Higher Education Furniture: Four Custom Furnishing Solutions From The Field

In Blog, Customizing, Design Resource by Morgan Dix

Are you looking for an out-of-the box higher education furniture solution for your residence hall?

At DCI, we specialize in engineering solutions to some of the stickiest furniture snags you can imagine.

That’s why I’d love to solve your furniture problems with a custom solution.

The truth is, we haven’t met a challenge we couldn’t overcome with some creative thinking, savvy engineering, and world-class craftsmanship.

You see, a lot of companies can offer you cookie cutter furniture collections with no real room for deep customization. And still others have overseas operations in China and Southeast Asia with less flexible manufacturing capabilities.

The Benefit of A Custom Higher Education Furniture Solution

higher education furniture solutionBut what are we talking about exactly when it comes to custom solutions?

Sometimes it can be an interior design issue and other times the problem might just require some innovative thinking.

So although we have established and time-tested furniture collections favored by many of our clients, we also embrace the fact that every school is unique with distinct conditions, contexts, challenges, and opportunities they need to address.

That’s where we come in. It’s our job to tailor a solution that works perfectly for your context.

In that spirit, I thought it would be helpful to share some examples with you. Here are four custom solutions we developed in collaboration with some of our higher education partners.

1. Cal Lutheran: How To Increase Occupancy?

schema for higher education furniture solution (CLU) is a small liberal arts university located on 225 acres of picturesque land in Thousand Oaks California. We’ve had a long-standing partnership with Cal Lutheran working together on lots of projects over the last decade.

In a recent project, CLU wanted to upgrade their design standard across campus. At the same time, they needed to increase occupancy and develop a custom solution for tripling rooms because of increasing popularity and heightened enrollment at the school.

Their existing resident suites had two bedrooms—previously doubles—and a shared living space. CLU asked us to engineer the first bedroom as a triple and the second bedroom as a double.

After reviewing CLU’s initial design concepts, we gathered detailed room measurements and began plotting different floor layouts.

Tripling the first bedroom presented challenges based on the limited floor space. We had to completely optimize the space.

In the end, we hit on two key concepts that made the tripling viable.

First, we bunked two of the beds and placed a horizontal 6-drawer unit under the lower sleep surface. Therefore, each of the three residents would have access to two of the drawers.

increasing occupancy

Second, we made the third bed in the triple a Jr. Loft, with a wardrobe and 3-drawer chest under the sleep surface. The CLU team chose the Jr. Loft for two reasons: to decrease overall mass in the room and to differentiate the level of each sleep surface.

The final consideration centred around optimizing the following three factors: ceiling height, the height of the university’s existing mattresses, and the height of the 6-Drawer dresser (see diagram above).

2. UCLA – How To Balance Space and Durability?

In 2013, we partnered with UCLA to furnish their Weyburn Terrace project. In short, UCLA needed to upgrade their graduate housing and their design standard.

But they had some unusual requirements.

The UCLA team wanted the space in the apartments to feel more open. But at the same time they wanted super durable furniture. That’s an interesting challenge, because it’s hard to design a piece of furniture that effectively balances space and durability.

To create space, your furniture usually needs to be lightweight and transparent. In contrast, durability tends to feature heavier materials in both look and substance.

We solved this problem by designing oversized tops. In this way, the furniture helped to convey a sense of space while maintaining a high degree of durability.

To save space, we built drawers into the underbed. We also created an overhanging bed deck above the drawers to create the illusion of more space in the room and to make it feel less closed in.

To create strong visual contrast and emphasize the space-enhancing elements, the bed featured black drawer fronts set against the beautiful oak finish.

3. UC San Diego – How To Add Critical Functionality?

UC San Diego approached us to help them flesh out the functionality of of their brand new graduate student studio apartments.

Each of these new graduate studio already came furnished with a bed, a desk, and a chair. However, the housing team wanted to deliver even more value and further optimize the space.

To this end, they identified some potential functionality that would complement the existing furniture and make the studio a more complete living space.

We came in to consult with our interior design team. To start the creative process, we generated room renders and shared different concepts.

First, we noticed there was nowhere to eat. The studio needed a multi-function table. Students need a place to sit down and eat apart from their study desk and bed.

Second, there was no drawer space in the apartment. We proposed a stylish custom size 8-drawer dresser designed to match the core color motifs in the room.

Third, we created a “C-Table”. Made from metal and wood laminate, we customized it to best work with the dimensions of the room and the bed height.

The idea with the C-Table is that it can serve as a tv stand or laptop stand to be used in bed when it’s upright or it can also serve as a small side-table.

Together, these three items filled a functional and aesthetic gap in the overall composition of the studio apartment.

4. Dartmouth College – How To Use Locally Sourced Materials?

In 2005, Dartmouth College approached DCI with a unique and exciting proposition. Could we partner with them to build furniture for their campus made from trees harvested on land they owned?

At DCI, we have the unique ability to process lumber at our own saw mill. This allowed us to keep the sourcing, milling, and manufacturing of Dartmouth’s residence hall furniture completely local.

First, we worked with the college forester to select and harvest timber from Dartmouth’s sustainably managed forests in partnership with the school’s Grant Management Committee and in alignment with their Forest Management Plan.

Owning our own sawmill enables us to keep our supply chain incredibly short while ensuring an unparalleled level of sustainability assurance to our clients. In short, there are no middle men.

And we don’t have to import our hardwood from sources in Asia. That cuts down on both cost and carbon emissions. Savings that we get to pass on you, our clients.

Finally, owning our own supply chain enabled us to win the gold standard of sustainability: FSC chain of custody certification.

Chain-of-Custody certification allows us to provide an assurance to our customers that our lumber comes from certified forests and other responsible sources and there is a high level of social and environmental responsibility throughout our manufacturing process.

What’s Your Challenge? Let’s Turn It Into An Opportunity!

This is just scratching the surface of custom solutions that we’ve engineered for schools like yours. Do you identify with any of these stories?

Do you have some challenges that require a custom solution?

We always see challenges in terms of unrealized potentials and opportunities. Let’s work together and transform your unique challenges into amazing solutions.