Melissa Marriott is one of two designing women –interior designers, that is – who work in the Housing Facilities Planning Group in University Housing. Marriott, who graduated from Indiana State University with a bachelor’s degree in interior design, gained broad industry experience in residential and commercial design and sales for several companies in Illinois, Kansas and North Carolina before she joined the university’s staff in 2005.
What got you interested in the field?
It was something I always wanted to do. After a Career Day in high school, I called the owner of Village Interiors in Bloomington and asked if I could look around for a day and see what it was all about. Gail, the owner, hosted me and another student. She gave us a project to work on and told us what skills we needed – such as sewing, knowledge of fabrics –and told us what directions we could go in the field. In college, I did my internship at her firm.
My focus in college was on facilities management, mostly working in corporate or educational settings where you’re doing a lot of office space planning. In residential design, the customers have a vested interest in how their house turns out, so it’s very much a psychology thing as much as it is putting colors and fabrics together.
Working here, I have a lot of variety in my projects. And you never know what’s going to come up on any given day. I’ve worked on offices, lounges, libraries and conference rooms. We just finished the remodel of Evans Hall’s main lounge. I’m working with Linda Bauer, the other designer, on remodeling the administrative offices and life-safety upgrades at Clark Hall. Florida Avenue Residence Hall just got new furniture; I helped Linda with narrowing down the furniture options, checking the orders, and getting it here and installed.
What projects are you working on right now?
We’re submitting bids for new furniture in the Goodwin and Green apartments. We’re doing a lot of planning for the upcoming Champaign Redevelopment Project. We’re making sure that the students at Gregory and Peabody have laundry and other facilities that they will lose when their dining buildings come down. We also have to relocate the groups that meet in the Illini Orange before that building is demolished. There’s been a lot of moving of staff people. It’s a massive project.
Most of the work right now is happening on the Urbana side of campus, getting the Florida Avenue dining halls and main lounges upgraded, remodeling Penn Station and renovating Pennsylvania Avenue Residence Hall’s dining hall. New furniture is going in at Illinois Street Residence Halls this summer, as well.
What are some of the challenges in doing your job?
Constant change. Sometimes it’s hard to concentrate on a particular project because you’re juggling six, eight or 10 projects at a time. You’re also dealing with everyone who uses a particular space – such as administrative and building service staff members and students. You have to get to know everybody and what their job functions are and who does what. We get a great deal of support from everyone, including the furniture and mill shops on campus, which reupholster/refinish existing pieces.
People think that interior design is mainly about picking out colors and fabrics, but that’s a minimal part of the job. We also keep track of furniture that gets damaged or lost, fill out replacement cost sheets, write bids and purchase and work orders. Then there are meetings to coordinate projects: arrange for the painters to paint, the building service workers to move furniture, and decide when to take spaces down for remodel.
Most of our work occurs over the summer when the students are gone, but we have some buildings that are open year-round, as different groups come and go. An extensive amount of research and planning goes into each project.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I have two rambunctious toddlers – a son, Colin, almost 4, and a daughter, Jami, 2 1/2 - so there’s no ‘off the job.’ I do a lot of crocheting, mostly baby blankets for friends and family. My parents and I are very active in the Veterans of Foreign Wars. I crochet helmet liners for the troops overseas. We’ve sent about 30 over there with supplies the VFW sends. My kids even occasionally help pack boxes.