Chair U: Our Favorite Higher Ed Installations

by Andrea Reynolds

It’s no secret that higher education dining spaces need durable furniture. With some cafeterias and student unions operating 24/7, the term “high-use” is an understatement.Along with durability, university design teams are making design and branding a major priority. New facilities aim to provide students and faculty with a welcoming, inclusive environment that also serves food. These spaces are more than just cafeterias.

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Over the years, we’ve been fortunate enough to work with colleges and universities all over the U.S. Inspired by the pursuit of design and durability, we rounded up a few our our favorite higher ed spaces that prove that college dining spaces can do just that.

Michigan State University

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Firm: Triangle and SmithGroup

Products: Jill Barstools, Cara Barstools

Why It Works: With nearly 50,000 students and faculty, Michigan State University has a lot of mouths to feed and a lot of dining spaces to match. Which is why we particularly love the design in Case Hall cafeteria. A healthy mix of rustic elements (those amazing branch chandeliers!) with modern elements like exposed duct work and a muted color palette make this space feel new and welcoming. The Cara Barstools carry the woody themes nicely while the Jill Barstools juxtapose with its clear coated steel and sleek lines. MSU was traditionally an agricultural school, so it’s fitting that Case Hall feels like the coolest, most modern hunting lodge where you can find a juicy burger and a kale salad.

Bentley University

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Interior Designer: Margaret Daly, MadDesign

Products: Siren Chairs and Barstools

Why It Works: Just minutes away from Boston, Bentley University boasts a classic New England campus complete with red brick buildings and tree-lined paths. In contrast, Bentley’s dining hall features a modern array of their signature blue on the walls and chairs. We love their choice of Siren -- a classic aluminum dining chair. Siren’s simple lines and recognizable shape make it the perfect medium for that striking Honolulu blue color. Even better, the Siren’s aluminum makeup is extremely lightweight, making it easy for students to maneuver. Pretty and smart.

Colorado State University - Braiden Hall

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Product: Rosie Barstools

Why It Works: Take one look at Colorado State University’s Braiden Hall and you feel a vibrant energy. This dining hall embraces color, pattern, and texture, using a bright green accent that gives a fresh, youthful vibe to this space. The Rosie Barstools add a  bit of retro flair, but when paired with modern pendants and glossy white cafeteria table tops, this barstool looks new again. Because this space doesn’t feel traditional, it gives students freedom to do everything from eat, to study, to hang out.

Colorado State University - Aggie Village

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Interior Designer: Styleworks

Products: Sadie Barstools, Brady Communal Tables, and Roy Occasional Tables

Why It Works: We know, CSU again? But this one caught our eye for a couple of reasons. The first is that the project was of colossal proportions. Aggie Village is comprised of three huge apartment complexes, complete with student apartments, lounge areas, lobbies, and more.  Styleworks, a Denver-based design firm, had the daunting task of sourcing furniture and fixtures for this on-campus apartment complex — all in under two months. The second reason is that with all of those challenges, Styleworks managed to deliver a welcoming, modern, and highly durable design that will function and look good for years. 

In the main living quarters, sleek Sadie Barstools are placed around the Brady Communal Table while a simple Roy Occasional Table is used as a coffee table. Each piece features natural Maple and glossy white paint. When paired with the surrounding grey and woodsy tones, it comes together as a chic, welcoming yet functional space for a student to call "home."

We know durability is key in higher education spaces, but it’s exciting to see design play an equally important role. If you’d like to see all of our installations, be sure to check out our Higher Ed page.

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