ISU students win interior design magazine's student competition with hotel concept

AMES, Iowa -- A design project by two Iowa State University students took top honors in the student/conceptual category of Contract magazine's 32nd Annual Interiors Awards. The competition recognizes outstanding projects in 15 categories related to interior design.

Third-year architecture graduate student Jamie Morin, Pipestone, Minn., and Kyung-Eun Kim, Seoul, South Korea, who received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in interior design last May, won with their design proposal for a sophisticated but romantic hotel in the South Beach neighborhood of Miami Beach, Fla. They completed the design project last spring.

The team will be honored at an awards breakfast Jan. 28 in New York City, and their work will be featured in Contract's January 2011 Design Awards issue. This is the first time students from Iowa State have entered the Contract magazine awards competition.

The South Beach experience

Morin and Kim developed their "Sabroso Hotel, South Beach" project in an interdisciplinary design studio taught by associate professors Jason Alread, architecture, and Cigdem Akkurt, interior design. The class visited Miami Beach on a field trip early in the semester to experience the environment first hand.

"Miami has a very distinct culture, especially the South Beach strip," Morin said. "Nightlife is very important, and with the warm climate, people use outdoor spaces differently than they do in the Midwest. It was really helpful to observe and experience that in person."

To gain perspective on the area's history, demographics and image, students toured the Cuban district and met with a firm that does primarily hotel design.

The Sabroso Hotel design concept

"There were many great hotels around, and to stand out among them, we knew we had to create something different and special," Kim said. "So we decided our hotel should cater to couples. We wanted the mood to be very romantic and elegant, but something that could transform into sexy at night."

The team chose the name "Sabroso" (which means "delicious" in Spanish) to reflect the area's Cuban immigrant heritage as well as the "couples atmosphere."

"We thought the sound of the word as well as the meaning would help convey our concept," Morin said.

In addition to two different types of guest accommodation-a king studio and a bungalow-they designed two lobbies (reception and social) separated by an intimate seating area; a Cuban-themed restaurant with a traditional Cuban mural as a focal point; a spa, and a large pool deck connected to the social lobby.

"In the king studio, we added romantic elements, such as an exposed soaker tub, and a corridor that conceals the room from first sight to make it more mysterious," Kim said. "We carried this theme throughout the hotel."

Taking their cue from the subtropical climate, they incorporated several indoor/outdoor spaces and elements such as glass walls that can be moved to completely open a room to the outdoors. The open-air restaurant connects directly to the pool deck and provides both indoor and outdoor seating.

And they used lighting to transform the hotel from sophisticated during the day to "Miami flair" at night, Morin said. The guest rooms radiate a purple glow in the evening and the lobby ceiling becomes a starry sky, further blurring the line between inside and outside.

An architect and an interior designer working together

Both women said their knowledge, skills and experience complemented each other and they worked well together on the project.

"Throughout the whole process, we usually came up with our own ideas and then we talked together to figure out what would be the best," Kim said. "But we made every design decision together."

Both Morin and Kim will travel to New York to accept their award at the end of January.

Kim is an interior designer for Eomji House in Seoul. Morin holds a bachelor's degree in interior design from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and will graduate with a Master of Architecture degree from Iowa State in May. She is interested in the adaptive reuse of older buildings and hopes to work in a firm where she can use her skills in both architecture and interior design.