by Denise Horton
Crushed oregano and sisal are the soothing tones that decorate the guest bedroom of the Rochesters’ beach house. The headboard panels above the two twin beds feature a series of horizontal slats that complement the matchstick window blinds covering the windows and the door that opens to a balcony overlooking the ocean. The valances and pillows feature botanical prints that are echoed in the ceiling fan’s leaf-life blades.
What isn’t evident in the presentation board for the guest bedroom of the Rochester beach house are the hours Meredith Tannehill spent deciding not just the colors and decorative accessories of each room, but the elevations of the house—which is located on a steeply sloping lot—the details of the cabinetry throughout the house, the floor plans, roof plan, lighting and electrical plan, the door, window and hardware details, the interior elevations of all of the cabinetry and custom design work, and many other details. Tannehill was one of 22 students in the fall 2008 “Presentation Methods and Media” course, taught by Furnishing and Interiors Lecturer Dawn Schueneman.
“The focus of this course is intense skill building,” Schueneman says. “I gave them information on a piece of land and told them to design a beach house. They had to develop floor plans, a lighting plan, roof plan, sections, interior and exterior elevations, details and schedules. They also had to do colored renderings of perspective drawings, elevations and floor plans, build a presentation model of the building and use CAD (computer-aided design programs) to complete all of the working drawings. After they finish this course, they should have the basic skills, which they’ll hone in their future courses.”
The College of Family and Consumer Sciences FI program is one of only a few in the nation focused on residential design rather than emphasizing commercial design. By the time they graduate, students in the program will have taken courses in every aspect of design, including mechanical systems and lighting design, which is focused on heating and air conditioning, electrical and plumbing systems; and universal and sustainable design, which focuses on designing spaces that are suitable for everyone, including those with handicaps and older adults.
The program recently achieved National Kitchen and Bath Association accreditation, which means students take in-depth courses in those areas, as well.
“Even though the program is more work, it’s definitely worth it because you have something to show for what you’ve done,” says Tannehill. “In other majors you take a test and make a grade, but here you have a finished result that you will use and always have.”
The FI curriculum has recently undergone a complete overhaul and Schueneman and her fellow instructors Megan Lee (Assistant Professor, Textiles, Merchandising and Interiors) and Jaya Rose (Lecturer, Textiles, Merchandising and Interiors) are incorporating new courses and new requirements.
“We’ve raised the standards significantly,” says Schueneman, who graduated from the program in 1999 and returned to UGA in 2004 to earn her master’s degree in historic preservation. “The content we teach is much greater and the projects include so much more detail. Now, the beginning studios include requirements for full sets of working drawings and presentations. We used to not ask for that until their senior year.
“I know this seems like a lot, but for their senior studio course they’ll end up with five-to-six times as many CAD drawings, plus their hand renderings, boards and models and specification books, and program documents,” she says. “The spec. books will show every bookcase and cabinet, every base molding and crown molding, that’s how specific they are.”
Also, the project for their senior studio will be much more complicated, such as a dormitory, a multi-family apartment complex or a hotel, projects that combine both residential and commercial aspects of interior design.
Rose and Lee are also bringing particular expertise to the program. Rose has more than 30 years of industry experience as a kitchen-and-bath designer. Lee’s focus is on service learning and community partnerships, as well as universal and sustainable design.
“My goal is for us to have one project in the community every semester,” she says.
This spring, students in Lee’s senior studio worked with Denny Towers, a high-rise public housing apartment complex for older adults. The project had two components, to redesign the common areas of the complex and to redesign one of the apartments.
Juggling the demands of studio courses with those of more traditional lecture courses is also a requirement for FI students. In addition to the five studio courses they’ll take, the FI major also requires courses in textile testing, chemistry, statistics and two courses on the history of interior design and architecture.
For years the FI program has been housed in cramped quarters, primarily on the third floor of Dawson Hall, and shared a second-floor computer lab with other classes. As of spring 2008, however, the program moved to the second floor of Barrow Hall, located across the street from Dawson. The move has more than tripled the space the program had in Dawson Hall and includes three studios filled with drawing tables, a primary computer lab with 30 computers, and an additional computer lab with another 10 computers. Students also have far more room for sample books and a wall filled with plumbing fixture samples. The new space also includes a student lounge, lockers and a gallery.
Despite the nicer environs, one thing that hasn’t changed about the FI program are the long hours.
“The program is a full-time job—students spend at least 40 hours a week every week outside of the classroom…sometimes even 60 to 80 hours when projects are due,” Schueneman says.
Despite the long hours, the faculty members say very few students change majors once they’ve been admitted to the FI program. And, they add, there’s a bonding that occurs as the students deal with the exhaustion and frustration of trying to finish projects.
Lee adds, “I talk to one gal every day that I met during my undergraduate program. We had 13 in our class and I can tell you what 11 of them are doing today.”
“They’re in it together and they’re going through it together,” Schueneman says.
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