Grad is Designer at Boyne Resorts
Born and raised in Michigan, Stephanie Klebba was always attracted to interior design. As a child she was constantly rearranging the furniture in her room, and was drawn to architecture and design. As a student at Howell High School, she decided she would pursue interior design as a career. She knew about FIDM, but at the time didn’t want to leave Michigan, so she attended the College for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Interior Design. She spent the next four years trying to find her place in the industry, doing visual merchandising, interning, and taking temporary positions, but “felt something was missing after CCS.” Not wanting any outside influence, she applied to FIDM, telling no one. It wasn’t until she got accepted that she confided in her parents. “[Going to FIDM] was one of the best decisions of my life,” she said. She earned her Professional Designation Degree in Visual Communications in 2017 and for the last four years has been working in Michigan on the in-house design team at Boyne Resorts, a collection of mountain and lakeside resorts, ski areas, and attractions spanning from British Columbia to Maine.
Stephanie is LEED certified (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design), an important certification in interior design. Committed to a goal of reducing carbon emissions to net zero throughout their North American operations by 2030, Boyne has established the ForeverProject and is focused on sustainable design.
She started at Boyne right after graduation. “I was in the FIDM Library late one night just before they were closing. It must have been 9:59 PM, and I saw a job posting for Boyne in Michigan.” She applied and got the position. “It happened pretty quickly.” She drove two days across the country and started work.
“When I was at FIDM, the whole experience was different [from CCS]. I took visual merchandising classes and learned that design is about storytelling. The way it was presented and described just opened up your mind. You pull inspiration from all over, including fashion and makeup trends, and even food trends. You create mood boards just like you do in fashion design.”
Another thing that set FIDM apart for her was the small class sizes, the personal attention, and the faculty who “root for you to be successful.” She said she was in FIDM Visual Communications Director Cindy Patino’s office all the time, taking full advantage of every resource and opportunity FIDM offered.
We caught up with Stephanie to learn more about her position at Boyne, what inspires her, and her future plans.
Tell us about your position at Boyne Resorts: As a designer, I focus on hospitality design, guestrooms, retail stores, golf clubs, and public spaces such as lobbies. I do everything from small tasks such as paint colors and carpet to full-blown renovations. I am responsible for starting projects from concept and carry-through to close-out of construction. I have completed one major guestroom renovation; I’m wrapping up one now and have another major guestroom renovation finishing its first phase this summer. I’ve completed a prototype retail store to base future renovations of existing stores on. And I have two boutique retail stores coming up in the next year.
Do you travel for work and visit the properties? Pre-Covid yes, I would travel approximately once or twice a quarter to check on project progress and/or any upcoming projects happening on property. Luckily three of the major resorts under the Boyne umbrella are in a 30-minute radius of Petoskey, Michigan, where our office is located. I spend a lot of time visiting the resorts for both work and leisure.
What do you love about your job at Boyne? There is such a range of projects; all the properties are unique. Each resort has its own brand and theme, and then each hotel or lodge has a subtheme related to the overall story of that resort. It is rare to use the same design style multiple times as the brands and themes range so widely—lakeside resort, English Highlands, traditional Montana (saloon-esque), and modern 70s architecture inspired with rustic twists. I also love that it’s a Michigan-owned business—that I work for a large company but that it’s based in a small lakeside town that is beautiful. I’m always learning and adapting to different challenges that each project presents. Boyne’s Resorts are experiential places where guests come to create memories, and I enjoy providing amazing spaces for those memories to be created.
What does it mean to be a LEED Green Associate Designer? LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. LEED Green Associate credential affirms a professional’s thorough comprehension of green building principles and practices. It measures general knowledge of green building practices.
What about NCIDQ? This stands for National Council for Interior Design Qualification. Skills required to design secure, functional and innovative interior spaces. This helps show the difference "interior design" and "interior decorating.” Creative and technical solutions within a structure that are functional, attractive and beneficial to the occupants' quality of life and culture. Designs must adhere to code and regulatory requirements and encourage the principles of environmental sustainability.
Why did you choose FIDM? I wanted to take a big step in my life and career to be able to meet the vision I had set for myself and needed a prestigious place that would prepare me to be successful. I was drawn to the small class sizes and the wide range of classes and programs available. I liked that Visual Merchandising, Set Design, and Interior Design were all under one roof.
How do you feel FIDM prepared you for what you are doing now? It further developed my skill base. For me, it took interior design out of the white box. I learned how to tell a story and why that is so important for a space or any environment to truly be successful, whether that’s retail, an event, or a hotel. The faculty actually root for you to be successful, which was extremely helpful and positive, which is hard to come by.
What do you love about Interior Design? Seeing my vision become reality. I find it enjoyable to help shape how a person will experience a space/place. Seeing a project you pour your soul into, for sometimes years, becoming complete and then be able to watch people have positive reactions to a space I was a part of, is very rewarding.
What inspires you in your design work? Similar to what I love about Boyne, is being able to be inspired by a range of brands and themes. Being able to take ideas from all facets, tweak them and apply them differently with creative thinking is very intriguing to me. On a non-work related note, I am personally drawn to simple, natural, mid-century environments.
Looking back, which classes at FIDM were most valuable to you? Honestly, I feel like all of them help. There are different topics in each class that when added all together it made for victory. The classes that I use the knowledge or skills gained on a regular basis were Event and Visual Merchandising / Retail. Event was super helpful to see how interiors can be related to more than just a “room.” It’s a short term environment that creates lasting memories. It was valuable to learn how to tell a story through details, centerpieces, plates, and background decoration. In Visual Merchandising / Retail, it was valuable to understand how fixtures, merchandise, and brand identity all need to be cohesive in one consistent style to work and elevate the store. How to properly display items and elements without being overbearing to guests or shoppers.
Any advice for current FIDM Students? GET INVOLVED! Get to know the faculty, always stop in to say hi and see what opportunities are new. Volunteer and intern—I volunteered every chance I got. It gives you a great place to start getting to know and working with other students as well as professionals in the business. Take advantage of all the resources at your disposal. At my previous school, I wasn’t as involved and that is why I knew if I wanted to get the most out of my experience at FIDM, I needed to put myself out there. Do things that are new; try to do different tasks and talk to different people.
What is your biggest goal right now? To continue to prove and improve myself, and move up in my company. Continue to grow relationships and work to become a more prominent designer. Get a house of my own to design and deck it out!
Photos | Courtesy of Boyne Resorts