Decorator brings coffee-shop feel to new Alternative Education center

Interior Decorator Amy Lee recalls her first reaction when she saw what would be the space for the new Alternative Education center, “It was a cool space because it had the high ceilings, lots of natural sunlight and exposed beams. It was really an empty shell, you had nowhere to go but up.”

HRDC’s Development Director Michelle Robinson had been a long admirer of Lee’s repurposed furnishings from Lee’s days at Granny’s Attic and her more current vendor booth at Marketplace 3301 in Billings; yet the two had never met. It wasn’t until their first meeting that Robinson knew Lee would be ideal for the job.

“We know that today’s population of students no matter what age, like to hang out in coffee shops. That’s where you will see people reading, you’ll see people doing their studies. So we were thinking, how do we mimic that instead of a traditional classroom and that’s when we started talking about the main space and how it should have that feel,” said Robinson.

The opportunity to create a unique space was not the only thing that drew Lee to the project; she also had a personal connection to HRDC. “My son had used the Youth Summer employment program at HRDC, and I was grateful for that service because he learned job skills. So when I got the opportunity to help HRDC and work with Michelle, I jumped at the chance. I could not have turned her down if I wanted to.”

A project of this kind is a first for HRDC, and Lee says she is very pleased with how the space turned out. “I think it turned out better than I had planned, because you take the photos and bring your ideas in but you never know how it is going to come out. “

The project was made possible by a $10,000 grant from Western Security Bank Hands of Hope and the generosity of the following individuals who donated their time, labor or materials:

  • Amy Lee – Interior decoration, repurposed furnishings and rust wall treatment
  • Connie Charette – Faux Nique Paint, all interior paint
  • Jim Swain – Carpet Barn, all flooring
  • Habitat for Humanity Restore – Kitchen cabinets repurposed by Lee
  • Kerry Frye – Donated air hockey table
  • Lowe’s Home Improvement – donation of industrial desk materials
  • First Interstate Bank volunteers – Desk stain and assembly for United Way Day of Caring
  • Jim Riggio – Apsaalooke Design, prepped barn wood for the countertops and bookshelves
  • Ed Kenik – Marketplace 3301, handcrafted barn wood bookshelves and countertop
  • Josh Ingraham – Marketplace 3301, custom designed oversized barn wood coffee table
  • NorthWestern Energy & Canvas Creek Team Building – Provided funding for materials and instruction for youth mural project on display in Alternative Education center