May 31, 2012

Interior design graduate wins national award

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A recent graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s interior design program earned national recognition for his work.

Rick J. Stewart of Carbondale earned first place in the annual Sherwin-Williams STIR Student Design Contest.  Stewart receives $2,500 with the award, and Sherwin-Williams’ magazine, “STIR,” will feature his work in an upcoming issue.

Stewart, the son of Alfred and Erica McGowan of Carbondale, is a 2001 graduate of Carbondale Community High School.  He earned his bachelor’s degree in interior design earlier this month at SIU Carbondale.

His design, “Space,” is an art gallery loft for a hypothetical client; a young couple who open an art gallery in Seattle and live in the loft above the gallery.  “They are a young and vibrant couple and need personality in their space,” Stewart said.  “I would like this.  I think this is somewhere I could live.”    

Stewart’s computer-generated renderings utilize several software programs to create the realistic-looking views of the space.  The software programs are an asset helping clients accurately visualize a space before it is built, Stewart said.

“The quality education that I received in the interior design program at SIU, with its professors who encouraged growth and exploration, allowed me to use concepts learned and translate that into my own personal design aesthetic, he said.

“This is a personal milestone for me,” Stewart said.  “I always wanted to enter a national competition … and to be awarded this honor, as a student makes your work feel validated.  As students we work very hard, and to be recognized on a national level makes you feel like you are going in the right direction.”

Stewart said that winning the contest is exciting, and the recognition that comes with it is important as it enhances a portfolio he can show to potential employers. 

The contest recognizes excellence in student-generated residential and commercial design, according to a company news release.  Students were able to submit entries in the commercial or residential design category and required to use a minimum of three Sherwin-Williams colors.

Melinda LaGarce, associate professor and interior design program director, said Stewart’s work shows excellent ability.  Stewart was also president of the student chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers, and is a leader among his peers, LaGarce said.

“I like the use of his color,” she said.  “They are right on target and very appropriate for today and tomorrow.  I really Rick’s use of art; he’s learned the value of selecting fine art for a space to reflect the personalities of clients.”

The interior design program at SIU Carbondale is the oldest accredited program in the state and one of the oldest in the nation.  The program is within the School of Architecture in the College of Applied Sciences and Arts.  Graduates go on to be leaders in top interior design and architecture firms in the world, and, Stewart said, “It’s amazing to me that the program is right here in my own backyard.”

Stewart said he has always been interested in design, in general, and has had a fascination with buildings for as long as he can remember.  He attended the popular Kid Architecture camps of Jon D. Davey, architecture professor and distinguished faculty member, for several years beginning in sixth grade, and has been a camp volunteer and counselor.

Stewart said he would also like to pursue a master’s degree in architecture so he can have a “holistic design approach.”

Jackie Jordan, Sherwin-Williams director of color marketing, chose the top three entries in each category, according to the release. 

“Stewart's modern design stood out with its great use of color and a well-designed space -- it was an impressive submission,” said Jordan.  “He demonstrated a strong ability to make the most of the living area that reflected the personality of the couple residing in the loft.”