The Randall Campus Center has been renovated to offer students a more comfortable and modern space. Upstairs, Bennett Lounge now offers cozy overstuffed leather chairs and conversation corners. The former lower level game room has been transformed into "Emma's" – a wonderfully contemporary place to hang out between classes. The visionary behind both is interior designer Winnie King, wife of president David King, and owner of Environments H.C., a company that specializes in creating amazing and original environments
"Our students asked for more student space that would support their needs better. They wanted better study areas when the library closed and casual hangout space. There was a real need to update the two areas in the barn that we were renovating (upstairs and downstairs)," said Mrs. King. "I wanted to give them something that was hip, contemporary and fun to be in. They were my clients and I wanted to give them even more than they could imagine. My hope is that the space will inspire them to enjoy each other, dream big seemingly impossible dreams, and enhance the creativity in their studies."
The name itself - "Emma's" - is an homage to Malone University co-founder Emma Malone, a visionary in her own rite, who actualized her dreams through the education of young people, inspiring them to make the world a better place. The historical building which once served as a working barn for the Stark County Home, was already equipped with rustic wooden beams, exposed brick, and tile floors.
King described the new atmosphere as having a "very cozy grotto feel to it. It had an amazing amount of natural beauty."
A second goal was to design a coffee bar "space for our students that would be cool anywhere!" King said, "It's the tension between the iconic barn and contemporary pieces that helps create interesting space. We were so blessed to have such a beautiful room to work with."
Furniture selection in itself proved to be a lesson in stewardship. Both president and Mrs. King wanted to raise the consciousness of being stewards of our environment by choosing elements that support that goal.
"As a designer, it is always the relationship between form and function that sets the table. Our furniture needed to be durable, comfortable, and also the right look so as not to compromise style. We used furniture that was made from recycled barn wood for our larger study tables," said Mrs. King. "An amazing furniture company, Emeco, was used for a lot of our furniture. Their Broom chair is made of 90% industrial waste: the trash that you would sweep up at the end of the day in a factory. Another one of their chairs that we used is made out of recycled Coke bottles. Their aluminum chairs are all recycled material. Their beautiful design adds so much to our rooms."
The "Coke bottle" chair is the result of two companies -- Coca-Cola and Emeco -- collaborating to solve an environmental problem: Up-cycling consumer waste into a sustainable, timeless, classic chair. Made of 111 recycled PET bottles, the 111 Navy Chair is a story of innovation.
Furniture arrangement plays an important role as well.
"As I developed the layout for the rooms, I wanted to have spaces that could function for different needs," King said. "Tables and chairs, while strategically placed, can be moved to accommodate larger or smaller groups of students. The color palette allows for a wide variety of movement."
King has achieved a perfect venue for poetry readings, coffee house-style concerts, and just hanging out. The primary purpose for the project has been for student enjoyment and to enhance the student experience. So the Kings gathered helpful information from students through several surveys, the result of which allowed them to customize activities students will find there, including board games and card games per their request.
Wall decorations have received a great deal of thought and attention as well.
"One thing that always inspires me in all areas of my life is art," Mrs. King said. "Having our students enjoy the gift of some interesting pieces of art was a big priority."
Upstairs, in Bennett Lounge, are found two pieces by artist Marty Campolo - "through others we become ourselves" and "even when I don't recognize you" - that add greatly to the conversation. Artist Ramona Candy's "In the language of Angels," - a photo etching and chine-colle' - and artist Kathleen Hayek's "Revelation," - an etching and chine-colle' - flank wood artisan Ron Morgan's wood sculpture.
Downstairs, in Emma's, are etchings by artist Mark Milroy and photographs by artist Jennifer Reeves.
Plans are underway to schedule an artist reception and discussion with Marty Campolo.