Design students fly to France to study fabric


Courtesy of Jean Kim

While visiting France for the annual Maison et Objet Paris and Paris Deco Off — interior design’s equivalent of Fashion Week — ISU students were able to visit the Eiffel Tower.

Jonathan North

Earlier this year, eight students from the College of Design spent five days in Paris as part of a two-credit study abroad course taught by Lee Cagley, professor and chair of Iowa State’s interior design department.

Interior design majors Hannah Bixby, Haylie Jones, Sihui Ren, Astaire Pool Kean, Maggie Gehrls, Kristin Hatting and Cynthia Kelly travelled to learn about the business of fabric and study design history.

“Seeing the fabric manufacturers and the commitment they have to their products showed us why we should use high quality products and what establishes differences between qualities of fabrics,” Gehrls said. “We also spent a lot of time before and during our Paris trip studying design history and how it has affected the culture today.”

While most of the students were majors in interior design, Jean Kim came to the trip looking for something a bit different, as she is a graduate student in industrial design.

“It was actually [an] interior design workshop, but I just happened to know interior design students, and I overheard them going to Paris, and I got really sick and tired of writing my thesis, so I wanted to do something fun.”

Though she went with the intent of having fun, the trip taught her a lot about the field, as well.

“I learned a lot about the world of fabrics, because I had never dealt with fabrics before, and coming from vehicle design, [an] automotive-related field, we usually deal with metals and plastics, so it was a new world.”

While in France, the students visited a wide variety of artistic events and cultural landmarks.

“We went to Versailles, different trade shows and museums, we walked around a lot and didn’t get enough sleep, but that’s part of the trip,” Kim said.

As the trip was for educational purposes, the students could not spend all their time as tourists. They each had to complete a project in order to pass the course.

“I choose to redo a luxury home I had done my sophomore year,” Gehrls said. “I redid my hypothetical client’s formal living room. Other students did their mother’s house, their personal apartment, a hotel lobby, an assisted living facility community room and the interior of a Rolls-Royce.”

As Kim was from industrial design, it seems only natural that the Rolls-Royce project was hers. Her background in industrial design led her to a completely different take on the project than the ones designed by the interior design students and gave her a different perspective coming away from it.

“Interior design was something I had never even wanted to learn before,” Kim said. “It was pretty interesting in learning about the history, different materials and being with people who are completely opposite of my design field.”

The students learned a lot about creativity from the trip and expressed how much it inspired them.

“You never know when you will get your inspirations,” Kim said. “I think the more you know, the more creative you can be.”