STG Design: Houston

My week spent in Houston, TX with STG Design was the best shadowing experience I’ve had yet! It was the first place I had been that I didn’t feel like an outsider for shadowing, more like a team member with tasks, meetings, and deadlines.
On my first day at the office, I arrived at 9 am and had a jam-packed day! We had a meeting with the entire office, which is where they chat as an office to see what should be done that week, and to make sure one person’s workload isn’t more than another’s so others can assist.  Later through the day, we reviewed Redlines for an amenity center project which I would continue to work through the entire week as well as begin test fits for a medical office in Houston for one of the buildings that STG Design represents. Later, there was a lunch n’ learn which was a conference call with the Austin office about a project both branches are working on with LEED v.4. At the end of the day, we had a product presentation with Cambria.
On my second day, we talked as an interiors team about library scheduling and presentations and how to schedule for the design office. Then around 10 am, we visited the Houstonian which is a country club resort for an OAC meeting which the designers are on phase 3 of remodeling the restrooms of the resort. After lunch, we returned to the office and began working on redlines for the amenity center again which included: drawing/editing millwork details, designing millwork cabinets, and drawing the millwork in elevations. After the work day, some of the team met Carly and me at the Kirby Ice House for happy hour.
On Wednesday, I talked with the newest designer to the interiors team about STG’s processes for Quality Assurance and then spoke with an architect who had been drifting between architecture and interiors in their office. For the rest of the day, I worked on more redlines for the amenity center then assisted with organizing their materials library.
Thursday, I worked on creating a Pinterest board for the new Rec center for the University of Arizona. For lunch, the interiors team visited the CRG showroom for a product introduction and for a lunch to mingle with the reps in the showroom.
On my last day at STG Design, I talked with the principle about what I had learned that week, as well talked with another interior designer about their programming protocols, then continued working on boards for the University of Arizona. Right before I left for the day, Jessica, the interior designer UK alum I was shadowing, reviewed and red-lined my resume and portfolio and gave me tips on how to improve them.
I feel that this was the best, most well-rounded experience I had in Spring Break shadowing by getting to interact with Interiors and Architecture, as well as work on projects and interact with not only the Houston office but their Austin office as well. Below are images from the week!


On Friday morning I met with Team Borges and went on a punch field visit. At the punch list we went through and checked for any issues that needed to be fixed before the space was handed back over to the tenant. When I was on the punch I learned that even though the overall space might look complete you still have to be aware of the minute details and make sure that everything is up to the level of perfection that you need it to be at.

After the field visit I met with the Graphics Team. Dirk explained their process when a designer needs a rendering. We then discussed some of my own work and how I could go back and enhance some of the renderings I have already completed.

In the afternoon I met with Team Mastropasqua where Jessica Funke showed me things that she had learned at VCave to make her more efficient when using AutoCAD. We also worked on a RCP that she needed to complete.

I then had my final meeting with Heather where we discussed my time at VCave and my overall thoughts on this experience.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at VCave. I found it incredible that everyone who worked their was so excited about what they do. As I went around from team to team I learned that each team works in their own way but the overall culture of VCave is seen throughout each one.


On Thursday I began my morning by meeting with Team Morris. Erin began by showing me the finished images of the BrightHouse space that I had seen the schematic plans of when I shadowed Brittany Jones for a day over the summer. BrightHouse is a marketing firm that has a space in Ponce City Market in downtown Atlanta. Their space ended up being super fun and outside the norm of a typical office space. After talking with Erin I met with Craig the design director at VCave to review my portfolio and resume. I was able to discuss with him what I should add to my portfolio and focus on for my remaining time as a student to better myself when I start my career. Ultimately, he said I should continue to focus on developing my hand renderings because I have a natural understanding of hand drawings from my previous experiences.

I then attended a rep lunch at the Global Furniture Group showroom in Atlanta. Global began as a chair manufacturer and has evolved into a large line of mid-priced furnishings for the office and home. The rep at Global showed us some of the newer products in the line and their functions.

After lunch I met with Team Dietrich where I was able to review a set of red lines and talk about changes that needed to be made and why. I then sat in on a conference call with a client. The purpose of the call was to go ahead and okay the CD’s and any changes that had been made so that the CD’s could be sent onto the City for approval.

