When Professor Nancy Hackett approached a group of interior design students about decorating a South Boston home for charity during the holiday season, they jumped at the opportunity.

“They understand that giving back to our community is a critical piece of becoming a professional,” said Hackett, interior design program director at the New England School of Art & Design.

Interior showing Living room with Christmas tree and decorated mantelThe students’ challenge was to decorate one of five houses included in the Catholic Charities 26th annual Laboure Center Christmas House tour, a South Boston tradition. The tour, which takes place the first weekend in December, features five homes, each decorated by a professional Boston designer. This year, there was a new twist, with Suffolk student members of the Interior Design Association invited to participate.

Visibility & experience

“As students, this project allowed us to showcase our skills and be part of the Boston design world. It was good visibility for us and we made our presence known,” said senior Hannah McGuirl. “It was great to be part of a team and to see our concept come together from beginning to end.”

McGuirl collaborated with fellow students Kaitlin Gannon, Robby Johnson, and Hannah Kumlin. Along the way they practiced skills vital to their industry, such as how to make a presentation, handle a budget, and follow a schedule.

Working with a client

“We all experienced what it takes working with a client,” said McGuirl. “We got a taste of the real world.”

Decorations with elves on staircase

The Suffolk students decorated a five-room townhouse with a Danish Christmas theme, titled, “Falling Snow in Copenhagen.”

“We used a lot of winter colors – red, blue, green, and silver – throughout the house,” said McGuirl. “We wanted to reflect a Danish theme.”

Hackett and the students shopped together over a three-week period. Their purchases included a Christmas tree, greens, ornaments, and lighting. It took about 10 hours over two days for the group to install everything and ready the home for public viewing.

“The client e-mailed me that first night and said what a beautiful job the students had done,” said Hackett, who coordinated the project. “She told me that her five-year-old twins were enthralled with how everything looked.”