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Five interior design students smiling while sitting at a table in a room they designed.

Designing Women

Five Interior Design Students Use Their Talent to Help Others

By Emily Parker

Designing Women

Five Interior Design Students Use Their Talent to Help Others

By Emily Parker

At the opening night of the Green Chair Project “Chairity” event in September 2023, five interior design students were surrounded by a beautiful space they designed. They saw exquisitely designed vignettes and had the opportunity to network with donors and other designers. Most importantly, these students knew they were helping support families in need in Wake County.

The items in all of the vignettes would be sold during a three-day event where ticketed admirers of beautiful design would “ohh and ahh” over gorgeous and creative interior designed rooms. The proceeds from the Chairity event go straight to the mission of Green Chair, to provide beds or cribs to over 6,000 children who do not have one as well as furnishings and everyday items for the home. 

Amber Dobbins, ʼ25, Rachel Kimble, ʼ23, Kendal Kwasnick, ʼ23, Cecilia Rivera, ʼ24, and Mary Grace Teachey, ʼ24, worked collaboratively on the vignette they designed. Southern Studio Interior Design sponsored their space and is owned by Vicky Serany, a Green Chair Board member who attended Meredith College. Teachey interned with Serany and learned about the event from her. There was an application process for Serany to pick the students to work on the project. When the five students were informed they were chosen, they did not know each other well and had very little time before the spring 2023 semester ended to start brainstorming and working on the space.

“The students were impressive! They were dedicated to thoughtful design, collaborative as a team, and efficient with project management – all key elements to a successful project,” said Serany. “We invited the students into our studio to work alongside our senior designers. It was an incredibly rewarding experience for our team, and we couldn’t be more proud of their work. Their energy was contagious!”

A Year Can Make a Big Difference

A year earlier, Kimble and Kwasnick were co-presidents of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) Club, and their vice president interned with Lori Moscato, ʼ99, who had participated in Chairity several times. Moscato spread the word to the club about Green Chair and their mission. ASID members had the opportunity to tour their building, curate the vignettes for families in need to choose items from, and volunteer to have an end-of-the-year school drive to collect items from students. Each year, ASID Club collects items from students moving out of residence halls and apartments to donate to Green Chair. 

“It has been a joy working with the Meredith design students this year and seeing their creativity and different styles of design. It was uplifting to see the enjoyment they got from giving back to their community and from this, the idea of having them participate in Chairity was born,” said Green Chair Manager of Chairity Margot Huffines, ’81. “With the sponsorship from Southern Studio Interior, these students curated a space that was a nod to the Meredith traditions Tea for Two and Alice in Wonderland with an overall theme of mentorship. Seeing their creativity and different styles of design shared with our sponsors and shoppers was wonderful.”

A small wallpapered room with yellow curtains, wall decorations, a cake cart in the back and a four chair table with a plate layout on it.

Designing the Space

One of the first things the five students did after learning they were selected to work on the vignette was go to Green Chair to look at their space. They wanted to get a feel for where it was located among all the other vignettes. 

“We really were given the creative freedom to pick what we wanted in the room, including the theme,” said Kimble.

At Southern Studio they worked quickly for two days to decide on the theme, finishes, and the items they might need.

“Cecilia threw out there, ‘we are Meredith students, let’s make this about Meredith.’ So our theme was mentorship and we did a tea room because it was a nod to the tradition Tea for Two. But we also wanted it to be kind of whimsical, which is why our design finishes are based on Alice,” said Kwasnick.

Once the theme was decided, the students had to get their order of what they needed for the space to Green Chair as quickly as possible because it was almost the end of the spring semester and they would all be in different locations for the summer. The sponsors of Green Chair provide the Chairity designers items to choose from for their spaces along with second-hand items that Green Chair had in stock from generous donors. 

Close-ups of two swan tea holders, tea plates, and a small cart with desserts.

“There were items from so many places. We could pick our fabrics, our pillows, carpet, and accessories,” and Rivera. “Some of this was done online and some decisions were made at the showroom of the vendor.”

