Today@Sam Article

Alumna Receives Ruby Award For Design Project

Dec. 13, 2023
SHSU Media Contact: Mikah Boyd

Maica-71.jpgItalia Maldonado graduated in May 2023 with a Bachelor of Arts in Interior Design. As part of her degree program she took a course on commercial interior design with Megan Funni, assistant professor of practice at Sam Houston State University. In this course, Funni has students conduct research on how to design medical offices for those with neurological differences.

“I worked in the architecture industry for 13 years and one of my clients was an autism clinic,” Funni said. “I had the students redo that project. They got to research about the neurodivergent community and design a clinic for autistic kids.”

Maldonado worked on the project during her senior semester at SHSU. She submitted her work on the clinic and a separate residential design for the consideration American Society of Interior Designers’ Ruby Awards, which recognizes interior design excellence. She has since graduated and started working at Victoria Sheffield Interior + Exterior Design, a design firm based in Houston.

“It was a complete surprise, I knew I submitted that project and a residential project as well, but I honestly didn’t think I was going to win,” Maldonado said. “I was the first one going up there, but it felt great. It felt like all this work that I’ve been doing came to a great end.”

A rendering of one of the gyms Malonado designed features a climbing wall, ball pit and walls painted in muted colors.Maldonado’s design relied heavily on the research she conducted on how colors, textures, light and other factors can affect people with autism. Since the clinic caters to people up to age 21, her design and the elements she selected had to appeal to a wide age range. The clinic has an Antarctica theme that Maldonado says she decided on after watching Netflix’s “Atypical.”

After choosing a theme, she carefully applied her plan to the layout provided, using two different floor tile colors to create paths to consultation rooms that resemble rivers cutting through ice. The walls feature mountain ranges in pastel colors to provide a colorful environment that is not overwhelming to the end users. She did not stop the considerations at the color palette. 

“I wanted to have some hierarchy in this design, so we have the open spaces, which is reception, and I also have the side over in the front,” Maldonado said. “These are the loudest of the clinic, so then we have the less public areas, which are the offices and the staff break room. And all the way at the end we have the consult areas, so they are the more quiet spaces.”

A rendering of a therapy room designed by Maldonado reveals how she selected furniture and other design elements that would appeal to clients' unique needs. Funni was pleased to see one of her students win the prestigious award and was even more pleased that her students dove deep into their research for the project. The project was near and dear to Funni, making her students’ dedication all the more impactful.

“I have a lot of interest in designing for neurodivergent people in general, so I wanted to see what would happen if I had them research a topic I was personally interested in and it went so well,” Funni said. “It was really incredible for me to watch them do all of that research and then talk me through the different environments they were finding, that was really exciting.”

To see more of Maldonado's design, follow this link.

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