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May 11, 2005
CONTACT: Ron Podell 734.487.4400

EMU's interior design students develop headquarters concept for SOS Community Services

YPSILANTI - Twenty-nine Eastern Michigan University interior design students recently had the opportunity to show off their knowledge and creativity not for the classroom, but for a real client.

Their mission: to design two floors of an office building and create a childcare center for SOS Community Services, a non-profit organization that is looking to move into a new headquarters at a future, undetermined date. Located in Ypsilanti, SOS Community Services serves homeless families and children, and others in crisis in Washtenaw County.

The EMU sophomores designed office layouts; chose furniture and cabinetry; picked floor tiles and carpeting; and selected paint, upholstery and window treatments. In addition, they created unique themes -- everything from Disney to the environment -- for a daycare center. They then converted their creativity into miniature realities that were recently displayed for the nonprofit's board members in Halle Library's Carillon Room.

Because the project would be located near a wetland, Monique Kulick, one of the students from the "Interior Design Four" class, created an environmental theme.

"I wanted to bring nature into every room and have lots of light," Kulick, of Ann Arbor, said of her office design that includes beiges and browns. "For the childcare center, I did the same except it was much more fun. I chose a cabin-in-the woods theme."

A number of walls in Kulick's daycare design included murals of trees and other nature scenes.

Gary Bell, executive director of SOS, said he was pleased with the possibilities as he viewed the design concepts and models.

"It's fascinating to have shared written and verbal information on what we want to achieve, and how these students took that information and came up with ideas outside of your own thoughts," Bell said. "This stretches the lines of what we thought could be possible. I'm so thrilled with the time and creativity they (students) put in."

Founded in 1970 by students and faculty at EMU, SOS has evolved from its roots as a peer-counseling program into an agency whose comprehensive services assist families in their move from homelessness to self-sufficiency and permanent, stable housing. Today, SOS occupies four program and administrative sites in Washtenaw County.

Bell said that the nonprofit wants to eventually centralize its headquarters at a location that was purchased for SOS along Michigan Avenue. Bell said he estimates the 10,000-square-foot office building/daycare center envisioned would cost approximately $8 million and would require securing grants and long-term fundraising efforts.

Students were given parameters to fill two floors of office space and create a building design, but were given more flexibility when it came to creating a daycare center, said Pam Eland, an adjunct faculty member who teaches an "Interior Design Four" course and is a professional interior designer.

Mara Dermer's imagination led to the creation of an "Under the Sea" infant room. The Farmington resident said she chose the motif because the ocean is "a place of mystery and discovery, similar to the mind of a child."   

Wendi Welbes, also of Farmington, wanted to promote reading with her childcare center. And she thought what better way to do that than to include classic storybook characters and nursery rhymes, such as "Three Blind Mice," "Jack and Jill" and "Hickory Dickory Dock." Her toddler room followed a Disney theme, replete with classic characters Donald Duck and Tinkerbell, along with the modern Buzz Lightyear and characters from "Monsters, Inc."

"I think they're fantastic," Eland said of the student projects. "This is the first finished model they had the opportunity to do."

"This is a good opportunity for the students," said Kenneth Crutcher, an adjunct faculty member who teaches one of the "Interior Design Four" classes. He also is a Detroit architect and owns Crutcher Studio. "This is a real client with real-world issues. This helps a client moving out of space. Hopefully, whatever their expectations are, we can raise them."

Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive, metropolitan university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their careers and lives, and to be better citizens.


Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their career and lives, and to be better citizens.

Editor's Note: Looking for an expert source for a story? Check out EMU's Eastern Experts online at www.emich.edu/univcomm/easternexperts.

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