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Alumna at Work: Nicole Cecil

Nicole Cecil (Interior Design ’96) was in the first class of students to graduate from WSU’s Interdisciplinary Design Institute in Spokane. Studio-ready, Cecil went to work for the University of Idaho in Moscow, in University Residences and Architectural and Engineering Services.

Nicole Cecil
Nicole Cecil

Cecil, who now works as an interior designer with the Boise-based architectural firm CSHQA, said that studying at the IDI “completely changed the direction of my career. I thought I would be more residential in focus, but working with the IDI team was completely instrumental in where I am now.”

Cecil is a project manager with CSHQA focusing on commercial projects such as airports and corporate and government buildings. Recently, she and her team won an award for a potential LEED-CI Gold Certified Ada County government building improvement project.

The U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program is a set of criteria which, when met, reduce a building’s ecological footprint. LEED is the “nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings,” according to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Web site. “LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.”

U.S. Bank plaza lobby remodel by CSHQA.
U.S. Bank plaza lobby remodel by CSHQA.

When it comes to the interiors of buildings, materials selection is key to sustainability. Cecil said that working in the materials library at WSU Spokane prepared her well for the current position which she now holds.

Long nights in the studio, “chowing pizza and drinking caffeinated beverages,” also prepared Cecil to be studio-ready, as did a couple of senior-year projects. One of her senior projects, developing a plan for low-income housing in Spokane, involved collaboration between studios, a typical real-world scenario where parts of complex projects are jobbed out to individual firms.

Now married and the mother of two daughters, Cecil said interior designers still struggle with a deeply rooted preconceived notion. “People think we’re decorators. Today I wrote technical specs—this is not the stuff we want to learn but it’s what we spend a great deal of time doing.”

Design, in other words, is in the details, and the details are in building codes, architectural plans and a deep knowledge of which materials to use give the client the best fit in terms of aesthetics and sustainability.