Spring 2022 SEMO graduate Megan Thompson introduces a vibrant color palette to encourage creativity and productivity.
Photo by Nikki Foster
It’s common to hear the phrase “Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes”. For interior design students, this is not just distant wisdom, but a daily necessity.
Interior Design: A Creative and Technical Journey, an exhibition featuring work by SEMO Interior Design seniors and recent graduates, opened September 6 and will be on view at the Nest Gallery in the River Campus seminar building through October 7. This exhibit sheds light on the hidden details and considerations involved in interior design, and showcases the importance and depth of building a functional space.
Professor and coordinator of the interior design program, Michelle Brune has worked at the university for 25 years and has taught for 19 years. Brune focuses on commercial interior design, which involves “everything that is not residential”.
“A lot of people think of interior design and they just think of HGTV. They don’t think of hospitals, doctor’s offices, restaurants, educational institutions, gymnasiums. Whatever’s out there that’s a interior space, interior designers work,” said Brune.
Brune says that health, safety and well-being are the most important elements of interior design.
“We want it to be aesthetically pleasing, but it must also meet applicable safety guidelines and building codes. So we always mix the artistic part and the scientific part,” Brune said.
According to Brune, many components are involved in interior design, a few of which include the location and signage of exits, the use of non-flammable materials, the creation of handicapped accessible areas, lighting and control of temperature.
“Unless you’re directly involved, you probably won’t know all the background. It’s our job to make it a transparent thing, so you don’t walk in and it looks like an institutional space,” Brune said. “We want [the space] be physically and psychologically comfortable.
To create a comfortable space, students do a lot of research into the type of space they are creating.
“If they’re designing a health center for someone with cancer, they have to educate themselves about cancer. They need to know the challenges that come with it, they need to know what their needs are and how this type of space would work,” Brune said.
The exhibition showcases the work of seniors and graduate students this year and showcases the wide variety of technical and artistic skills that students have learned and mastered during their time at SEMO, such as residential and commercial design, rendering to hand and computer generated designs.
If visitors take away anything from the exhibition, it may be that interior design is not for the faint of heart. Interior Design Senior Luke Losh found his love for interior design in a unique way.
“When I was in high school, like my freshman year, I had a treehouse in my backyard, and I completely remodeled it and flipped it, and designed the whole interior of it. I had really a passion for it, and I realized that,” Losh said.
Another perk for students looking for a rigorous program to challenge them is SEMO’s recent interior design program accreditation. The university received the Council for Interior Design Accreditation in 2017 and was accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design in 2018.
“Employers want students from accredited programs,” Brune said. “These employers know that our students have that skill set required by accreditations, so they know what they’re getting. They know they’re getting a student who knows codes and research, and health security wellness,” Brune said. “It’s a win-win for everyone. It’s great for our students. We want them to get great jobs, and they really are, and they do great work. We are really proud of them.
This accreditation was one of the factors in interior design senior Katie Beck’s decision to transfer to SEMO at St. Louis Community College. Beck said SEMO gave her the opportunity to challenge herself in a way that pushed her to become better at her craft.
“We all hold ourselves to high standards, even if our teachers don’t. The hard part is wanting to do something big, and something you’ve never done before, and even not having the skills, but expecting to do better,” Beck said. “It’s something I’ve learned in every class I take: instead of trying to be perfect, I just try to do the best I can.”
There will be a closing reception for the exhibition from 5 to 7 p.m. on October 7.