Middle Tennessee State University interior design students recently took home top honors at the Formica Form, a national furniture design competition that held regional awards at the Inspire Nashville trade show.
As part of the experiential learning, or EXL, capstone course for juniors taught by assistant professor Carrie Pavel, students designed a piece of furniture that utilizes Formica as a material in the project based on the theme of maximalism.
“Each year, students participate in the Form Competition as part of an advanced 3D modeling class that focuses on form generation and digital rendering,” said Pavel, an architectural designer and historian.
Kelsie Davy of Rockvale, Tennessee, placed first for a wall-mounted desk piece called “Vernici.” Leen Hasan of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, took home second place for “Koko Sofa,” while Caroline Ayotte of Franklin, Tennessee, won third with “The Wave” desk.
The competition provided a multifaceted experience for the students, from developing communication skills to convey the design to working with limitations of materials.
“This project encouraged me to think in innovative ways, driving me to create a design that was both distinctive and inspiring,” Hasan said. “I faced challenges related to the sofa’s structure and the selection of materials, and this experience notably enhanced my ability to solve problems creatively.”
Hasan worked on and off the drawing board to create her design.
“I conducted thorough research on bird behaviors and characteristics to draw inspiration for the design, exploring various bird breeds, colors, and even their different types of feet,” explained Hasan, whose end result featured bright colors, ergonomic features and cute bird “feet” on the sofa legs. “My objective was to make the sofa exceptionally imaginative, original, colorful and fun all while staying true to the central theme of maximalism and working within the limitations of Formica’s provided materials.”
Although Pavel’s students have competed in the competition in previous years, this is the first time the Formica representative, Amber Veach, has worked with them to have small-scale replicas of their designs built with assistance from Colton Wherry with RJ Wherry & Associates in Nashville.
“The winning students were closely involved throughout the fabrication process,” Pavel explained. “They worked out their designs with a local fabricator and learned about value engineering in the process: they discovered that some details were cost prohibitive to build so they had to collaborate on acceptable alternatives — a true experiential learning part of the process.”
Seeing the actual design in real life provided a real-world experience that Davy said will carry over into her career.
“I think the Formica Form project was an extremely valuable component to the class,” Davy said. “Seeing the project from start to finish and actually watching my idea come to life was an incredible experience. I am so thankful for not only the opportunity but also the teachings that came along with the process.”
For more information about MTSU’s interior design program in the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences, visit https://www.mtsu.edu/programs/interior-design/ or contact Carrie Pavel at Carrie.Pavel@mtsu.edu.
— Nancy DeGennaro (Nancy.DeGennaro@mtsu.edu)