I then attended the Thursday afternoon presentation. This rep was here to show the newer products in a carpet tile line and why this product was better than their competitors.

After my fourth day at VCave I was really understanding and appreciating what everyone was doing. As I reflected over my few days I had spent at VCave I had noticed that within each team there was a range of ages and backgrounds on each team. My preconceived idea of a larger commercial firm was that there would be few recent graduates and that the majority of the designers would be older with many years of experience. However, this did not hold true at VCave. I was noticing that there were plenty of recent graduates that were still learning and establishing themselves in the design field. This was refreshing to see because even though they are all extremely qualified they do not know everything yet but their colleagues are always willing to help and answer questions so that they can become better designers.


On Wednesday I began my morning with Team Kassler. I first met with Nadin who began by explaining a corporate space that she has been working on. She had just had her finishes meeting with the client who loved the concept that their team had developed. The companies colors were a span of bright colors that they needed to incorporate into the space. She decided to use the colors throughout the space by defining each area with one of the colors. For instance for the meeting rooms she transitioned the hallway carpet tile and the meeting room carpet tile by adding a border of red carpet tile that would ombre into a carpet tile that had red and grey and then into a solid grey pattern. After meeting with Nadin I spoke with Rachel who was working on the RCP for the same space. The week previously the client decided to cut the budget so Rachel was working on changing the lighting fixtures from a hanging direct-indirect pendant to a direct-indirect 2×4 to cut down on the budget. She went through and explained her process of doing the RCP for a larger space with weird angles.

After meeting with Team Kassler I attended the Lunch and Learn in the VCave Library. A rep for multiple lines came and discussed some of the newer products in a number of the lines.

Once the Lunch and Learn was over I met with Team Glover/QAQC. This teams focus is to review all the CD’s before they are sent to one of the architects in the firm. At VCave they have a four step review process before a CD is sent to the City for review. It begins with whoever created the CD and then it is sent to the head of the Team from there it is sent to Team Glover and then to an architect. Between each of the reviews the CD is sent back to the designer who created it to make corrections which are called red lines. After each review the designer is also graded on the amount of corrections that need to be made and it is tracked in their system so that if someone is having consistent trouble with something they are able to get help. I found this process to be extremely successful especially when first entering into the field because you are being critiqued but also learning from your mistakes, making you a better and more efficient designer.

After briefly meeting with Team Glover I met with Team Hancock. At Team Hancock they gave me the overall plan of a space and the criteria that would need to go into the space. They then asked me to develop multiple schematic hand sketches of the space. After completing a variety of layouts they reviewed my drawings and discussed with me which ones were more successful and why.

After my third day at VCave I was thrilled by everything I was learning and the connections I was making between VCave and my education at UK. I also was starting to have a good feel for the overall culture of VCave. They are an extremely welcoming group that is extremely professional yet still provides a comfortable and friendly environment. On my first day I felt nervous because there were so many people and I felt as though you could get lost in the mix here. However, after meeting with multiple Teams I realized that everyone had a place here and that each person brings something to the Team.


The next day I arrived and sat with Brittany and continued to learn about CD’s while we waited for the Tuesday morning presentation. At 9 am I walked over to the library where EBEA, a wall art rep discussed and showed us their line. EBEA focused primarily on printing graphics onto canvas, metal, and wall coverings. It was an interesting approach because each graphic they own so they are able to adjust the graphics colors and tones depending on the space that is being designed. They also gave an option to lease artwork so that companies could update their artwork periodically.

After the morning presentation I met with Team Sparger. Unlike the majority of the teams at VCave that focus on tenant and corporate space design, Team Sparger focused on Industrial design. In essence this means they primarily work with large storage warehouses that typically have a small office area in the front space. First I met with Angela, a recent graduate from SCAD, we began by picking out carpet and millwork finishes for a Mormon church she was working on. After picking out a few variations we ordered the samples for her to present to the client later in the week. After doing so Angela discussed with me different codes and wall systems they have to oblige by when working with industrial spaces.

