Turn of the centuries design

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Mapping it out

In the second floor Linen Room, Anna Behrendt arranged books on a small desk. The palladium doorway's wall now featured a specially designed panelling of an 1850's map of Washington. “It's like wallpaper,” said Behrendt. Computer design is her forte — she crafted the panels using Illustrator and then PhotoShop — in collaboration with other students. The file size was nearly a gigabyte and the four panels they brought to Alexandria took 7 1/2 hours to print on campus — but the finished product was spectacular.

“I see myself doing a lot of graphic design,” she said, looking toward her career. The experience with this yearlong project has given each student practice in real-world soft skills. How to work well with people. How to negotiate things. “You always have to be flexible.”

A worker helps Anna Behrendt secure her “wallpaper” of 1850's Washington, DC. A worker helps Anna Behrendt secure her “wallpaper” of 1850s Washington, DC. The eye is drawn to the White House at the top left.

In the teenager's room — the students called her “Ellie” — the four-poster bed with canopy featured a nearby table with Elle and InStyle and metal bowls of cotton balls and cosmetics. A large abstract and edgy painting the artistic Ellie created (in reality painted by Jessica Gebauer for the project), hung on the plaster wall. PVC piping was used to roll the paint. Most of the time, it's called the Lafayette Room, where the French general once slept. Not today.

Nineteenth century meets 21st. That's the idea behind the project.

The students had had two full days — Monday and Tuesday — to put their design into place. Two UNCG students had arrived at the house at 6 a.m. Tuesday to ensure workers hung certain art works in exactly the right spots — no room for error. Others ran an errand to The D.C. Design Center — while others worked in the house.

The rooms, except the foyers, had been painted colors UNCG chose, in collaboration with Ashley Wilson of the National Trust.

When the blue runner carpet for the curving staircase was installed late Tuesday, the design work would be complete for UNCG's six rooms.

History and the future of design

Alyssa Hankus entered Ellie's Bedroom. “I love this house. I've always had a soft spot for old homes,”" she said.

Her focus is sustainable health care design.

What is that? For example, look at materials' finishes. Do they off-gas carcinogens? Think about the materials and the paints you use, she explained. Think about cabinetry, hospital beds, ceiling tiles, flooring — even the bags the nurses give you. Are they safe? It's ironic that health care settings could have things that could make people unwell. She wants to be a part of the solution.

As a girl, she loved history. Nursing appealed to her too, before she decided to pursue design. “I'm a cancer survivor,” she noted. She had Mesothelioma in her abdomen, due to asbestos. She has been in remission 11 years.

Through design, she can make a difference in many lives.

She is president of the student chapter of the International Interior Design Association. And she plans to work two years before starting her master's program.

The best thing about the All American House? “The real-world experience — to see it all from beginning to end — as you're about to graduate.” Oh, and working as a team, collaboratively. “That's how it's going to be.”

Downstairs, Frazier arranged plant stems in a vase from The Farmer's Wife. They nearly reached the mirrors. “Too tall?” she asked Leimenstoll. They both pondered a moment.

“Maybe, but it's close,” was the reply. Frazier held up two fingers to show how much she planned to trim.

Small details can make the difference. The placement of several teapots on the mantle of the parlor. The one door knob bearing the visage of Washington, mixed in with others in a glass bowl. The antique postcards of Mount Vernon.

In the parlor, eight prints by Tim Buchman hung on the walls. They featured the woodwork of Thomas Day, a free black craftsman in antebellum North Carolina. The history ties into the free black history at Woodlawn during part of its antebellum era.

The students needed one book for a certain table in the parlor. “How about the Thomas Day book?” they all asked. Leimenstoll, a Day expert, had co-written it. She acknowledged the gesture from her students. “It was very sweet.”

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