Kean students design the ‘Ultimate Dorm Room’

Photo Courtesy of Kean University From left, Michael Graves College students, Linden resident Jasmine White, Samantha Brennen, Mac Peters, Catherine Venutolo and Crystal Humphries design the ultimate dorm room with some help from IKEA of Elizabeth.
Photo Courtesy of Kean University
From left, Michael Graves College students, Linden resident Jasmine White, Samantha Brennen, Mac Peters, Catherine Venutolo and Crystal Humphries design the ultimate dorm room with some help from IKEA of Elizabeth.

UNION, NJ — Dorm life can be a highlight of the college experience for many undergraduates and, this fall, Kean University design students are partnering with the Ikea store, of Elizabeth, to help ramp up the style and convenience of dorm living.

Starting in September, Kean’s Green Lane Academic building will house a model dorm room in one of its gallery spaces. Designed by Kean architecture and design students while utilizing IKEA products and styling, the space is designed to inspire and promote sustainable solutions for small space living.

The initiative started back in April, when Ikea hosted a group of architecture and design students from Kean University’s Michael Graves College for the Ultimate Dorm Room Challenge.

Five teams of five students, each comprised of advertising design, graphic design, architecture and interior design majors, collaborated to create design solutions that incorporated storage, work spaces and sleeping areas. In addition to designing a residence hall room, the students were required to create a merchandising and advertising campaign promoting the use of IKEA styling and products. Each team was given four minutes to pitch its concept to a panel of judges that included Ikea personnel and Kean faculty and staff.

The competition required students to create a functional yet innovative design, while also conveying the Ikea aesthetic. Kean students Mac Peters, Jasmine White, Samantha Brennen, Crystal Humphries and Catherine Venutolo won for their “Res-YOU” design.

White, of Linden, told LocalSource that the dorm room challenge pushed students to draw from their creativity and knowledge. According to White, students had to follow specific — and small — dimensions that would allow for two beds, two desks and two wardrobes.

“We had to use Ikea’s furniture in the way it was intended,” White said in an email. “How you saw it on the selling floor was how it had to be used in the dorm.”

According to White, teams had just four hours to put together the design.
“The first thing we did to get ideas was walk around Ikea and find furniture that would fit in our space and be very functional,” said White. “If you’ve ever been in Ikea before, you know how big it is and just how many different things there are to look at, so that took us about 45 minutes. We went to the drawing board from there with our three interior designers coming up with a floor plan and my fellow graphic designer and I coming up with the identity design and name for our ultimate dorm room.”

White said it was her goal to make the design feel like home. “My inspiration was making your home away from home still feel like home,” she said. “Being that three out of five of our designers had dormed, we knew that the white brick walls and all wood desk, chairs, wardrobe and bed frame could feel a little cold. We wanted incoming freshman to feel as though they were moving into a welcoming space, but also one that they would be making their own. Our ideas were focused on dormers still having their own identify in a new space.

“As a freshman you may be in a room with someone that you don’t know and it’s important for each student to still feel like they are in a comfortable living environment. Our designs showed that we’re giving you the structures, but each student can add their own personal style. Hopefully our design will inspire students to create their own personal style in their dorm room.”

Olivia Johnson, a marketing specialist with Ikea Elizabeth, said that company and Kean have enjoyed partnering in the past, and this time was no different.
“As a good neighbor, Ikea Elizabeth has lots of involvement in our local community, including a great relationship with Kean University for many years,” Johnson told LocalSource in an email. “Rose Gonnella, executive director of the Robert Busch School of Design, Michael Graves College, and I paired up to brainstorm about a project we can work together on. She mentioned that the design students have a charrette every semester and I suggested having them design the Ultimate Ikea Dorm Room for this past semester project.”

A “charrette” refers to an extended period of intense design activity, as completed for this particular design challenge.

According to Johnson, Ikea donated the furniture, furnishings and delivery service to the Kean design school students. “The students built the furniture, created and installed graphics and set up their “Ultimate IKEA Dorm Room” for exhibit on the ground floor of the Green Lane Academic Building,” Johnson said.

Humphries, another member of the winning design team, told LocalSource that her team’s inspiring design was based on individuality. “Our inspiration was individuality, and how Ikea can help foster individual expression,” she said in an email. “The main idea when designing this dorm for the students was to create something that they could feel is unique to them and is well suited for their individual needs. With the help of Ikea’s various furnishing solutions, our idea was that students would be able to customize the space according to their specific wants and needs.”

Humphries said that once her team came up with a solid concept for the design, the creativity flowed freely, and that “the judges also really liked our floor plan and furniture layout, as well as our use of vertical storage.”

Humphries said that seeing her design in action one day would be a dream come true. “I would be ecstatic if our design was used to create future dorm rooms,” said Humphries. “Having something you see in your head actually become a reality is super exciting.”

White said that she too would be thrilled to see her own dorm room design on campuses. “I would be really excited to know that I took part in making a new living space still feel like home,” she said. “You can feel a little homesick being at school away from family and hometown friends, but having a space that isn’t cold and has your own personal style will give you that homey feeling for the four years you are away at school.”

The winning designs can be seen in a temporary installation that opened Sept. 1, on the campus of Kean University in Union.