Before and After: Karamo Gives His Alma Mater’s Student Lounge a Back-to-School Makeover

published Jul 27, 2019
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Credit: Matt Harrington for HomeGoods

Everyone remembers the first few days of college: scouring the campus to find the ‘it’ spot to serve as an all purpose space for comfort, studying, and gathering with friends. For most universities, that place is the student lounge—often an average-looking open area with bare walls and non-coordinating furniture. For Florida A&M University students, that place is Gibbs Hall. 

With back-to-school season quickly approaching, Queer Eye’s Karamo Brown worked with HomeGoods to give the generic space at his alma mater a Gen Z-appropriate makeover. 

Karamo, a former regular at Gibbs Hall, was the perfect guy for the design job. And, after hearing about his extreme home makeover at his first Tallahassee apartment, I think we can all agree! He told Apartment Therapy that while living in his dorm was great, he appreciated the opportunity to define his own space with things that made him feel empowered, productive, and were an all-around good vibe. 

Credit: Matt Harrington for HomeGoods

As more institutions begin to see the effects of an encouraging workspace through design, Karamo was happy to help his FAMU family by revamping a space heavily used by students. He says of his own college experience, “If I could redo anything, I would have made my living space feel less like a temporary space and more like home. I decorated minimally and it really affected my outlook on being there, but there are plenty of small ways to make your space feel like you and you don’t have to sacrifice quality, your bank account, or your well-being.”

The re-design features an eclectic color palette, fun textures, inspiration walls, dedicated corners for quiet time, activities, and an assortment of other hand picked gems to turn the student lounge into a space that looks and feels good. Here’s what else he had to say about the process and the final look. [This interview has been edited and condensed.]

Credit: Matt Harrington for HomeGoods
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Apartment Therapy: As a former FAMU student, why did you choose this space to revamp?

Karamo Brown: The Gibbs Hall student lounge is the first stop for every first-year student and their parents to check in at FAMU. At HomeGoods there was a great selection of sofas and loveseats, from super soft leather to tufted fabric, that I added to create inviting areas for families. The new living sections are great for students to connect with their parents before they embark on a new and inspiring next step in their lives!

Credit: Matt Harrington for HomeGoods

AT: What was your design inspiration? Did you reflect back on your time as a FAMU student and what would have been useful for increasing your own productivity?

KB: Your space really affects your mental health, how you show up, and how productive you are. For me, attending FAMU was one of the best times in my life, but I also remember feeling anxious and like it wasn’t really my home. I wanted to create a space that reassures students that you don’t have to feel displaced and this is your home.

Whether it’s a dorm room or off-campus housing, your college living space should be a creative outlet to foster your interests and add to your productivity. When I came across a ton of vibrant and colorful woven cotton throws and floor pillows at HomeGoods, I had a vision to create a relaxing “zen” nook in the student lounge. It’s now the perfect space for students to chill out and let their minds recoup after a busy day.

Credit: Matt Harrington for HomeGoods

AT: What’s the significance of the inspiration wall?

KB: When transforming the student lounge, I wanted to add a little something extra to make the environment feel positive and welcoming, which led to the inspiration wall. It features a range of images and phrases from unique artwork, motivational sayings and odes to Florida and FAMU. Whether you’re cramming for a final or just trying to unwind, my goal is to make every student who enters the space feel motivated and inspired. Plus, it makes for a great Instagram backdrop!

AT: You made a lot of changes to the layout of the student lounge. What are some other new additions to the space?

Credit: Matt Harrington for HomeGoods

KB: Study Area: I felt it was really important to create a few spaces within the lounge that could inspire students in their studies. I set the room up with a variety of study surfaces including three personal desks, a sturdy high-top table with wooden stools and a versatile dining table that seats up to eight. Each “study area” is stocked with plenty of notebooks, pencils, pens, chargers and more for classmates to host study groups or to meet one-on-one.

Credit: Matt Harrington for HomeGoods

Game Area: As a student at FAMU, the Gibbs Hall student lounge was the place to hang! When not in class or studying, we’d play games like cards, air hockey or foosball. You can imagine how excited I was to find a variety of classic board games and activities while exploring the aisles of HomeGoods to update the game area with. When adjusting to a new environment, It’s so important to give yourself a break to keep your creativity and productivity flowing.

Thanks, Karamo!