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4 HCC students create children's wonderland room Interior design effort a show house project


Glamorous you might call it, this child's playroom tucked under the eaves in a grand old house, full of wonderful toys.

The room's perky candy-apple red trim and painted floor, complete with a board game, makes it a dream for children.

What the casual viewer doesn't know is it took more than 200 hours for four Harford Community College interior design students to create this wonderland room, called "Happy Hands Hideaway," in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's decorator show house.

The show house opened April 26 and closes May 24.

"The room was not in real good shape to begin with, and we had to spend lots of time spackling, sanding, stripping wall paper and painting," recalls Valerie Millard, a member of the design team.

This is the eighth year that students from Harford Community College have participated in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's decorator show house. The show house is one of the main annual fund-raising events for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Harford Community College is the only college represented at the show house, the former Lamb estate in Baltimore City's Cedarcroft neighborhood, this year.

Millard said she and the other students -- Ann Famous, Linda Miller and Tere Okeksik -- had a very limited budget, only about $1,000, to decorate their room. That meant they had to do almost all of the work themselves, including the six coats of candy-apple red paint it took to cover the woodwork.

Most of the budget came from the college, with some funds coming from a on-campus club, the Future Interior Designs Organization. Millard said the students still had to spend some of their own money to get the project finished.

Established designers typically have more money to spend and can hire workers to do a lot of the basic preparation, such as painting. The designers then get to concentrate on the actual decorating.

The four students, all in the last semester of the interior design program, were selected from those signed up for the college's residential design course, said Margaret Wylie, assistant professor of interior design at the college.

There are about 100 students now enrolled in the two-year associate of arts program, many of them part time, Wylie said.

The students had to submit ideas to show house organizers, competing against other area interior design teams.

Competition is keen, said Pat Ruggieri, BSO show house chairwoman.

She said about 70 interior decorating teams competed for 28 spaces needing work.

Ruggieri said she liked the student's proposal to create a children's playroom, because the students wanted to create "a real room for real children."

Millard said decorating the children's playroom gave the students a chance to prove their problem-solving ability.

The students decided to play up the room's irregular shape; it is more than 7 feet tall at its highest point and slopes sharply to about 2 feet. The design team tucked children's toys, including a "dress-up trunk," along a wall.

The design students couldn't afford to put down carpeting or a rug over the wooden floor so they painted it white for panache.

Game boards, including a checker board and a brightly colored rug design, were painted on the floor.

Millard said she started work on Harford Community College's interior design program about 2 1/2 years ago when she decided to re-enter the job market.

Millard, who at 39 describes herself as an "older" student, said she started thinking about going back to school several years ago. Interior design was one of the few careers she could pursue successfully while working part time.

"I thought it would be great if I could make some money doing what I do best, which is decorating," she said.

Millard, a Baltimore County resident, chose Harford Community College's program because it was a two-year program and affordable.

She said taking the courses showed her she did not want to work for a design firm but rather start her own business, now called Valerie Designs.

She has already received her first client, searching out furnishings for an attorney who doesn't like to shop.

The show house is open through May 24. Hours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The show house is also open on Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.

Tickets are $8 if purchased through the college; call (410) 836-4436. A dollar from each ticket goes to the Future Interior Designs Organization at the college, which provides some funds for the student's projects.

Tickets purchased at the door are $9. For general information, call the show house at (410) 532-7002.

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