Interior Design Foundation Finds A New Home

June 20, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — For slightly more than three decades, the Foundation for Interior Design Education Research (FIDER) has had the inside track on the power of design.

Since 1970, the foundation has worked to improve the office environmentby setting industry standards and accrediting academic programs for the profession.

And now FIDER continues its work from its newly designed office on the 13th floor of the McKay Tower building, the organization’s international headquarters. Nearly 100 invited guests recently toured FIDER’s new home, designed by Progressive AE and filled with office furniture and work stations from Steelcase Inc.

Even though FIDER can be easily found downtown, its presence reaches across North America with 137 accredited programs on the continent. Of those, most are professional level and some have multiple degree options.

“These include 116 baccalaureate degrees, one masters degree and nine diplomas or certificates. Sixteen programs, mostly associate degrees, are accredited as pre-professional assistant level programs that phase out in 2003,” said Chairwoman Beth Harmon-Vaughn.

More than 20,000 students are enrolled in the accredited programs, and over 200 interior designers and educators volunteer to conduct research, develop educational standards and evaluate the academic programs for the organization. Erli Gronberg, of Kendall College of Art and Design, and Kathleen Stewart Ponitz, of Progressive AE, sit on the nine-member board of directors.

Founded in New York, FIDER relocated to Grand Rapids in 1988.

“Every interior designer across North America that I’ve talked to knows Grand Rapids, and that’s because there is so much furniture manufactured here,” said Kayem Dunn, FIDER executive director and a member of the Downtown Development Authority.

“I was pleased to discover that the city had a reputation for having a quality workforce. So when the board thought about where to move the organization, they thought about Grand Rapids,” she added.

Dunn has been directing FIDER since it moved here. But she said much of the work FIDER does is done outside of the local area.

“We work with interior design educational programs in colleges and universities throughout North America, and our volunteers come from all over.

“Our network, our community is all over,” said Dunn. “We do have a few volunteers from Grand Rapids, and Kendall College of Art and Design has a FIDER-accredited interior design program.”

Until last month, FIDER had its office in the People’s Building. But Dunn said that site had more space than was needed, which prompted the shift to McKay Tower.

The organization’s new 1,725-square-foot location serves as a model for aesthetic and efficient contemporary office design, bathed in a warm orange shade that is contrasted by an olive tone.

A bamboo floor welcomes visitors in the entryway, while the office features 11-foot-high ceilings, plenty of glass and a view of downtown that is hard to surpass.

A design charette was used to map out the office space. Members of the Progressive AE interior team met with the FIDER staff and board members to create open workstations, a project workroom, a records library and a combination kitchen and café.

“The time we spent in the charette was very positive and helped to solidify thoughts that had been circulating with certain team members for some time,” said Rick VanGelderen, director of interior architecture for Progressive AE, in the FIDER newsletter.

Joining VanGelderen from Progressive on the charette were Rebecca Ballema, Denise Hopkins and Philip Lundwall.

Tom Adamczak was the project’s general contractor.

“We wanted to work more efficiently. We wanted to work differently. When we began to look around for a design team, we connected with Progressive,” said Dunn.

The final drawing kept the workstations free of either partitions or walls, and effectively changed the way the organization works by automatically encouraging more personal communication among staffers.

“We’re very small-staffed, three or four full-time people. We needed to exchange information more easily. We needed to have casual interactions happen more easily. And when we were segregated in these offices set apart from one another, it was way too easy for us to each go into our own little work space and never talk to anybody else,” said Dunn.

Besides being happy with the new office, Dunn is also pleased that interior design is playing a larger role in the physical layout of businesses. More executives are realizing that improving the ‘invironment’ has the power to affect a company’s environment and its bottom line.

“I think companies and all kinds of organizations are learning the power of design,” she said, “and the difference it can make if your space is designed for your purpose and to meet your goals.”

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