Homearama’s youth movement

Sports RoomFunky, double-helix wallpaper runs up and down one wall in the teen den of The Charity House at the Tidewater Builders Association’s Fall Homearama.

Four sturdy, leather ottomans await energetic teens, who’ll use them to sit and play video games or just watch TV. A long cabinet will house remote controls, Blu-ray discs and games when not in use. And the mini-fridge will be the perfect place for Gatorades, sodas and whatever else busy young people drink or eat.

For interior design students Chad Krikorian and Rechelle Palacios of the Art Institute of Virginia Beach, 90 percent of the room is their vision.

The designing duo took the top prize in a competition between local college students, a first for Homearama’s bi-annual parade of homes.

“I was astounded!” said Michael Newsome of Clark Whitehill Enterprises, builders of The Justin Kauflin House: The Charity House, about the students’ quality of work. “When they came in, you recognize their education is not just what colors go together.”

Krikorian and Palacios competed against six other student pairs, two additional teams from the Art Institute and four from Tidewater Community College. Three teams received recognition for their designs – two for excellence in design and another for thinking outside the box. The students’ ideas, all done on 15-by-30-inch storyboards, are on display in The Charity House’s garage at The Riverfront at Harbour View until Oct. 30.

“It’s an experience I would do again,” Palacios said.

Added Krikorian,”To see the design come to life, it’s like, ‘Wow!’ “

Here’s how it worked: The students were given a choice of rooms in the house, whose sale will benefit the TBA Scholarship Foundation. Each team was assigned certain parameters for the room it picked, including color schemes, flooring and other elements. The rest was up to them.

Each duo worked with its respective design professors at TCC and the Art Institute and received advice from assigned mentors with Women in Design, an organization of local designers. The students also worked with designer Rich Kahler of Exotic Home Interiors, which provided the furnishings for the spaces. They visited Kahler’s website to look at his store’s offerings, then visited his Norfolk store to get more solid ideas of what furnishings looked like and what would help their creations gel.

Kahler and others rendered the contest a success and plan to do it again.

“As part of Women in Design Hampton Roads, it is inspiring to see student designers with such passion and drive!” wrote Amy Szewczyk Hall, one of the contest’s judges and an intern architect with Naval Facilities Engineering Command Mid-Atlantic, in an email. “There were some truly innovative ideas with use of space, balance, color, and technique. This contest creates a synergy within the design community, and the nature of a competition produces compelling results.”

Another room with elements of the students’ designs is the second-floor loft.

TCC students Brooke Grabowski and Eirene Espinoza created a gathering space with a table and chairs in the Seattle-style Craftsman home.

The loft is a place for reading, gaming, doing homework, “a place where everyone can meet together and do something without TV,” Grabowski said.

“Brooke’s group found great function for the room,” Kahler said.

Elizabeth Higginbotham and Sonya Grossgold created window treatments that added color and life to the loft, which leads to an outside, Zen-like sitting area.

“We wanted to bring indoor/outdoor living together,” Grossgold said.

“We really pushed ourselves; we really wanted to do something different and do something creative,” Higginbotham said.

Before the fall showcase of homes opened to the public, several of the students, Kahler, Newsome and Design Consultants’ Kathy Browning, who spearheaded the competition, gathered to talk about its success.

Since the house is all about education, and giving back, Newsome announced to the students that he was able to secure through the TBA Scholarship Foundation, of which he is the chairman, scholarship money for each winning team.

Krikorian and Palacios shared $500, while the other three teams got $250 apiece.

Newsome said the contest allowed the students to experience what being a design professional is like in the real world, dealing with deadlines, clients, the media and with items that might not be available.

This marks the third house built by Clark Whitehill Enterprises for the TBA Scholarship Foundation, including the inaugural house in 1966 and again in 1990. Since 1965, the foundation has awarded more than $1.66 million to 424 students, including Kauflin, a blind musician for whom The Charity House is named this year.

For the design students, the contest has already changed lives.

Krikorian will work part time for Kahler at his new Linkhorn Shoppes location in Virginia Beach starting in November.

For Espinoza, the experience showed her the importance of having that “wow factor” in your designs.

“The design contest was a fun learning experience and a preview of what the interior design field offers,” Espinoza said in an email. “It was an opportunity to interact with people in the profession, get guidance from a mentor, and appreciate the importance of working as a team.”

Toni Guagenti, tguagenti@cox.net

By Toni Guagenti
The Virginian-Pilot
October 22, 2011