contributed by Joyce Kocinski [interior designer / educator / principal of Design In Balance]
Barb is a special education teacher with a Master’s degree. Greg is an artist specializing in marine life. Katrina worked in Russia as a graphic designer. What do they all have in common” Each of them wanted to explore the field of interior design, so they enrolled in my Adult Continuing Education course at Elgin Community College in Elgin, Illinois. As a former teacher with a Master’s degree in education and an undergraduate degree in interior design, I enjoy exposing adult students to the industry. Students come from varying backgrounds in different careers, but all have a passion or curiosity for interior design and want to explore more about the discipline and its possibilities.
I developed an introductory survey course titled “Residential Design” for those who take Adult Continuing Education courses and wish to learn about interior design, either to apply to their own homes or to determine if they want to pursue further education in the field. It is offered at Elgin Community College every semester and includes most supplies. A certificate is given to students upon completion of the 2-1/2 month course.
We review some of the topics covered during the first year of an interior design curriculum. If a student ends up being interested in a exploring a degree program, then I help them with information on the public and private universities teaching interior design in the area. I am pleased to say that some of the students have actually gone on to pursue a degree in the field.
Over a 10-week period, I introduce design principles, color theory, and space planning with hands-on projects. The students view weekly PowerPoint presentations, which cover the basics. Besides handouts, I bring in fabric and wood samples so that students can make presentation boards. Also included are speakers from various design-related trades who present their role in the industry to the class. Perspectives have included faux finishing, window treatment workrooms, and paint company representatives such as Sherwin-Williams.
I also require a field trip to a historic mansion as a homework assignment to encourage interest in furniture history. One local furniture store allows me to bring my class for an “after hours” tour showing actual samples of Mission, Shaker and Victorian style furniture. The class gets to see, touch, and ultimately understand the difference between details like quarter sawn oak, maple and cherry wood grains.
What has surprised me about some of the students as I have offered this course over the last few years is the hidden talent some of them have in the area of drawing floor plans and elevations. Many of their design boards are as elegant and detailed as any professional.
Some of the students who take my course have a Bachelor’s degree in other field or even a Master’s degree. One student majored in graphic design and always wanted to learn more about the field of interiors. Although she is now a manager in hospital administration, she fulfilled a dream by taking this course. Another student had put off taking college courses to raise her family. Now she is exploring different career options, and my course is the perfect way to do just that.
I have even offered internships and continued working with some of my students beyond the classroom. For example, one student, after taking the course, became motivated to start her own home staging business. Working with a realtor, she procured a client and has helped sell a home. Another student helped me with a retail store “redesign,” in which we moved furniture and accessories to help “merchandise” or stage the room. The owner of the store was very pleased as he got two workers for the price of one.
All in all, it has been a very satisfying experience for me to share my knowledge of and passion for interiors with others. Teaching is wonderful way for a practicing professional to get out of his or her comfort zone and reenergize, which ultimately improves one’s attitude and practice. After all, what are interior designers but educators of their clients and the public”