Marymount Student Honored in Interior Design Competition

A Marymount University interior design student was honored in an international competition for her work on rethinking the use of classroom space.

“The idea was to do something unconventional,” said Heather Furman, a senior from Gaithersburg, Maryland, who incorporated four cubed rooms with angled beams and furniture designed for active seating, along with a variety of media, from white boards to digital technology.

For her efforts, she was named one of five semifinalists out of 800 participants in the NEXT Student Design Competition hosted by Steelcase, a commercial furniture manufacturer. Furman and the other semifinalists received an all-expense-paid trip to the company’s headquarters in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where they spent two days at Steelcase University and presented their projects to a panel of industry experts.

The students had dinner at the Frank Lloyd Wright Meyer May home, spent time with the company’s research and design teams, and met with executives over lunch. They also received one of Steelcase’s “think chairs,” which have won awards for their cutting-edge design.    

The other semifinalists came from Southern Illinois University, the University of Manitoba, Virginia Tech and Kansas State University.

“It was inspiring to see projects and ideas that were so different,” Furman said. “We were able to learn more about education and facilities and the way space can impact the way you mentally and physically feel.”

She noted that a change in a person’s posture while working can affect their mental state and leave them feeling fresh at the end of the day instead of worn out and drained.

Moira Denson, assistant professor of interior design, praised Furman’s work ethic.

“She goes above and beyond and spends the time needed to solve problems,” Denson said. “She did a lot of original research and put a new twist on rethinking education design.”

Furman was impressed by Steelcase’s commitment to research.

“As I learned more about studies they have done, saw prototypes for new products and observed spaces where they use and research their designs, it inspired me to want to explore in a deeper way how my own designs can improve someone else’s well-being within a given space,” she said.

This semester, Furman will be interning at HVS Design, a hospitality-based interior design firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. In the future she hopes to design hotels and restaurants.

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Heather Furman, a Marymount senior from Gaithersburg, Maryland, was one of five semifinalists out of 800 participants in the NEXT Student Design Competition hosted by Steelcase.