KSU students win designer challenge award from major home builder

By Tomi Morris Johnson   tomij@wingcomltd.com
Digital photos by Tomi & Kurk D. Johnson

©2004 WingcomLtd. All Rights Reserved.

August 7, 2004…Thinking outside the box helped students and alumni of Kennesaw State University win the first place award in a two-way competition to decorate model homes. Using global design themes, pieces of silk and pebbles for inspiration, the challenge was made by subdivision developer Larry Thompson and Shawn McLeod, builder of Ebenezer Farms in Marietta, Ga.


Feng shui’s sense of tranquility was used in master bath, family room featuring Japanese sand garden, and guest bedroom.

KSU’s Matthew Craven said the challenge was creating something special using a basic house and a slate of wild colors. “We had a $20,000 budget, and since one of our crew members is a landscape designer, we allotted some of our money to do the backyard water feature which made our house a little more challenging because we had less money to work with inside,” said Craven who chose the ceiling map in the study as his favorite project.

The theme “World Travelers” was depicted on the ceiling in House #1. KSU students and faculty first hear about winning award.

Ceilings and walls were special design features in foyers, dining rooms, and art/craft spaces in both houses.

“In the initial discussions on what the theme was going to be, we decided it was based on a well-educated family with two children who liked nature, traveled extensively, and collected art,” said alumni Shane McDonald whose favorite room was the home theatre. “I just want to go and take a nap right now,” McDonald said after spending several sleepless nights working on the model. He received a $50 gift card from Home Depot along with a lot of exposure.



KSU alumni Shane McDonald won award and deserved rest for his work.



Son of the builder, Ian McLeod, was caught peeping through the wrought iron office doors in Model Home #2.  “I like anything,” he said when asked about his favorite room.  Each house featured a boys and girls room.

Dr. Linda A. Hightower, Chair of the Visual Arts Department, College of the Arts, Kennesaw State University, was teaching a two-dimensional, entry-level class in Foundations when she coordinated the designer challenge idea with Home Traditions designer Amy Rowe.

“It has meant a tremendous amount of time for full-time students who also work part-time.  The last two weeks, they spent 24 hours a day on this house.  I think they did extremely well. The pacing of 12 students who had never worked together was important, and they became a team very supportive of each other’s needs. Everyone would scatter to find little objects for one another.

“We wanted to show people the impact of what an artist can do to a home that is actually different from an interior designer because artists are not inundated with trends; they actually set trends,” Hightower said.  “We used a lot of computers to develop the sketches, play with colors, and scan images. The computer, which doesn’t make art, was another pencil in their toolbox.” 

Hightower worked along with Professor Charlotte Collins to mentor students. “We turned the students loose with their vision, and with them being undergraduates, we guided them with shaping their own ideas. These are their ideas,” Hightower said.

“This has truly been an experience for me,” said Shawn McLeod who was teary-eyed during award announcement. The houses were judged on creative design, use of surprise elements, and powder rooms.


House #1

House #2


Best Team Player Harold Penland

“After all this work, when I design my own home, it will probably just be filled with books!” said design student Tiffany Spann (standing) who posed in model office with sister Danielle.

Creativity Award Winner Cindy Eassey

Larry Thompson, owner of Thompson Real Estate which has developed over 10,000 lots and houses since 1969, said designer challenges help sell homes. He labeled the winning creations ingenious.  “This struck me as being the missing ingredient in housing right now. What they’ve done on such limited budgets is so creative. It turned out to be just dynamite! What people see is what they buy, and if the interior design is interesting and homey, they will buy the house,” Thompson concluded.

Home prices in this subdivision start in the high $400’s, which does not include $135,000 lot cost or interior designs. The two models are open Monday thru Saturday from 10:00am – 6:00 pm.

Designer Challenge judges included Karen Kennedy, KSU; Andrea Yeaman, Marietta Daily Journal;  Jessica Radar, Communities Magazine; Helen Cauley, AJC Homefinder; Tim Prevatt, Mary Barton Productions; Shannon Bentley, West Georgia Board of Realtor; Kristen Holloway, Design Environments, Inc.; Edith Brown and Dee Speckhals.  

The information in this article is the opinion of the author and, therefore, should not be construed as libelous.

©2004 WingcomLtd. All Rights Reserved.