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From small town college to big city [Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Moscow, Idaho :: ]
[May 17, 2014]

From small town college to big city [Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Moscow, Idaho :: ]

(Moscow-Pullman Daily News (ID) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) May 17--Shana Keefer's talents can be found in Idaho, Washington and even on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. She has designed a lounge space in downtown Boise, done some interior work at Black Cypress in Pullman and helped open a sushi and martini bar from square one on St. John.

Now Keefer, 35, will be taking her eye for design to Johnson Braund Inc., a boutique-style architecture firm in Seattle where she will help design spaces for Marriott hotels around the nation.

"I feel very fortunate that I have the life experience that I have," Keefer said. "I have gotten my feet wet with actual clients in an industry that I am comfortable in and I am convinced that is what got me my job." Today, Keefer will be one of 10 students graduating from the Interior Design Program as part of the University of Idaho's College of Art and Architecture.

Keefer said being a non-traditional student has given her a leap forward. She has been able to accrue experience that many younger students have not had the time for, and she believes it has helped her nail a job she really wanted.

Before coming to the UI in 2010, Keefer was working in restaurant consulting and management in Boise. It was there she decided she enjoyed the systems, aesthetics and overall experience of the restaurant business but wanted to be involved from the outside -- from the design perspective.

A colleague was a strong advocate for the interior design program at UI, and as Keefer saw her develop her career she knew it was something she wanted to be involved in.

She said the first two years at the UI were heavily focused on architecture, after which she spent the next two years refining those skills and diving deeper into applying the knowledge.

"It was really interesting, and I learned a ton. I still can't believe what I have learned from the program -- it is great, absolutely great," she said.

For the capstone project, students were asked to go out and find their own building they would like to redesign. Keefer chose an old Macy's department store in downtown Boise on the corner of 10th and Idaho streets.

The building was erected in the 1920s and has been vacant since Macy's moved to a mall.

She took the five-story space, added an additional story, and modernized the building into a hotel.

"I looked back at its past history and tried to keep it classic and contemporary so it works well for a wide variety of users," Keefer said. "I tried to bring it back to life, to revitalize it and make sure it was getting noticed." She created a boutique-style hotel with ample amount of event space for businesses, weddings or birthdays and included a gallery space to appeal to the artistic vibe of Boise.

"There are definitely a lot of options, that is what is so fun about design," Keefer said.

Actually, the building is being remodeled into apartments, part of what she believes is Boise gearing up for an influx of people moving into downtown.

Although her design won't be used, it allowed her to explore design beyond the restaurant scene and into the hospitality realm.

Keefer said the UI was one of the first schools to use the Revit building design software, a computer system replacing older drafting methods such as AutoCAD. She said having that skill to offer Johnson Braund in an industry that is constantly changing will be an advantage.

She said the department has been great at promoting its students and making sure they have opportunities and involvement in many spheres.

"If you work hard and they recognize it, they will make sure you are noticed someway or another," Keefer said. "It is very hands on, specialized and intimate. We have had a very close education that I know you can't get just anywhere. I have nothing but positive things to say about the college." Thanks to a push from the chair of the department, Shauna Correy, Keefer recently won the student category for the Seattle Design Center's 15th Annual Northwest Design Awards.

Keefer designed a restaurant and said it was one of the easiest projects she has ever done because of her experience in the restaurant business.

She designed the space specifically for Seattle, keeping in mind sustainability and involving local food resources.

While in Seattle to accept her award, she went to an interview at Johnson Braund and the rest, as they say, is history.

Eventually, she would like to take her work into outside spaces, doing the furniture and space planning and working with landscape architects. What started as restaurants has now moved to the larger scale of hospitality.

Seattle, Keefer said, "has a very strong identity within our country. It is important to me to have that culture so I think it will be a really fun place to learn design. They are so progressive and doing so much with sustainable design right now that not everyone is doing, and it is amazing to be able to be a part of that." Sunny Browning can be reached at (208) 883-4639, or by email to

___ (c)2014 the Moscow-Pullman Daily News (Moscow, Idaho) Visit the Moscow-Pullman Daily News (Moscow, Idaho) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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