West Deptford students work on building project with designer

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Student Elizabeth Pass (left) talks with teacher Lauren Newman in a room she designed.

West Deptford High School student Elizabeth Pass says she never realized how complicated it was to select the appropriate paint color for a room.

"It is a lot harder than I thought," said Pass, an aspiring engineer who is interested in design, and who likes to "know how things work and how they're put together."

Pass and fellow student Aja Andrews, members of the Gloucester County school's Distributive Education Club of America chapter, helped design the interior of a model home at D.R. Horton's the Fields at West Deptford single-family community, at Parkville Station and West Jessup Road.

Their work was overseen by the club's adviser, Lauren Newman, a business-education teacher at the high school.

Pass, a co-president of the club, said the project was brought up at an officers meeting in the fall and got a positive response.

The students worked with Cathie Daley, principal of Design East Inc. of Medford, and with D.R. Horton's design team to come up with fabric, paint and color schemes for each of three bedrooms in the model home.

Newman said the builder "reached out to the high school because it thought the project would be a good fit for our club," which prepares students for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management.

And for the project, "Liz and Aja were a good fit, because Liz is interested in design and Aja in graphic arts," she said.

The goal of the co-curricular organization is "make students leaders and expose them to careers," Newman said. The opportunity to participate in marketing a new-home community through design of its model home was a good one, she thought.

Using students from the community to design rooms for their age groups is a first for D.R. Horton, but builder spokeswoman Randy Kershner said that based on the West Deptford experience, it is now planning to do a similar project elsewhere.

The effort began in December and ended in February, Newman said. The time was filled with a lot of meetings "to determine what would be the best approach to design," she said.

Daley said the goal of the process was "to analyze the plan, pick the features, and target the price-point buyer."

Prices at the Fields at West Deptford start in the upper $200,000s for houses of 2,079 to 2,747 square feet with three to four bedrooms and 21/2 baths, Kershner said.

Daley met with the students and Newman at the high school, armed with sample fabrics and paint colors. Everything had to be chosen before the model was constructed, Newman said.

"The model is still a vanilla box until we make our selections, from paint to furnishings to cabinets," said Daley, who acknowledged that in 25 years working as a designer for builders, "I'd never worked with students at a high school."

"I asked them what they would like in their own homes - they were helping to design bedrooms for younger family members - and helped guide them on making those choices," Daley said.

"There are a lot of things to think about," Pass said, who chose the paint for a room she worked on based on fabric that Daley provided.

"She said not to do anything bold, to choose something that was peaceful and relaxing," Pass said. Her selection: "Teal," she said.

In the "princess" room, vibrant colors and patterns play off one another as patchwork stripes on the twin beds' comforters.

Andrews suggested a print fabric for the headboards in that room, which Daley accepted, Pass said.

A boy's bedroom is done in more muted shades and features the logo of the West Deptford Eagles.

In May, the students and Newman returned to the completed model for a presentation by the builder and the installation of a plaque acknowledging their contributions.

"It was a great experience," Pass said.

 


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