Move-in ready: Your first look inside the new USC Village residential colleges

The living spaces are filling quickly with furniture, but the choices took years and high-level testing

May 29, 2017 Ron Mackovich-Rodriguez

Workers are moving fast to furnish the 663 housing units in the USC Village residential colleges. This two-bedroom suite — one of 16 different USC Village floor plans — will house four students. (USC Video/Mark Rivard)

The desks have never been used. The beds have never been slept in. Like everything else at USC Village, the furniture is new. And there’s a story behind every desk, mattress and chair that began years ago.

“We went all over the west, looking at student housing and residential colleges in the Pac-12,” said Dan Moran of USC Housing. “The furniture we’d been buying was durable and functional, but it wasn’t keeping up with modern design. We wanted to put our best foot forward at the village. We were after functionality and a good look for design purposes.”

Moran and his colleagues asked hundreds of questions, sampled countless mattresses, measured desks and sized up furniture for design and quality at UCLA, Stanford University, the University of Arizona and the University of Utah, among others campuses. They also checked out design studios and manufacturing plants.

Capacity was a concern, as USC Village holds well over 12,000 pieces of residential furniture.

We had to ask, ‘Can these guys really build this much furniture?’

Dan Moran

“We had to ask, ‘Can these guys really build this much furniture?’” Moran said. “We also asked them what students are responding to.”

The answer came from the companies Foliot and Southwest Contract. Both use some post-consumer materials in the manufacturing process, meaning much of the residential furniture at USC Village contains some recycled material.

Tested by students, faculty and the president

Moran and his colleagues at university housing brought in samples from a number of vendors and set them up in trial configurations. Scores of students, residential faculty, staff members and President C. L. Max Nikias were invited to walk through and try out the furnishings. Twelve sample chairs were tested before a winner was chosen. Also ordered: mattresses made in Montebello. Each has a firm side and a soft side.

After 18 months of research and testing, the tall order was placed. Everything is being delivered and installed, right on time.

The noisy fitting-out phase will soon end, followed by a clamorous move-in day in August. Once it settles, expect USC Village residential colleges to quiet down.

“Everything on and above the second floor will be an oasis for students,” said Grant Burlew, associate director for Residential Education at USC. “If you want to be by yourself, you can do that, but there’s lots of communal space, too. Each building is a little different, so it’s a unique experience in each space.”