Contact: Erin Flynn
Kalamazoo, Michigan – A new business sprang up in downtown Kalamazoo, and a student from Western Michigan University helped grow his aesthetic.
“We want people to come in and feel at peace and take a moment to breathe and relax, and really feel warm and comfortable,” he says. Diana Nance, owner of the new home store MJ Home – the sister store of the Mason Jar Plant Shop. I clicked Matt Collinsa first-year interior design student, to help her make this vision a reality.
The seeds of the partnership were planted on social media. Collins worked in a restaurant adjacent to the factory store and would wander frequently on breaks.
“It was my little escape to go out there and be surrounded by all the plants,” he says. One day, he bought a factory and posted a photo of it on Instagram. Diana noticed it and said, ‘I really like your living space, your style, the way you organize things. I am looking to open a furniture and home décor store, and I noticed that you are an interior design student. I wonder if you could help me design a concept for it.”
Collins opened his textbooks and began his work inspired by the bohemian style. He also made use of some of his connections from the class and contacted two designers in Sweden to review his ideas. Everything from color schemes to customer circulation and customer movement played a role in its design.
“He brought a lot to the store,” says Nance. “He was great to work with, and from the start he really helped with the flooring and painting, all of that.”
Collins had the opportunity to see his work pay off at the store’s grand opening on June 1.
“When I see the reactions and how people interact with the space, something that I created and helped create as a team, I love it. I feed on that.”
Nance even gave Collins a space around the store to display his design drawings during ArtHop, a monthly event where downtown works display local artwork.
“I think[Western’s program]is amazing, and I hope this will be beneficial not only to him, but to the entire organization,” says Nance. “I’ve been in healthcare for 25 years, and I’m going to hire people and say, ‘I want you to build your resume here. I want you to do whatever it takes to get you to the next level. I hope this is something to help him on that journey and possibly help others as well.”
Design a bright future
Collins is creative at heart.
“Growing up, interior design is something I’ve always been involved in. In high school, I was sketching in notebook floor plans for my dream home, and I didn’t know at the time that it was schematic design and part of the design process,” he says. “My brother and dad are very practical, mechanical and constructive. I was always in the background watching.”
He wasn’t sure how to translate this passion into a career, however, so he initially attended Western University as an educational major. It was a logical occasion – Collins had done some alternative teaching – but as he attended classes, he still felt that something was missing. conversation with Dr. Susan Smith Ayerschair of the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, offers a new path forward.
“We’ve been talking about commitments in class, and it just wasn’t fair to my future students that I’m not 100% interested in them,” Collins says. Smith Ayers mentioned the interior design program, which was also part of her department. “I’ve always had this ‘what if’. What if I never followed (that passion)? And I decided to make a leap of faith saying, ‘I have to do this.’ And I haven’t looked back since. I never felt like it was a chore to study or Anything. I’d do it all day if I could. I just love it.”
The opportunity to design MJ Home only furthered his chosen path.
“To be in my first year in the design program and then have this project has really opened my eyes. These are real experiences, real opportunities that will have a tremendous impact when the time comes to find career options,” Collins said.
“I appreciate my teachers very much –Mary Beth JanssenAnd the Kim BuchholzAyers – for being so supportive, as well as some of the talented students in the design program that I have come to know. They all add to this growth journey through my career and education path. And I especially appreciate Diana for letting me do this, because I really feel like I can feel, think, and see clearly what lies ahead.”
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