Interior design students win People’s Choice award at annual Virginia Furniture Market competition

Every year Virginia Furniture Market holds a competition to showcase Liberty FACS students. Aiming to bring real-world experience to emerging designers while beautifying the store’s showrooms, the competition brings competitors from Liberty’s Interior Design department to showcase their skills. 

A locally-owned and operated business for over 22 years, VFM operates eight brick-and-mortar locations throughout southwest and central Virginia. 

Through the time spent planning and designing for the competition, design students are challenged to develop room ideas that will fit the company’s customer demographics, buying habits, budget and style 

This year, Maddie Brown-Bennett, D’Amore Zeno, Carly Snyder and Alexis Edwards won the People’s Choice Award, which is one of the two main awards from the competition. The voting for the People’s Choice Award was promoted on VFM’s social media. After the voting ended, the People’s Choice winner along with VFM’s choice were announced at the final awards presentation held Oct. 15. 

Joel Shepherd, the owner of VFM, kicked off the competition by sharing with the students what makes the business successful, focusing on how their business strategies, including a focus on maximized customer savings and top-rated customer service. 

While the girls were required to participate in the competition as part of a class assignment, Brown-Bennett enjoyed the extra challenge.

“(It was) a great opportunity to excel and develop our professional skills in interior design and gain real-life experience working with a client,” Brown-Bennett said. 

Taking a little over a month to prepare, teams developed cohesive design packages including floor plans, renderings and presentation boards. Then all participants pitched their ideas to a selection committee. Members of the committee chose the winner based on what they believed would sell best in the stores and what their customers would like. 

Brown-Bennett said time management was the greatest challenge of the competition, as her group members all had different schedules to work around. 

“We also learned how to work with a client and decide what was best for them,” Brown-Bennett said. “We did extensive research on the demographics of the area and used these demographics to create a research-based design.”

As the People’s Choice winners, Brown-Bennett, Zeno, Snyder and Edwards will have their design installed at Virginia Furniture Market’s Christiansburg location, in addition to receiving scholarships. 

This year’s competition marks the fourth year that VFM has donated scholarship funding to Liberty’s FACS department through the VFM Design Challenge. 

The competition was a great opportunity to add real life experience to their portfolio, Brown-Bennett said, helping them enter the workforce in the future. 

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