Design is unlike math and science. There is not one formula, one right answer, or one way to solve a problem. Working through a design challenge is by no means a linear progression, and critiques and teamwork are critical. The creative process is difficult to describe but essential to experience. As designers, we create, and therefore, we learn by doing—be it in a classroom or at an internship.

Like many students studying interior architecture, I understand the technical skills necessary to be an interior designer. We learn the software, understand codes, build our models, and challenge ourselves to make decisions that reinforce our concept. We know that design impacts the life, safety, and wellbeing of others. However, we rarely have opportunities to work on real-world projects. After graduation, adjusting from hypothetical to real applications can be intimidating. We remember the stages of design, the classification of materials, and the different types of construction documents, but we have not yet practiced them outside of the academic setting.

For these reasons and more, internships are imperative. Though we may not realize it, we learn so much through observation. By interning, we see design concepts evolve from conceptual drawings into three-dimensional spaces. In school, students present a final project and move onto the next one. We are not able to experience the phase of construction. In the real world, a “final” presentation is not really the end, and construction may not begin for a couple of years. Furthermore, firms do not just work on one project at a time. Instead, they juggle several simultaneously—all of which are likely in different stages of design or construction. Interns begin to understand the pace at which people must design in a professional setting. Perhaps it took a couple of days to select finishes for a school project, but in a real work environment we must make decisions more efficiently. Since design firms function as a team, everyone must submit their contributions on time so that the project can move forward. If possible, no one wants to be responsible for a project falling behind its deadline. After all, time is money. This is essential to understand upon entering the workplace after graduation.

Having been an intern at SR/A Interior Design for several months, I appreciate the benefits of an internship first hand. Due to its size, I have gotten to interact with everyone on the team and observe the true collaborative nature of design. When I am assigned a task, someone explains what I am doing and why. I am always learning something new. Every week, representatives visit the office and present their products. I took a materials course in school, but these meetings—in addition to working in the firm’s design library—greatly enhanced my understanding of materiality. In fact, many of the finishes that I selected for my graduate thesis were discovered while interning. SR/A also has a gallery filled with local art, and it has been great to see how a design firm is passionate about all aspects of design—be it the amenity spaces in their multi-family projects or displays throughout the gallery.

Now that I am wrapping up my graduate studies, I cannot imagine preparing to enter the design field without this internship experience. Supplementing your education with real-world applications from people interested in your training/development is imperative. DC is such a great design community, and I am excited to have gotten to work with such an amazing team at SR/A!


Jessica Whitehurst is a Design Intern at SR/A. She is graduating later this month with an M.F.A in Interior Architecture + Design from George Washington University. 

In being a part of Real Art on a Shoestring from the beginning stages, it was an incredible experience to watch the art collection and event all come to fruition. Lights were hitting each piece of art just right, there was a constant buzz and chatter of guests admiring each piece, and the room radiated with a festive spirit as we all appreciated original, affordable art together.

Real Art on a Shoestring was my first event since being with SR/A, and I witnessed over a hundred art enthusiasts join the SR/A staff and 20 participating artists for this opening reception at SR/A La Collection. Since the SR/A team always loves a party, we also took this occasion to celebrate the firm’s 15-year anniversary – Real Art on a Shoestring was a celebratory evening on all fronts.

To keep guests entertained, we added an interactive element to this event. We hung a large event sign in the middle of a moveable wall and entwined invisible fishing line all around the sign. When guests arrived, they were given a brightly-colored shoelace to hang anywhere, in any fashion, on the wall. The idea behind this element was to signify how art should be about community, fun, and creativity. The wall, now overlaid with multi-colored shoelaces, stands tall in our gallery as a real work of art representing community collaboration.

Along with watching the shoestring wall flourish as the night went on, I also enjoyed meeting and mingling with a lot of the artists showcasing their artwork. Sue Fierston – a painter and print-maker who “walks the line between realism and abstraction” – was definitely one of my personal favorites. It was as if she was painting a picture right in front of me while I listened to her detail the inspiration she experienced from Yosemite National Park. Another notable favorite of mine, displaying her art at La Collection, was Stefanie Stark. Stefanie’s paintings were a mixture of abstract painted florals and whimsical colors that emulated spring, light, and hope. After talking with her about her collection, she noted her hopes were for viewers to get “lost” in her paintings as much as she does. After standing and admiring her largest piece, “Watching Flowers in the Rain,” it was as if I was taken back to my childhood days, spending time with my parents, planting flowers in the garden, and listening to them instruct me not to overwater them (as I tended to do) – a semi-comical, yet special memory I have. Another showcased artist, Fabiano Amin, was a high-spirited and enthusiastic element to the event. His abstract pieces were displayed on one of the front walls in the gallery, and they were definitely catching guests’ attention as they entered the gallery.

Though the art sales from Real Art on a Shoestring made it a successful evening for our artists, the energy during this art opening alone made it a triumphant occasion that I am elated to have been a part of. It was a remarkable experience to have all of the puzzle-pieces come together for Real Art on a Shoestring, and I am very excited for the next event at La Collection. For now, I will enjoy and appreciate my workspace being so immersed in these inspiring art collections that will be on display through Summer 2018.


Madeline Owens is a Marketing Intern at SR/A Interior Design. She graduates later this month with a B.S. in Marketing and Supply Chain from the Smith School of Business at University of Maryland – College Park. 

We are excited to announce the next exhibit showing at La Collection – Real Art on a Shoestring!  20 local artists in a variety of disciplines will be exhibiting over 100 pieces all priced under $750. Unlike typical art galleries, SR/A believes art displays best as it would in a person’s home – surrounded by furniture, accessories and antique treasures, so at the gallery you will see each artist’s collection paired with complimentary furnishings. We promise – owning original art is not out of your budget! All are welcome at the opening reception on April 26!