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DI Details Newsletter June 2010 Design Institute of San Diego

A Graduate With Style

Impacting Lives from the Inside Out

Can I Get That Green Chair in Blue, Please?

Anne Kellett wins award for CATaquarium

LIBRARIAN'S CORNER - Magnificent Plants, Magnificent Photography


Impacting Lives from the Inside Out

As both an interior designer and a licensed architect, Michelle Hamm knows how to positively impact a person's living space. And after years of practice she's decided the real action is inside the building.

"Think about it" she bubbles "how much time do you actually spend looking at the outside of a building? But inside? Ah, those are the walls you're surrounded by and you want to make sure they reflect your life's priorities, your experience, and your personality."

They also become a significant part of your life's journey, as she sees every day at the Marine Corp's Camp Pendleton here in San Diego. It's the newest chapter in her life, and by far the most fulfilling she's experienced in her 11 years as a DI instructor.

"I started out working 60 hours each week for a developer, but decided that wasn't for me. I wasn't having enough impact on people's lives. Then I switched over to healthcare work, and what a world of difference it made."

"Over the past 15 years I've been doing healthcare design. I've managed to work on some pretty big projects in that time, including the Riverside General Hospital, Tahoe Carson City Hospital, and the Kaiser Permanente Medical Building in Otay Mesa."

Michelle's reputation for attention to detail and capacity for solid follow-through eventually brought her to the attention of designer Sonia Hasenbeck, owner of Hasenbeck Interior Design. She needed someone with a good eye, who understood design, and "got" the whole process from concept to laying tile.

"She needed a bulldog to follow through on every nit-picky item to be sure the work is done right. I'm strong, detail-oriented, and enjoy fighting for what needs to be done correctly, so my follow through skills were a natural match. My ability to do her CAD design and understand construction projects from start to finish didn't hurt my chances of getting the job either," Michelle explains.

Hasenbeck holds the contracts for designing the headquarters, Hope & Care Center, and Bachelor's Enlisted Quarters at Camp Pendleton - the current stage of over 20 buildings she's worked on.

"We're building a campus for wounded warriors, helping service men and women who have been hurt in the line of duty. Literally from the ground up we get to figure out how to make their stay here more pleasant while they're getting rehabilitated," Michelle reports.

"I'm currently working on a two-story building with bedrooms, 8 counseling offices per floor, activity spaces, and a physical therapy center. It's exciting, since we have to develop weight training rooms, therapy rooms, and have space for extremity tanks, therapy pools, lap pools, classrooms, and meeting rooms. The oversight committee wanted good design and a nice look from the artwork, and instructed us to incorporate room for studying, movies, and kitchens. All this with an open living space and a large tree in the middle of the complex."

"This is Camp Pendleton, don't forget, so the space we develop must be durable. It's a lot different than working in a commercial environment. We know going in that you're going to see the concrete block walls when we're done, and we need to work a bit harder to soften the effect of the concrete by using different types of flooring, finishes, colors and materials. It takes a special skill set to instill feelings of hospitality and hominess into concrete. And because it's mostly men who live here, we need to use contemporary colors, but without pinks and sherbets. Fortunately, we're not limited to military greens or grays, either."

Even all these years later Michelle still enjoys working in government, medical and teaching environments. Though not as glamorous as some other types of interior design, she feels she's having a huge impact and directly affecting some of the most important people around today.

And the hardest part of the job? "Handing over the keys and saying ‘This is my baby. I'm finished with her now and you need to take care of her while I move on to my next assignment.' But the community shows up and they really appreciate everything you've done. They take pride in the contribution you've made to their home. And you know it's all going to be alright."

"Still" she admits "Sometimes I cry when it's all over. Sometimes it's hard to let go." WOW! That's commitment!

Michelle invites you to the ribbon cutting of the Bachelor's Enlisted Quarters at Camp Pendleton. See it here.

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