McKinley Elementary School library renovation done by DI Alum, Heather Vitti

February 8, 2023 | Alumni News

We are always excited to share the amazing things our alumni are doing in their community. Today, we  are featuring a recent design project completed by DI alum, Heather Vitti! Heather Vitti graduated from DI in 2010 and got started in the industry by working in residential design and then jumped into commercial design. She has always been passionate about designing commercial spaces. Heather then specialized in military design before starting her own business in 2020, Vitti Interiors focuses on commercial and residential design.

Heather Vitti Headshot

Heather Vitti recently redesigned the library at her daughter’s public school, McKinley Elementary (SDUSD) on pro-bono terms. We interviewed Heather to learn all about this project and get the behind the scenes scoop from start to finish.

Our interview starts at the beginning to learn what really sparked Heather’s passion for commercial design. We asked her a few questions about her experience at DI and how she took what she learned to go on and start her own business. Heather shared with us that the classes that helped her the most were ID3 and ID5. Her project in ID5 got chosen to be shared when DI was getting CIDA accredited. That is when she truly knew she wanted to pursue commercial design. Heather shares with us, “DI’s program is spot on when you get into design. It is so relevant and there is a difference in DI students when they graduate. They are very prepared.”

This library project began when Heather joined the Parent Teacher Club at McKinley and discovered that they were looking at redesigning the school’s library. Graduating from DI with her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design and falling in love with commercial spaces, she knew this was the perfect project for her. She decided to volunteer her time, skills and resources to transform this outdated library into an inspiring space for the students. This library had not been touched since the 1970s and was in need of remodeling. Heather wanted to use a mix of fun and spunk to elevate it and make the students excited.


McKinley Elementary school library before renovation

This project had been in the works for over four years. One thing that makes this project so special is that she let a group of students have a say in what they wanted to see in the library. The kids also created artwork that will be put on display on the walls and also ceramics to go on some of the shelves. Heather not only designed this project but she helped build it, along with many McKinley parent volunteers, which is another reason it means so much to her. She shares with us that it is by far the most gratifying project of her career. “I worked directly with the kids on the student library committee, and they assisted in selecting all the finishes including the flooring, paint and fabrics. Public schools are also terribly underfunded, and they have one of the most important jobs. This was my way of giving back by using my skills. Not only to help my daughter but also future generations of McKinley students to have a wonderful space within their school. It is such an amazing feeling to be doing what I love for a living and giving back at the same time. When I was my daughters age, I was a bookworm, and the library was always the place I could read as many books as I wanted for free.”

Heather alongside project Manager Nancy Flores, the Children’s Library Committee, the current principal, and the previous principal of McKinley Elementary School, all gathered for the ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open the new library.

McKinley Elementary school ribbon cutting ceremony for the newly renovated library
Picture 2: Ribbon Cutting Ceremony: Nancy Flores (project manager), Heather Vitti, Childrens’ Library Committee, Jonathan Morello (current principal), Deb Ganderton (previous principal)

Now let’s get into some of the details of the newly redesigned library! The new library has 24”x24” carpet tiles, which will make it easy to replace an individual tile if it gets damaged. It is a very dark pattern that will help to hide any stains and dirt. The paint on the walls is low VOC and the furniture is commercial grade and upholstered with commercial grade fabric. The stools are there for additional seating and are easy to move around. The alcoves were turned into areas for group and individual research areas. With this new design, seating has been increased from 16 to 45. There is also a custom-built circulation desk along with 2 custom bookcases that are curved so when you walk in you see bookcases but on the other side there is seating. These pieces were constructed by the hardworking parent community of volunteers.


Newly renovated McKinley Elementary school library

The Team

This design was fully completed by Heather; however, she did not make it happen alone. She gives a huge shoutout to Nancy Flores who was the school’s foundation president at the time of design and when construction began and played a huge role in project management along with a lot of the other McKinley parents who gave their time to volunteer. All the carpet from the project was 100% donated by Matt Probst from Interface, which was a huge help to the school! The carpet expense was just shy of $12,000.

Other big thanks go to:

  • John Dumsnil & Rojelly Almira (Sherwin Williams) 50% off paint
  • Lisa Hexom (System Source) List price for furniture
  • Bret Wikander (Sit on It Seating) 100% donated fabrics
  • Scott Basile (Basil Photography) 100% donated his time to take final interior pictures
  • Camille Camacho Darder (Camille Camacho Photography) for donating her time to take pictures of the ribbon cutting

With the help of everyone, they were able to take costs from $200,000 down to $60,000. Heather clocked 150 hours for design and 200 hours for construction and said it was the most rewarding experience to see the kids fall in love with their new library. She said her daughter went around telling everyone that her mom designed the library, and it brought her so much joy!

This project was truly inspiring to follow along with from concept to completion. You can really see the love and passion that was poured into this project. Amazing job to Heather and everyone who contributed to transforming this library! For the detailed McKinley Elementary Renovation story and to see additional before and after pictures, please see Vitti Interiors website at