How do dorms get new furniture?

    New furniture in Plex. Photo by Sally Zhang / North by Northwestern

    A team consisting of Residential Services staff and headed by Anne VanOsdol, director of special projects for the Division of Student Affairs, selects new furniture for the residential halls, communities and colleges.

    VanOsdol wrote in an email that the furniture changes based on periodic assessments of various residences and the university’s renovation schedule in general, though student feedback is also an essential part. “We are aware that we have work to do in our facilities,” VanOsdol wrote. “At the direction of our new leadership in Auxiliary Services, it was determined that we need to be more aggressive with our lounge refreshes.”

    The furniture, purchased from retailers and manufacturers across the country, has to meet expectations from both the team and students before the team moves forward with the proposed renovations. “Once we have some options, we set up a test room and invite students to give feedback on the furnishings, fabrics and flooring for that particular residence hall,” VanOsdol wrote.

    Northwestern completed several renovations in recent years, including Allison Residential Community, Chapin Residential College and Foster-Walker Complex. Keeping in line with the themes or personalities of each dorm, the team chose furniture that would reflect that. “Each building and community has its own personality, which gives us the design direction for that particular residence hall,” VanOsdol wrote. “Chapin had the aubergine, which really complimented its historic stateliness, while 2303 [Sheridan] needed a little more punchy color, and Foster-Walker is all about mid-century cool.”

    But what happens to the old furniture? Although this is not always the case, the old furniture occasionally finds a new home. “We try to reuse furniture as much as possible, but sometimes it is at the end of its useful life in the Northwestern residence halls. If that is the case, it is either donated or recycled.”

    VanOsdol wrote that furnishing the various dorms with different types of furniture gave each residences its own unique sense of home, “I really love that we have such a great variety of residence halls on the Northwestern campus, from turn of the century buildings that house 27 students to some of our great mid-century spaces and the newer buildings like Kemper and Slivka. It's the wide range of housing choices, not just a couple of high rises, that makes Northwestern so unique.”


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