Vivien Ng, chief interior decorator for House By Northwestern.Submitted photo

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Growing up, she wanted to be an artist. Today, Vivien Ng is a 19- year-old Manufacturing and Design Engineering student at Northwestern and the chief interior decorator for House By Northwestern, the University’s entry in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2017.

How does a sophomore in college know what retirees want in a downsized home? “Since last fall, I have led focus groups on campus with seniors who are members of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), listening, asking them questions and synthesizing all of the information they gave me into a plan of action,” said Ms. Ng. “The people of OLLI were so very much alive with ideas for how they see their future. They are all living life and trying to enjoy it to the fullest.”

Ms. Ng reports that the seniors she polled wanted several recurring concepts that her interiors address. First, that a “house” be a ‘home” with layers of light, feelings of sanctuary from the world, muted and restorative colors … and materials and surfaces that contribute to feelings of luxury, serenity, and restoration. Seniors also wanted functionality but not fussiness. Built-in technologies had to be easy to use … Finally, the seniors wanted their home to support and enhance their lifestyles, which included room to entertain friends, cook, and romp with the grandkids. Strategic lighting for crafts, reading, or working was also very important.

As far as her future, when asked if this project might prompt a change in majors to interior design, Ms. Ng replied “not really. I’m definitely drawn to this project because I am learning so much about how I want my own future to look … I’m so happy because I think I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.” Lucky for the seniors, they think so too.