It was then time to go to a rep lunch with Team Sparger. The company focused on whitenoise and the importance of its use within a space. He explained since HVAC systems are becoming so efficient to the point that they put off nearly no noise that many office spaces are finding their spaces to be too quiet. This quietness then brings up the level of noise from people because their is nothing to muffle the noise. Even though I had heard of whitenoise before I had never directly thought about the impact of a space without whitenoise.

My next meeting of the day was with Team Holliday. I started by completing a finishes binder for them that would be given to the client so that they could use it as a reference tool. After doing that I was given the task to choose a few options for wall coverings in a lobby space. The space needed two options for wall coverings. The first option was under their budget and the second one was at the top of their budget for finishes. I found this interesting because I began to notice that when choosing finishes the designers at VCave would often times give an option that was at the top of the budget that would be best fit for the space and one under budget that would get the design across but maybe not as well. This gives the client the ability to pick and choose what aspects of the design are most important to them so that they can have an end product they are content with. After picking the wall finishes I met with Haley who had me come up with a reflected ceiling plan for a recreational room she was working on. She explained to me that when using 2×4’s you can never cross the main T and that you typically space them apart 2-3 tiles from the short ends and 3-4 tiles from the long ends.

After my second day at VCave I started to realize that even though you might not be creating crazy abstract designs that the more technical side of design was extremely captivating. After being exposed to more CD’s on my second day and getting to ask more questions about how exactly they approached them I realized that they aren’t that scary! I also began to piece together and realize the importance of the programming document I am working on in Chris Birkentall’s studio. Prior to spring break I did not fully appreciate all the work we were putting into the programming document but after the first two days at VCave I began to appreciate the program document we have been working on.


Over the course of my first two days at VeenendaalCave in Atlanta, GA I observed and learned more than I could have imagined. On my first day Heather Lovern welcomed me and provided me with a schedule for my week. We then attended the Monday morning staff meeting where I was greeted with a warm welcome. At the end of the meeting Christine Veenendaal ended by saying lets continue our friendly environment of positivity.

I then met with Team Tenpenny were I sat in on their individual team Monday meeting. Here they discussed the game plan for the week and the amount of hours each person could spend on each project they were working on. We then moved from the small collaboration area we were sitting in to the Team Tenpenny pod area. Each member of their team took time to sit with me and discuss what it was that they were working on and at what stage in the process they were at. One member of Team Tenpenny, Katie, had me sit in on her discussion with the graphics team where she gave them the plans for the renderings they needed to create.

After meeting with Team Tenpenny I went to lunch with all the UK grads. I had a fabulous time getting to hear from each of them about their experiences in school and how those experiences prepared them for their job at VCave.

After lunch I met with Team Healthcare. I first sat with Brittany Holian, a recent UK graduate. She was working on a CD set on AutoCAD she walked me through what it was she was doing and some more technical things on AutoCAD that I did not know yet. After sitting with Brittany I met with Mary and Amy for a conference call. The call primarily focused on which furniture dealership they would be using for a project they were working on collaboratively. After the conference call I sat with Mary as she reviewed a set of CD’s for Brittany.

After returning home from the first day I was excited to share with my parents about what I had learned from just one day at VCave. I was both excited and disappointed because it was not exactly what I had expected. As students I think we envision this glamorous experience in the workplace, where we get to create complex and rich designs. However, as you quickly learn those projects are the minority when working for a primarily tenant/corporate design firm.

Review | Lichten Craig

Overall, my experience at Lichten Craign was a very positive one. I was able to see how a firm operates on a daily basis and the design process that they go through on their projects. I loved being exposed to such a high level of residential design and it solidified my interest in that area of design. I also loved being in Chicago and in a larger city. I gained a wealth of information and professional experience, in which i feel more comfortable about getting a “big girl” job this summer.

Although I enjoyed Lichten Craig’s small design team I realized that I don’t think I could work with such a small number of colleagues. I thought I would always want to work at a very small firm, I now know that I would like to work at firm that is a little larger. I also realized that I want to work at a firm in which the designers have a little more freedoms to experiment with their designs and can be a little more creative. Lichten Craig has a very specific style of design, which is not a bad thing, but I would like to be able to personalize the designs somewhat more.

Lichten Craig designs beautiful high-end residential spaces and I loved shadowing their designers and observing their design process. It was an eye-opening experience and more than I could have hoped for!