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Designing a future

CMU interior design and art history student creates her own niche


​Central Michigan University junior Katherine Ehninger returned to her suburban Chicago roots for this year's Interi​or Design Senior Exhibition. From Glendale Heights, Illinois, Ehninger was one of 13 senior interior design students who displayed projects ranging from popular clothing brand store interiors to experiential environments for the exhibition.

One of her closest friends – and avid hockey fan – was her inspiration for the residential studio apartment she designed. Ehninger chose a color palette that complemented the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team, featuring bold reds, yellows and black, and a custom entertainment system display she designed for watching games.

"It was great to design for someone I know so well," she said. "I knew there would need to be gathering spaces for family and friends and, of course, a great kitchen space."

Jeanneane Wood-Nartker, interior design professor and program director, believes the exhibition is a fitting capstone that highlights the outstanding work senior students put into the program.

"It is amazing to see how the students have grown in their skills and in their confidence," Wood-Nartker said. "I am always so humbly proud to watch them answer questions during the reception and to see how their skills will help them in achieving both career and personal goals."​

Ehninger was looking for a challenging school in the Midwest out of her comfort zone when she discovered CMU. She was drawn to a pairing of interior design in addition to a brand new CMU major offering: art history.

"It was really interesting for me to see these passionate professors looking at art in a whole new way," she said. "Art is tied to culture, economics and politics, and the intersection of that with interior design was just fascinating to me."

Ehninger hopes to take her flair for residential design into her next chapter, as she returns to the Windy City for an intensive summer internship at Fredman Design Group. According to Wood-Nartker, CMU's interior design students acquire an immense depth of skills throughout the program to help prepare them for a required 10-week internship experience.

"Students often cite the feeling of family between faculty members and their student cohort. They really spread their wings when they know that we as faculty care about their interests both in and out of the classroom," she said. "I think knowing that we want them to succeed provides a scaffold effect for them in reaching up to achieve their dreams."


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