Exterior of Nancy Nicholas Hall in the evening, with lamps and windows glowing.
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Student Blog: My Summer Interior Architecture Internship

A great experience that included working on campus building design

Lisa Johnson, a junior majoring in Interior Design, completed a summer internship at the Madison-based design firm KEE Architecture. Lisa worked on multiple projects, including one that involved remodeling a UW-Madison sorority house. Internships are valuable experiences that allow students to practice their applied-learning skills in the real world. Thank you for sharing your experience, Lisa!

As a college student, the future is full of mystery, excitement, and fear. I find myself daydreaming in my classes about all the possibilities that my future may one day hold. Now that I am a junior in college, that “future” is approaching rapidly! But how do I get from here to there?

An internship is the answer! After finishing up my sophomore year here at UW-Madison, I thought that this was a great time to put my skills to the test. Through networking, I was able to land a full time internship with KEE Architecture for the summer. It is a small firm that is led by three principles, two architects, and one interior designer. They have been established within and around the Madison area for over twenty years and have completed projects around the UW-Madison campus, such as Carson Gulley’s and the Porter Boat House.

KEE Architecture
I loved the look of the KEE Architecture conference room.

What did I do all summer?

There is no such thing as a typical day in the office! I am the only interior design intern and work with two other designers, so we each take on a lot of responsibility. Usually in the morning I start the day off in the materials library sorting and organizing samples that we pulled but need to be put back. Then by about 9:00am when everyone is mostly here, the two other designers and I try to sit down about once a week to organize the tasks and priorities for the week. I really like doing this because it puts all of us on the same page and keeps us focused. That is about as much normalcy as it gets. From there, every day or week is different and is usually driven by a certain project.

One of the projects we are currently working on is for a sorority house. They are remodeling their chapter house and is getting close to done for the new school year. I have gotten to help with this project quite a bit! One of my major tasks was to create a presentation of all the items we still needed to select. So I started out by familiarizing myself with the architecture of the house and looking at the already purchased items to get a good sense of the style. The items that were missing ranged from mirrors, lamps, and picture frames. Some of these items would be focal points and other pieces were meant to blend in.

Once I became familiarized with the essence of the house, I started looking for pieces that I thought would work. Some items I was able to find online while for others I drove to the frame store to pick custom selections. From there, I then studied the dimensions and proportions by outlining them in AutoCAD to make sure the items fit properly. Once approving the proportions with the purchased items, I then put them into a floor plan, in which some rooms could have a couple different options. So I mocked up a few different plans in AutoCAD for the client to select one.

Finally, we sat down with the client and presented our ideas. I was able to take all the information and put it together into a cohesive packet using InDesign. The meeting went very well and we accomplished our goal! After the meeting, I contacted the representatives and put together purchase order forms for all the items. About a few weeks later the items started arriving, which was very exciting to see the end result after putting in long hours for that presentation.

My own project

After finishing up that task, I got the opportunity to take on my own project! This was very exciting for me because I never thought that I would be able to take on one as an intern! The project is a small bathroom remodel that desperately needs to be updated. There are many code issues that need to be addressed due to the houses age. This was a nice challenge that I was looking forward to, trying to use every inch as wisely as possible!

To start this project, it took me about a day to set up a Revit file and model the existing bathroom from the client’s dimensions. The company has standards for setting up construction documents so it was interesting to learn about how they are organized. I also had never worked with the multiple layouts tool before, which is a really cool feature that will definitely come in handy for future projects.

After getting the file set up, my boss and I sketched out a few different layouts for the bathroom and then I took those drawings and drew them into Revit. Once we had a plan, I began to draw up elevations for each plan. There were three plans overall and each one needed four elevations to cover the whole room, so if you do the math that is 12 total. This was the most time consuming part, luckily I really enjoy seeing that transformation from a 2D plan to starting to think more 3D. I spent around two to three days getting every detail right and making sure that the dimensions were what we wanted.

The construction documents were one of a couple different items we needed for our client meeting. We also needed a plumbing schedule, finishes symbol, and some samples for the client to touch and feel. We decided to go very clean and simple with the fixtures using companies like Kohler and Grohe because they are quality products that will perform well. As for the finishes we kept them very clean and simple, going with a mosaic tile on the floor that will continue barrier free into the shower. This is a nice feature that will also make the space feel bigger because the glass shower will not seem so dominant in the room. The cabinets will be an off white color with a nice slab of granite that will look very nice with the sleek sconces. It was an interesting challenge to find pieces that stayed true with the history of the house yet updating the fixtures to a more contemporary fresh feel.

At the client meeting, they loved both the plans and selections! I was very proud of my first real project and thrilled with the results! I even got to lead part of the meeting! This was just the beginning phase and there is a lot more work to be done over the next month or two. This was the highlight of my internship experience and I really appreciated the opportunity I was given.

I think most college students share that same fear of how to get from here to there. How do I go from being a student to a working professional? My internship this summer eased my fears and gave me great insight on the industry. I am confident now that my experience with KEE will make the transition smoother after graduation. I could not have envisioned a better way to start off my career!