CSU, Chico News

Student Interior Designers Lend Skills To Transitional Housing Project

Date: 04-27-2007

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affiars

Students from the American Society of Interior Designers at California State University, Chico, are selecting fabrics, creating paint palettes and laying out floor plans to brighten the living spaces for people receiving services from Butte County Behavioral Health.

The Avenida Apartments project is owned by Caminar, Inc., a nonprofit agency that provides community-based rehabilitation services for those recovering from psychiatric illnesses. The project will provide permanent, affordable and safe housing.

The student designers, from the Department of Art and Art History, CSU, Chico—including Jackie Hall, president of the group, Angela Polimeno, Kim Crawford, Keating Murphy and Chelsea Graham—are working within the constraints of a tight budget. They are taking temporary housing units in disrepair and turning them into inviting, welcoming and efficient homes.

In addition to the 15 living units, the students are designing a common space for recreation and group gatherings, a laundry room, a work area, a small business office and living space for a resident manager.

The guidelines for design include such goals as providing a feeling of calm and a sense of beauty and light, as well as furniture that is durable and comfortable.

In addition to their design skills, the students are giving their time to look into discounts for paint and obtain donations for accessories such as shower curtains, towels and rugs. They will also investigate furniture options and costs.

When the project is complete, the new inhabitants will not only have a comfortable living space, but support services, education in living skills and an on-the-site employment office. Residents can work on crews in landscaping and building maintenance and be part of a small bicycle business.

Kijeong Jeon, associate professor of interior design at CSU, Chico, is the advisor to the project. “This is a wonderful project. It is not what you would consider the typical design challenge. It gives these students an opportunity for a real-world design experience and the rewards that come from taking social responsibility. They are enthusiastic about creating a pleasant living environment for the new tenants,” said Jeon.

“I have been pleased with the students’ creative ideas and follow-through,” said Nicole Bateman, executive director of Caminar. “I have also been impressed with the students’ social consciousness about this project. They have asked appropriate questions and have really wanted to understand the needs of the tenants who will be residing at this site. There are a lot of talented students in the interior design program!”

The more than $2 million project is funded from a variety of sources, including acquisition funding from the Butte County Department of Behavioral Health and rehabilitation funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the City of Chico HOME and Redevelopment Agencies.

Bateman said that the students’ contributions have made a big difference in the working budget. “Securing donated items, volunteering their design time and researching the cost of furniture each help the budget tremendously,” said Bateman. “When rehabilitating a building, most of the budget goes into the building itself. But the ambience of the units plays a huge and positive role for the tenants who will be living in them. Since many of the tenants may have been homeless sometime in the past, it is important that the units feel welcoming and safe and like home. The students have made this possible.”