JOB: Linda Bauer is in charge of the interior design department for the UI Housing Division. She selects furnishings and furniture for the 5,000 student rooms, 1,000 apartments, and common area spaces, such as main lounges, the floor lounges, libraries, computer labs, fitness centers and dining rooms. She's been in her position for 10 years; previously she worked in residential and commercial interior design.
How do you go about being an interior designer for the Housing Division?
In a typical year, the Housing Division identifies and budgets for $3 million to $6 million in capital improvement projects. I am involved one way or another with the majority of this work. On the projects I am directly responsible for, I try to design functional, attractive spaces for students and staff members. I specify the finishes and furnishings that will best suit their needs. I keep in mind all the life-safety codes. And I also have to consider longevity. My ultimate goal is to create an area that is residential in appearance but that will last 10 years or more.
Contrary to popular belief, we do not just pick out colors and carpeting. A lot of technical knowledge is required to correctly specify finishes, furnishings and carpeting. And when we can't find the furniture we need, we design it.
There must be a lengthy list of projects to be completed.
When you house 10,000 students and 1,000 families, you never run out of projects. I also oversee a quarter of a million dollars' worth of furniture refinishing and repair each year.
How many are on your staff?
There is another interior designer in addition to an administrative assistant and myself. The three of us work closely with the Housing Division architect.
What's your background? How did you get into interior design?
I started my studies in graphic design and was lured into interior because of its blending of lines, textures and colors. I graduated with a degree in design and am a licensed interior designer. I've been doing this work for 30 years.
Do you try to avoid the current decorating trends?
To some degree. Because it's going to be there so long, it's likely to be out of fashion longer than it's going to be in. You can do the architectural thing, which is basically to keep everything neutral so it's never out of taste. But that can be boring when trying to make a residence hall appealing to the students. We try to keep good basic colors going with a trendy color for accent.
Your own house must be just stunning.
It's like the shoemaker having no shoes. Stunning? Not. But I think it's well designed. I live in a home that's 100 years old. It's a bungalow-type design that's been reconfigured over the years. I enjoy the Frank Lloyd Wright influence, so my lines are simple and contemporary.
Do you frequently have friends who ask you to come over and help them redecorate their houses?
Yes. It's like the computer people who have friends who call and ask what kind of computer they should buy. But I try to explain that I'm really out of touch with residential work. I enjoy my free time so I don't spend a lot of time trying to keep up with residential design.
What do you do with your free time?
I love my flower gardens. And I enjoy golfing, skiing, traveling and spending time with family and friends. I have three children -- two daughters and a son. One daughter is a veterinarian and one has a master's degree in special education and is director of an early learning center. My son has a passion for farming and is a technician for John Deere. I have two grandchildren.
Were you raised in this area?
Yes, about 65 miles north of here. Actually, I live 50 miles north of here in Cissna Park.
You drive that far every day?
I sure do. My family's roots are in Cissna and in agriculture. You can't move the family farm to Champaign. It would be nice to be closer, but it's very doable.
You must like working at the UI to make that kind of drive.
Very much. I love my job. I enjoy the people, the team I work with and the whole residential service staff. And I like the accessibility of the university and the things that it offers, whether it's the library or Krannert. And I enjoy the enthusiasm of the students. I miss them in the summer when they're not walking by.
As an interior designer, what do you think of Martha Stewart?
She has far too much energy and too much staffing I think. (She laughed.) If I had the time she has to do one or two of her projects, it would be great. She is a great inspiration and she makes it fun.