Wider Horizons

Interior Design student Lindsay Gergel might never have thought she’d make her first real-world mark in the lingerie business.ministers of interior

But the Turin-area farm girl and 2008 Lethbridge College graduate stepped off campus for some downtown design work at Intrigue Lingerie Boutique on Seventh Street South, helping owners Colleen Armstrong and Rita McArthur create the look and feel they wanted for their recently opened store.

“They had nothing planned; it was just gutted open space,” says Gergel. “I had a chance to start from scratch with the design concept, using the ideas of the clients to develop the overall concept, floor plan and elevations. Working on a real retail design from start to finish gave me invaluable experience and increased confidence in using the skills I acquired in the program.”

The Interior Design program’s practicum encourages students to work with community businesses, charities, and other organizations without charge.

Gergel’s project is one example of how Lethbridge College students share their newly found knowledge and skills to gain experience and contribute back to the community.

Unlike Gergel, who worked almost with no restrictions but her imagination to create a vibrant retail space, Katie Braithwaite and Becky Pasowisty learned early on that every colour and finish they chose could affect the lives of their clients.

Braithwaite, a first-year student, and Pasowisty, who graduated in April, took on the redesign of two Lethbridge group homes for the Southern Alberta Self-Help Association (SASHA), and soon found themselves researching what materials and components were best suited for people with mental health issues.

Both laud the opportunity to give back to the community in which they earned their education, and agree developing skills learned in the classroom was a precious opportunity.

“A chance like that doesn’t come along often,” says Braithwaite.

They met with SASHA representatives to discuss space planning, flooring, finishes and furnishings, keeping in mind the need for client privacy in the homes and budget constraints. They had to learn about colour therapy (reds are too stimulating; blues can be too cold); the need for easily cleaned and maintained cabinetry, and aesthetically appropriate finishes that allowed for flexibility and functionality.

Work on the project is still underway with SASHA using the plans created by Braithwaite and Pasowisty forming a base the organization can use to seek funding for the space redesign.

Meanwhile, Gergel was using colour to create a retail environment that enhanced the merchandise and reflected the company image.

“You have an idea in your own head of what might work for a class project, but it’s far more exciting to do it in downtown Lethbridge,” she says. “I had to work with the contractors to stay within a budget, while dealing with an older building. It created real-world design problems.”

Co-owner Armstrong praises Gergel’s work.

”Wow, this was a young lady who listened to us and was able to take our words and turn them into our vision,” says Armstrong. “We must commend Leona [Rousseau, Interior Design instructor] and her program as she has definitely produced one fine interior designer. Our retail project wouldn’t be what it is today without the help of Leona and especially Lindsay. Lethbridge College must be commended for having such a wonderful program available to the public.”

In the end, all three students realized success.

Rousseau explains community-based projects are an integrated part of the course work.

“Projects like these create valuable and meaningful student experiences, raise public understanding of the program and profession, and provide a way for our students to give back to the community,” says Rousseau.

The projects also reflect Lethbridge College’s desire to serve students by providing opportunities to learn, evolve and grow in their careers and lives, and to become socially engaged citizens.

Previous Interior Design projects have included work with Habitat for Humanity; Homes for the Holidays (a fundraiser for the Kids Help Phone); the Canadian Abilities Foundation (a national databank of accessible locations), and others. All have led to the kind of win-win student and client successes for which the Interior Design program is known.

Wider Horizons
Peter Scott
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