Another semester completed! And this was a BUSY one! Luckily, I only had one major project class. The others were much less work including History of Interiors, Interior Systems, Professional Practice, and Advanced Design Communication. But, nonetheless, it was CRAZY trying to juggle five classes, work, mommy life, and being a wife. I have to admit, there were times I thought I had made the dumbest decision to take that class load on. However, I signed up for my last classes and applied for graduation yesterday! Whoop! My last semester will be 19 credit hours... Yeahhhhh... I know. 

But, I do what I can to graduate quickly! I mainly just don't want to be in school the entire time Elaina is little. :) So I'm looking forward to being finished in the Spring!

First, I want to give a big shout out to my family and friends who are always so supportive. My family and John take on different times of entertaining Elaina and helping us out. John made so many quesadillas and grilled cheese over the last month and gave E so many baths and bedtime stories. And I felt so blessed this last week to have friends who called/texted to check on me, pray for me, and encourage me during this hectic time. It really lifted me up to have their encouragement! We were even treated to a meal the night before my project was due by our friends! I tell you what, even in these times that seem so small and piddly compared to what others deal with, yet so stressful, we are blessed with people who care. And I'm always grateful for that.

So now. 

My project class was Contract Design which is a huge field in itself. It ranges of course, but initially includes healthcare, education, and all other public buildings. We never get to choose our own projects of course, but this project was a bit different. How? Well, here's the simple answer. We were able to choose a target group for a healthcare facility of some kind that we would design using a building shell and Evidence Based Design. EBD is also rapidly growing for designers and architects. When a particular project is complete, further research is done to see outcomes of how the building/interior affects its occupants. When successes are found, they are documented for future designers and architects to relate back to for similar projects. You get the jist of it...

Our goal was to choose a target group and research as much as possible about that group and what a healthcare facility (and its finishes and fixtures more importantly) could do to help them. We began the entire project in a vague way. We had no building shell to begin with or to look at for our programming and concept plan stages.
We were given the thought to use the design organization from a previous canvas painting assignment to really show a process of our plan... Here was my painting... 

Hey! Be nice! It was my first (and maybe last) canvas painting after all! I'm a watercolor person...

But really, this assignment was mainly to discuss design organization like radial design, central design, grid, cluster, and linear. And other principles within space like, transformation, hierarchy, symmetry, rhythm, and so on. These terms are definitely vague and commonly used among the architect crowd when planning developments, etc and not so much in our everyday terms. But it was very interesting and knowledge to be carried with me for years. Can you guess which organization I used???! 

(say cluster, say cluster!!!)

I digress. 

So off we went on our research. This was the super easy part for me. I knew exactly what my target group would be by the time my teacher spit out the "Tar-" in Target Group. Most everyone knows I have a previous degree in Child Development that specifically focused on children with autism. I love all the little buddies I made throughout those years. And autism is one of those disorders that has and will always have a place in my heart. So naturally, my first and probably last project that I get to pick my client/group, would have to involve those with autism. Done and done. Now, I did have to research of course. With my first degree, research was everything. I can do research. However, my degree focus was in children, and I wanted, this time, to focus on young adults and adults with autism. Young adults and adults with autism are often left behind in the community and in healthcare. Sure we have developmental centers for young ones for therapy and even older low functioning adults with many different developmental disorders. But there's not always focus on a design to meet the needs specifically of autism spectrum disorders. So I jumped in to research over current facilities and yup, you guessed it, evidence based design. 

I won't go into too much detail because it's 8-10 weeks of process on our part. But we initially go through the design process with concept plans, early development, and into making those decision within our plan that meet the needs of our target group, codes, etc. We work with our teachers and peers to get feedback and constructive criticism over our planning and concepts. After this, we begin our actual development. Planning spaces and how that correlates with egress (emergency exiting for those who don't understand my terminology), lighting, electrical, ceiling heights, appropriate finishes, etc and develop construction plans accordingly. Long processes that no one except the contractors ever usually see. 

The very last step for our class, is to show that process on boards. Usually, for a client, I would not show boards like this. There would less research and organization process and more building details and specifics. However, we working on accreditation, and needed to show this process. These are 30" x 42" but I could have easily used a larger size.

These boards usually take a week for me to do only because I get that designer perfection itch on a usual basis and like to change things, try new ideas, and make them better than the first draft. However, I only had time to do these in less than 24 hours! The due date just flew up on all of us and left me scrambling to finish. But I finished and was able to tweak a few things according to the feedback of my teachers. 

And now... I present... The Bridge

For the renderings, I intentionally tried a new style for myself. I chose digital watercolor, because I don't have any representation of watercolor in my portfolio. I wanted to create a more sketched look verses real life photos through this particular project. I love the way it turned out. It would be cool to someday show how this look differs from an advanced rendered stage if I ever time to re-render the project.