“For example, we went to Spoonflower’s website and picked out our wallpaper, but went to the showroom of the company that supplied the carpet,” said Teachey.

During the summer the students collaborated via an email chain. Tasks were split and when they had to make decisions about what was going in the space, they would email options and pick one they liked, one that fit the space the best. The students said they were on the same page about the choices and worked well together. They had the opportunity to collaborate with Southern Studio on many things including the curtains, for which they picked the fabric and design. Green Chair also allowed each team to pick out an item they wanted to lacquer, so the students decided on a chair from Green Chair’s inventory.

“We were amazed by all the individuals, professionals, and companies we were able to collaborate with to create this inviting space,” said Teachey.

Communication throughout the summer was key in designing the space.

“We started this project at the very end of the school year, so now everyone has summer jobs but you have to get the work done. You can only push it off for so long because the companies are the donors. They needed to know what we wanted. And then sometimes they would email us to let us know something was out of stock,” said Dobbins. “So we had to be quick to think and communicate with each other and have a little group chat. I think communicating that way amongst ourselves first and then with Vicky and everyone else was a very smart solution so if we did have disagreements, which we honestly really didn’t, but if we did, it would be between us and not through an email chain of a group of people.”

All the students agreed having the chance to work on this project mimicked what it would be like in the real world when they land full-time employment. Kimble and Kwasnick, both Wings students, graduated in December 2023 and have interior design jobs in Raleigh with companies where they interned.  

“We learned a lot more about project management, working in a professional environment, and appreciating different ideas and perspectives from your team,” said Teachey. “It was eye-opening to create things I wouldn’t have thought to do, but someone else brought an idea to the table and we were able to collaborate and get excited about others’ ideas.”

Learning from one another and seeing their vision come to life was rewarding, and they were excited for each other by the end of the process.

“The interior design program at Meredith helped me launch my business and career,” said Serany. “I hope that our sponsorship of the students helped foster a sense of community and philanthropy. Real-life experiences can be so beneficial, and I hope that when the students have established their own careers, they continue to nurture the next generation of designers.”

Southern Studio Interior Design let the students pave their way with this project by gently helping when they needed it and listening and waiting for the students to ask for help.

“They let us think it out if we were struggling. For example, with what the tablescape would look like, they just stood back and let us think it through. They weren’t trying to make it theirs,” said Kimble.

“It was cool because they are design professionals and our whole theme was mentorship. So it felt like it all came full circle,” said Kwasnick.

Closeups of the plate wall decor with birds on it, and a teacup on a plate.

All the Details

Seeing their drawings and decisions come to life when they returned to Meredith in August 2023 gave the students the real-life experience of what an interior design career would be like. In the classroom they are drawing, deciding on finishes, making a lot of decisions, but in most cases not putting the project together.

“We may have felt like we were going to give it to the builders, they’ll do it. This was like, oh, no, we’re going to nail this to the wall ourselves. We’re going to measure this out ourselves. We’re going to move this chair here and see if it looks good,” said Dobbins. “Of course, we were not building the walls to the room but we were hanging fixtures, so Cecilia was using a hand drill!” 

The students felt like everything about their vignette was intentional. Everything had a story or a reason why they picked it. They were on a treasure hunt to find accent pieces that spoke to them. They were pleased so many vendors supported the Chairity event, so there was no lack of pieces to choose from.

“In the end, I feel like we turned a classic take on a tea room into something youthful with a lot of fun little details like unicorn bookends and bright pink, twisted candlesticks. It was our own take on what a tea room could look like,” said Dobbins.

Kimble said no one stifled anyone’s ideas. “When Mary Grace wanted to put plates on the wall, we all got excited. We were happy for each other and wanted to see everyone’s vision come to life.” 

Even the art in the vignette was donated. Each group designing a space was paired with an artist. The students informed the artist of their mentorship theme and the painting was created. The students said every detail was planned and the opportunity to be so hands-on was tremendously rewarding.

Close up of the teapot, plates, cups, and candlesticks.

“Design isn’t always about working with an unlimited budget and they were able to successfully curate a space, using items from The Green Chair’s inventory, and their creativity, to make their space come alive. It gave them design experience as well as allowed them to network with established designers and hopefully will help them be successful,” said Huffines.

