A Place to Call Home: HPU Design Students Improve Women’s Shelter

 Pictured above starting from the left professor Cathy Nowicky, Lauren Yoder, Maureen Coleman and Dana Bentley.


The kitchen walls were painted a 1950’s mint green. The living room’s dusty maroon and gold colors didn’t help. Now these spaces resemble something from a magazine.

In November, three interior design students led by professor Cathy Nowicki gave Leslie’s House, an emergency shelter for women experiencing homelessness, a much needed face lift.

It was an experience that benefitted their community while providing skills they can take beyond HPU and into the real world.

The refinished living room of Leslie’s House looks warm and inviting since being updated by these three HPU students.

Dana Bentley, manager at Leslie’s House, contacted Cathy Nowicky just a month before the 10th anniversary of their opening. In honor of the anniversary, she wanted to host an open house to showcase Leslie’s House and how the space is improving women’s lives.

Nowicky knew which students to call: Lauren Yoder, president of the Interior Design & Merchandising Club; Maureen Coleman, president of the student chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers; and Emily Kendall, president of the International Interior Design Association HPU Campus Center.

These students saw a way to improve the space and set out to make it happen.

Together, they secured $400 in funding from IIDA Carolinas, which allowed them to purchase new paint and accessories for the kitchen and living room. In addition, Christy Bennett and Bentley Carpet Mills donated a new area rug for the main living room.

“The students made it just seamless. They were wonderful,” says Bentley, “The residents were thrilled when they saw the space.”

Emily Kendall, a junior at HPU with a major in interior design.

Although each had worked independently in the classroom, participating in the design process as a group posed a new challenge. According to Yoder, learning to communicate and compromise with group members was a valuable learning experience.

“We do a lot of projects and we do a lot of drawing and drafting, but we don’t get to see the space come to life,” says Yoder, “It was a good experience to be able to see the project from start to finish.”

The trio also got to see their designs being executed in the space – an opportunity that will set them apart when they graduate.

“Paying it forward, our design students are helping to make the lives of the women that Leslie’s House serves more beautiful,” says Nowicki.

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