University of Illinois - Burnham Study Hall


Take an area which acts as a connecting walkway between two buildings and create enticing study spaces while leaving the center clear for the passage of large groups of students during the change of classes. Changing the lighting was out of the scope of the project.


  • Grey cinder block walls

  • Beige vinyl tiles

  • Narrow windows

  • Harsh florescent lighting

  • Wall of old lockers

  • Plastic molded seating bench

  • Granite-topped square bench

  • Old metal teacher's desks

  • Old radiators with metal covers


Since the university has an international student body, we decided to center the design around inclusiveness and incorporate motifs and designs from as many cultures as possible so that the space felt welcoming. We also carefully used color to create an oasis in a very gray and drab environment - providing a space where students would enjoy lingering, studying and making connections with others.


We started out by painting the walls and replacing the flooring with durable colored vinyl tiles. Because this is a public space and on-going maintenance is a concern, we used a pattern of tiles to create "rugs" to anchor the main seating area and added lines to demark the placement of the tables. All the furniture was sourced from re-sale and antique shops and reupholstered with commercial grade fabrics. To soften the lighting we replaced all the bulbs and inserted colored photography gels.

And then we took the granite-topped bench, along with two additional ones that had been placed in storage and transformed them into giant ottomans. We painted the old metal radiator covers and transformed them into treasure chests. The water fountain was painted with ethnic designs as well as the trash cans. One of our artists created art panels that we securely installed onto the walls and painted patterns around the doorways. The finishing touch were the kites flying playfully along the ceilings.


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