This summer, JZID continued its work with Beloit College (see Emerson Hall renovation) in Beloit, WI to redesign the Welcome Center in Middle College (built 1847). As an alumna of the college, I was excited to help engineer future Beloiters’ first experience with the campus through interior design. I remember my first time on the campus. It was an early April afternoon and despite the snow that was still falling, I was taken by the breathtaking campus and friendliness of the faculty. I wanted to ensure that prospective students feel the same way on their first visit.
When I was approached to redesign the first floor of Middle College, the main goals presented to me were:
- Creating an inclusive and interactive experience for all visitors
- Showcasing Beloit’s past, present and future through design
- Setting up seating areas to accommodate large numbers during Visitor Days
- Laying out the series of rooms in such a way that would direct traffic through all areas
The first floor of Middle College is a particularly difficult space planning challenge. The first floor could be described as three long “bowling alley” rooms surrounded by small offices. Prior to the redesign the Welcome Center fell victim to a very common space planning flaw that often happens with these corridor rooms, the sofas and chairs lined the perimeter of the room, really narrowing the walkways and minimizing the amount of people that could sit in the center.
The Space Plan
Middle College is where prospective students come to interview with Admissions counselors, meet faculty and staff and kick off their campus tour. I needed to create a layout that reflected and accommodated all the diverse activities throughout a campus visit while still providing seating for about 10 families at a time.
I divided the first floor by rooms with designated purposes.
- A streamlined welcome desk with receptionist sits at the main entry to help direct visitors. A wall-mounted screen shows a video of campus highlights on loop.
- The space to the left of the main entry has a layout that resembles a traditional residential seating arrangement, aimed to put prospective students at ease.
- The space to the right of the main entry has a more private layout that allows families to sit together if they need a moment to themselves. There is also a functional aspect to this space with a bar-height charging station and mounted campus map.
- A gallery space exhibits student and alumni work, as well as pieces from the museums on campus. A couple of tables allows for visitor seating. A wall-mounted screen plays student art performances on loop.
- Visitors can enjoy a complimentary beverage and snack at the bistro bar.
After finalizing the layout, I concentrated on the furniture styles and upholstery story that I wanted to tell. I combined classic collegiate patterns (Greek Key and Houndstooth) with luxe [performance] suedes and velvets. The color palette is warm and welcoming and each room has a bold feature piece. Gold metals and gold leaf finishes are an elevated use of one of the college's colors and the black creates depth and dimension in otherwise neutrally painted and carpeted rooms.
The image to the right shows select fabric swatches used in this project.
The furniture styles are a mixture of traditional frames complete with turned legs and nail heads (see the houndstooth settees and yellow sofa) and more modern tables and chairs. The combination of styles and bold mixture of prints doesn't pigeon-hole the design into a certain era, making it so the Welcome Center doesn't need to be updated to reflect ever-changing trends.
Seating Area #1
I love the upholstery pieces in this seating area. The black Greek Key swivel chairs are so comfortable and luxurious and the sofa is the perfect blend of whimsical and traditional design.
I also set up smaller seating groups on either end of the room for families to sit together. I'm in love with these gold base chairs from Century Furniture!
Seating Area #2
My pick for favorite room keeps going back and forth between the room pictured above and the one with these amazing settees. I grouped the settees to mimic restaurant booth seating for more private seating for families. The blue houndstooth with yellow pillows represents the blue and gold of Beloit College's colors without being too on the nose.
Across from the settees is a 12-foot long counter top that serves as a charging station. The seamless Corian surface blends the modern (strong horizontal lines, waterfall edge, black and white contrast and minimal texture) with the traditional design of the building (corbel supports, paneled wall and historical campus maps).
Peeking out of the corner in the image below is a pre-existing coffee bar, open to all guests.
The room on the farthest side of Middle College's first floor is dedicated to the campus's arts and culture. Prior to the redesign, the college was having a difficult time funneling traffic to this side of building. As a part of this project, I wanted to design a traffic flow that would encourage visitors to travel throughout all of the public spaces in the Welcome Center. I kept select artwork and artifacts from the college museums and the looping wall-mounted television that plays student dance and theater performances. I added two tables for people to sit and drink the coffee from the coffee bar outside the room.
On the wall across from the mounted television is a new feature that will help boost the interactive nature of prospective student's visits. Beloit College will soon roll out a new technology that will allow prospective students to capture their favorite part of their visit by taking a quick video and printing still images on-site to take home. The still image will then play that video when the device with the uploaded app is overlaid on top of it. The admissions staff will then curate a selection of these images to display in the gallery area so visiting families have a chance to see other student's experiences while waiting for their own tour and interview.
For the interview rooms it was important to select fabrics and frames that made the nervous interviewing students feel confident and also made them imagine themselves as a Beloit College student. Both rooms have a causal sectional and swivel chair covered in performance velvet fabric. The two interview rooms are mirror images of each other, with the exception of the wall decor. The image below shows the Blue Skies Award themed room while the second interview room focuses on student activities.
There are more angles and details from this project in my portfolio - check them out here.
Does your business or school need to redesign its visitor center in order to put your best foot forward to clients? Contact me today to get started.
After images shot by Ryan Hainey Photography.