Software used on this project includes; Revit, Photoshop, SketchUp (small ideation renderings), Illustrator, and Hand-drafting/Hand-Rendering (first section view).

These works and designs are property of Michelle Volkerding. Do not copy or reproduce without permission.


Elaina's third birthday is only a few weeks behind us. It came and went pretty quickly, and Elaina Mae had a blast! I was very surprised by how excited she was and how social she was with her little friends and relatives. Going into everything, we had decided to hold her party at our home for simplicity. Her first birthday had a larger guest list so we had rented a space. Last year, we kept her party to our immediate families and god parents. This year, we thought it would be fun to have her regular play group friends over as well as her cousins! We originally planned for a few activities outside though we knew it could be slightly cold. But we thought that'd balance out having everyone over to our house. Well,it turned out to be freezing cold and snowy that very day! So we crammed all 40 of us in our home. Thankfully, we had the playroom to use for the kids. Thanks to everyone for being troopers and squeezing in with us! But really it was super fun and I think all of the kids had a good time!

Now everyone knows that I love a good themed party. I love all the big details down to the smaller special details. So of course this year wouldn't be any different. But really, we did keep most things simple and I used a majority of things we already had.

I really tried to get Elaina in on the ideas as I knew this was the first year she'd really care.
So this year, we were SUPER close to having a Firetruck party! I made the invite and had party supplies saved in my Amazon account, when we changed the idea a month before. Elaina has always had a fascination with firetrucks and especially loved them this year. About a month before the party, we were browsing our local party store when Elaina kept grabbing all of the balls in the bins. Anyone who knows her, knows that she loves any type of ball. Her favorite toy for sure since she was little. So we got the idea for a ball party; complete with ball games. Elaina loved the idea! So off I went designing the card off of the previous firetruck invite I had designed. They were very simple to do and turned out great! I had a little run-down with Staples (printer changing the colors, cutting them slanted, etc) so I had a little frustration with the initial invitation party. But I was limited on time at that point. So we mailed them off!

I also planned for a few games/activities that I thought the kids would like. We settled on a Gumball necklace making station and a ball pit!

I purchased supplies for gumball necklaces and bracelets. Most of the supplies came from Etsy but I ended up finding a pink ribbon at our local Walmart. 

Elaina liked playing with them the night before and even helped me make a few of her own necklaces.

The day before we picked out her outfit. She already had an adorable white A-line flowy dress I had found at Old Navy a couple weeks before and we sat down and made a necklace for her dress. 

And we paused on the day of her party to snap a few pics of her!




She was such a goofball! I ended up bribing her with a little sweet tea for the last photo. :) The large "3" balloon is from Amazon. We had our local party store blow it up for us with the other balloons we purchased.

Right before the party, as tradition, we had our annual pic in a pic taken by my sister. 
I absolutely love this tradition! It's so cool to have displayed in our home and to see how we change through the years!

As for the decor, I tried to keep everything as simple as I could. I made the "Happy Birthday" banner earlier this year. I chose white and gold sparkle because I'll be able to use it every year that way.

We also kept the snacks to the theme but also simple and healthy to offset all of that SUGAR!!
We had Cuties, grapes, round carrots, cheeseballs, sausage balls.

The cupcakes were yellow cake/Strawberry icing made by Schnucks. I found gold toppers on Etsy and we were actually able to save them for next year!

Elaina's candle/smash cake was also made by Schnucks for FREE and I added the black polka dots cake decor that I had purchased from Etsy awhile back. I found the tall gold candles at Target I think. And the gold "3" candle at a local boutique. It was a sparkler candle!!!!


I made water bottle sleeves very easily with her invite in mind. And the black and white polka dot straws were purchased quite awhile back. I can't remember exactly where I got them but possible Target or Hobby Lobby.

We served Blue Raspberry Lemonade (delish!) and Sweet Tea (OF COURSE).

We had TONS of cupcakes!!!!!!


We kept the favors simple. I always like to give a little something to the guests who give time out of their day for us! So we gave gumballs! I found the gumballs on Amazon and I had these paper baggies from another project. I printed labels out and Viola! Done!


Taking a break for some snacks...

THE BALL PIT was a success! We had the idea for a ball pit when Elaina helped us pick the theme. We thought the easiest way would be to buy a large blow up swimming pool and then fill it. The pool was found on Amazon and I found the balls on eBay in packs of 20 from a distributor. When we realized our friends had thought of doing a ball pit for their son too, we teamed up to share the ball pit for both of our parties. 

And it started snowing as her party was ending! We LOVE snow so it was a perfect ending to the day!
All in all, it was a great day. Elaina and the other kids seemed to have a blast! 
Happy Third Birthday to our girl!
I wonder what next year will bring....