September 13, 2022

When the pandemic began in 2020, and the economy was hit hard, Maine designer David Stensland began looking for new opportunities.

Because all of his customers were shut down indefinitely,  the future of David’s alpaca apparel business, RedMaple Sportswear, a specialty niche, seemed “iffy”.  As an entrepreneur, David was used to pivoting, and he knew he needed a “Plan B”, just in case retail took a while to bounce back.

Soon after, David found a new direction with Century College’s Kitchen and Bath Design program.  Two years later, he’s graduating with his KBD certificate, and was recently awarded First Place in Bath Design in the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) Student Design competition. 

Over 200 entries were judged in this annual national competition for students that is part of Century’s KBD curriculum.

Kitchen and Bath Design:  A Natural Career Progression 

Long before the Covid-19 lockdown, David was already using his creativity in other ways, starting with his own home remodeling projects, and then being asked to work on remodeling for family members.  After many years as a novice, he decided a more formal education in the Kitchen and Bath Design industry would be a great way to expand his knowledge and skills while offering additional work opportunities.  With his undergraduate degree in textiles, art and design, and an additional degree from New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, branching out to another area of design was a natural career progression for him.

Century College’s NKBA Founding College Status

“I carefully researched all 130 (NKBA) affiliated schools, and weeded out all programs that didn’t have an online component since I needed to stay in Maine,” David remembers. “Century’s online program started in 2005. That put them ahead of the curve in distance education.  They were one of the first schools to align a KBD program with the goals, resources, and support of the NKBA, so they are very in tune with the industry.”

“Program director Margaret Krohn encouraged me to take two full years to complete the program, and that really helped, given my work obligations,” David notes. “Still, I was a little worried about going back to school and being the old guy in the program.”

But he needn’t have worried, as Century attracts students from all ages and backgrounds. “The KBD program turned out to have plenty of non-traditional students, many of whom were looking for a change from other career paths. That put me at ease and helped me feel I’d made a good decision,” David adds.

“All of my classes were online, and though I missed some of the aspects of classroom interaction, we did have weekly Zoom meetings, so I still got to know people and learn from their different points of view.”

A Perfect Internship Opportunity

When it was time to work on his KBD internship, David seized an opportunity with the contractor who was working on his own house.  The contractor didn’t like working with computers, but needed designs and drawings for another remodel client. David had learned those skills, so he worked with the client to assess her wants and needs, then designed an entire apartment that provided the solutions she was looking for. 

“In design it doesn’t matter if you’re working with building contractors or knitting factories–a lot of the processes are the same.  You’re looking to get the best outcome that fits a particular need, and you have to be able to communicate effectively and lead others down the path to achieving your vision.  It’s so rewarding.”

A Bright Future: Combining A Variety of Skills

David is now in a perfect position to apply the knowledge learned in Century’s KBD program.  He has a good understanding of residential systems and the technical, business, and artistic skills to create successful projects.  

He plans to work free-lance with remodeling clients and builders, while continuing to run his apparel business, applying his “RedMaple” design aesthetic in both industries.  “I’m lucky that I can do kitchen and bath design as a complement to my other design business, and I can work with clients anywhere,” David notes. “For example, I’m currently designing my sister-in-law’s kitchen, and she lives in England.” 

Advice for New Students

David offers the following advice for those who are looking for a career change: “Just go for it.  You have to take a chance—take one or two classes, and you’ll find out if it’s a good fit. Covid has made us all question our paths, and these days people follow several different paths on their career journeys.  Be brave, and just go for it.”

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