The students also recognized that the support from their Meredith professors and community had a big impact on their success.

“I think the support that we get from the school means we’re all so connected. It’s kind of like a small neighborhood. And I feel like that’s a really big thing, being able to get that support,” said Rivera. “That community we create, even though we don’t all know each other, we’re in the same school in the same sisterhood, it really makes going here special.”

A year earlier when Kimble volunteered for Green Chair and saw the Chairity event vignettes, she thought to herself that maybe one day she would get to design one.

“Once our vignette was complete, it was surreal to me. It was amazing that just one year later I was standing in the space our design group created,” said Kimble. “It just goes to show that Meredith gives you these opportunities, and if you put yourself out there, you don’t know what can happen.”

Most importantly, the students said the vignettes are a lot of glitz and glam, beautiful spaces for people to enjoy seeing, but at the end of the day, the money raised during Chairity provides for families in need. They are proud to be a part of that.

“What makes a home are the families. We had so much fun designing the space together and knowing we were putting our love into something that is going to help the community,” said Kimble.


To learn more about Green Chair and to view the Green Chair Chairity recap video visit

“I was thrilled to see Meredith’s involvement in Green Chair. It has always seemed like a natural fit between the two organizations because of our interior design program, our merchandising program, and Meredith’s love of creating meaningful service opportunities for its students. I wasn’t surprised to find there was already so much overlap, and Chairity highlighted that.

I think real-life experiences allow our students to test their crafts before they enter the market. I hope that our students learn from this experience what is necessary to be successful as an interior designer and that you can use your degree to serve others meaningfully. I want them to know that their degree will help them earn a living, but it can also be used to serve our community. When your passions collide with the world’s needs, I think we truly improve the lives of those around us.”

Astra Ball
Meredith College Director of Advancement Services and Green Chair Board Chair

“It is so rewarding working for a non-profit organization, and knowing every day that the work you do is helping others. No matter what happened, at the end of the day, more people have essential home furnishings and can have sweeter dreams tonight – and that makes everything worth it. I also love the close connection to Meredith, with Astra Ball, my previous boss, being our Board Chair, and working side by side with another fellow alumna, Margot Huffines. Raleigh is such a great city, and being able to give back to our neighbors in need, while being supported by fellow alums and staff, is such a great feeling. And, continuing it into the next generation, having an intern this summer be a student at Meredith (Claire Parker) was so neat to reminisce about my time at Meredith and see how they’re preparing the students of today to be in the world tomorrow.”

Jordan Godwin, ʼ15
Green Chair Marketing Manager

“Having Meredith involved in Chairity is important to me because giving back to a community that gives to you should be a core value, the networking opportunities for those young ladies are priceless, and this experience is something that cannot be taught in the classroom. After designing two spaces in the last two years for Chairity, I see the value of the experience. Supporting a local charity that is putting resources right back into the very community that we work in is key. The fact that they are in the business of creating homes is the cherry on top.” 

 Lori Moscato, ʼ99
Owner, Casual Elegance Designs

“I have served on The Green Chair Project board for over four years. I was drawn to the organization for several reasons. The first is how the organization provides beds for children in Wake County who unfortunately do not have a bed of their own. There is a direct correlation between children with beds and how the child performs in life and school. The second was the organization’s mission to provide furnishings and necessities for families in transitional housing when placed in permanent housing. Providing families with their furnishings offers them a sense of value and sustainability, which is inspirational to see. The third was how the organization collaborates and partners with other non-profit organizations to expand its reach to improve the lives of more children and families in our community.

I have witnessed first-hand the positive and profound emotional impact that Green Chair is making on needy families in our community by providing beds, furnishings, and other necessities.” 

Charles Royal
Meredith College Board of Trustee Chair, Green Chair Board, and Managing Director, Bank of America

Council for Interior Design Accreditation logo.

Meredith is the only school in the Raleigh area to hold the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) and was recently named the #31 top interior design program in the country by Intelligent. Learn more about Meredith’s interior design program

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