Smith College Admission Academics Student Life About Smith news Offices
Five College Calendar
Smith eDigest
Submit an Idea
News Archive
News Publications
Planning an Event
Contact Us
News & Events
By Eric Weld   Date: 8/30/10 Bookmark and Share

Students Weigh in on House Renovations

Before plans were finalized for this summer’s renovations of Lawrence and Morris houses, administrators in Student Affairs and Facilities Management consulted with one important group: students—those who would be living in the houses.

Rebecca Shaw, director of residence life, asked house presidents to organize a special tea in the spring and the house residents were informed of the new plans for their temporary domiciles.

Lawrence House residents settled on a light green tone for the living room walls.

In Morris House, the sister of Lawrence, residents chose a light blue tint.

“It was really nice to be able to give our input,” said Emma Thomas ’10, Morris house president who spent four years there. “The fact that we were allowed to voice our opinions and questions, and that input was allowed, definitely made me feel better about the major changes happening to my house.”

Though much of the renovations have addressed behind-the-walls issues such as upgrades to electrical wiring, installation of a central air supply system, addition of insulation, and replacement of the steam heating system with a digitally controlled hot-water heating system, many aesthetic changes are also taking place.

For example, windows are being replaced on both houses with more efficient units, surfaces are being refinished, bathrooms are being redone, and walls repainted.

“The presentation given at that tea gave the impression that careful thought and consideration had been given to the renovation process and insuring that the house remained a house that we would feel comfortable inhabiting,” said Beatrice Chan ’10, a 3-year Lawrence resident and president of her house last year.

The color of paint in their houses is one area in which students voiced their opinions.

Students of both houses were given a choice of color schemes with which to paint the houses’ interiors and parts of the exteriors, such as the porches. In both cases, the house presidents posted the choices to an online survey and asked their housemates to weigh in.

At first, when Morris residents learned that they chose the same color scheme as Lawrence, they asked the project architects for more options, and came to a consensus on a different palette, said Thomas.

“I’m hopeful that everyone in the house will like it,” she said. “The architect, Residence Life, and Facilities Management definitely tried to listen to us.”

A few other aspects of the renovations were altered as a result of student input. Among them was the type of message boards in the Lawrence stairwell that served as a main source of communication. “They took the effort to find a special type of plastic, renewable cork board that would line the walls of the stairwell to provide a cleaner-looking, sustainable and larger area for our benefit,” said Chan.

Also, students voted a resolute “no” on the architects’ idea to paint the interior walls wood paneling white. “The students wanted to keep the older, more historical feeling in Lawrence and Morris,” said Chan.

The meeting and consultation with residents is a routine part of all house renovations during the design phase, said Charlie Conant, senior project manager in Facilities Management, to inform them of upcoming changes and present options for finish selections.

“These meetings are a great way to engage the students,” said Conant. “We like to hear their suggestions and often incorporate those into the redesign of the rooms.”

As a result of their input, some residents of the houses feel a deeper connection to their houses, they say.

“I do feel more connected to the house,” said Kasie Wong ’12, of Lawrence House. “I’m lucky to have been one of the Lawrencians throughout time that had a voice in house changes.”


DirectoryCalendarCampus MapVirtual TourContact UsSite A-Z