for 30 traditional and special need children and must be barrier-free and fully accessible.  The second floor of the center will encompass a private residence for the camp director, an executive office, and an executive conference room.  The first floor will contain a nurses station, restrooms, storage area, a stage with a prop room, and an open activity area with removable tables and chairs.  In addition to designing the space, we must each form a concept statement, name the facility and design a logo.  This demanding project will take the entire semester and a wide range of skills to complete.
     The process has begun and we are brainstorming!  The class recently toured Victory Junction, a camp for critically ill children located in Randleman, NC, to observe firsthand what a camp for special needs children entails.  We all came away with inspiration to pour into our own projects and incredible respect for the staff and children of this remarkable place.