Furniture Design Class Produces Award-Winning Student Work
Since the early 1990s, University of Idaho architecture and interior design students in ID 332 Furniture Design and Construction have conceptualized, sketched, modeled and fabricated their way to regional, national and international design competitions where their award-winning chairs and small tables are exhibited and professionally juried. The course, currently co-taught by Assistant Professor of Interior Design, Miranda Anderson and Director of Technical Design, Jay Pengilly, emphasizes industry experience and “creating and making,” where students take their project from concept to completion.
Building on existing drafting and technical skills, students develop accurate and practical construction documents that allow them to work with precision and confidence that reveals itself in well-designed furniture pieces. “This transformational experience is often the first time that students have built something of this complexity,” said Pengilly, “the process prepares them for communicating and working with contractors, cabinet-makers and other craftsmen in design practice.”
"This transformative experience is often the first time that students have built something of this complexity,"Jay Pengilly
Students are learning first-hand from instructors who have the street-cred to make this invaluable connection to industry. Miranda spent eight years in private practice working on both architecture and interior design projects; Jay built custom homes for 20 years before joining the UI. Drawing on their backgrounds in design and construction, the two have developed a studio experience that combines assignments on human factors, concepts in furniture design, and fabrication methods with site visits to wood turning and construction shops for a fully immersive learning experience that has earned them national teaching recognition with the 2016 Teaching Excellence Award from the Interior Design Educators Council’s (IDEC).
“I think the course has been successful because design students are typically visual learners and many more learn best in a kinesthetic manner—when they are assigned a participatory role in the act of creating,” said Anderson. “We have a lot of fun bringing our collective experience to these students and watching their ideas soar with the right tools.”
"Design students are typically visual learners and many more learn best in a kinesthetic manner—when they are assigned a participatory role in the act of creating. Their ideas really take flight with the right tools." Miranda Anderson
The course caught the eye of Chris Bruning, president and co-founder of the Dallas-based furniture company Groovystuff. Bruning has worked with schools across the country to develop emerging talent in this field and was impressed by the level of industry-savvy UI students demonstrated through their craftsmanship and understanding of what it takes to take a product to market. Groovystuff picked up two student products and “has been able to provide the market with innovations that are outside the norms of conventional design.” The Time Revealed end table by Janice Kammler (2013) and the Branching Out cabinet by Tessa Grundler (2012) are currently sold through Groovystuff’s home furnishings catalog.
For Grundler, the course led to a new career direction. “With Miranda and Jay’s guidance, I was able to discover a passion for woodworking that I would have never found,” said Grundler. “Today, I have my dream job designing furniture for a living.”