By Martie Thompson
While not a native, Marlene Kenney has moved to the area — twice. The first time was in 1990 when she relocated from Ohio to be near family. She worked at Mayo Clinic and met her husband, Mel Towner, and then they moved to Albuquerque, NM for 10 years. Her second relocation to northeast Florida was in 2007, when she was a human resources director for a nationwide fire-life safety company.
She retired in 2014 and decided to try her hand at a business encompassing a life-long passion, interior decorating, which she named Room Rescuer. She has also found creative outlet by teaching interior decorating classes through the University of North Florida’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). Kenney has two grown sons and shares her home with her husband and two rescue dogs, Emmy and Buddy.
- How did you get involved with teaching at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNF?
I took a literature class in February 2015 about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short stories. At the end of the class, I was approached about possibly being an instructor through the institute. Students had submitted a variety of course topics they were interested in and one of them was interior design. So I taught my first course in October 2015 and and have taught a total of three courses. They are four weeks each for an hour and a half per class. My next class is entitled “Unleash your inner decorator: Introduction to interior design” and begins in October.
The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute has been around about 10 years and offers continuous learning for individuals older than 50. Members pay a $50 fee and then can take classes through the institute for as little as $35 – $50. There are approximately 1,500 members of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and they can choose from about 150 classes per semester.
- What is a tip from your course that you can share?
In the class, we talk a lot about utilizing space, refreshing areas and repurposing items. For instance an old TV armoire can be refreshed with a new coat of paint and then repurposed in a hallway or bathroom for a linen closet. I’m also a fan of a cohesive palette, using a minimum number of colors so things flow from one room to the next.
- How did you become interested in interior decorating?
I have been interested since I was a little girl with five brothers. When I finally got my own bedroom, I couldn’t wait to make it how I wanted it. Over the years I also took some courses. People have always admired my decorating in my home and so when I retired, I decided to open my own business, Room Rescuer.
- How do you assist clients with Room Rescuer?
I like to utilize pieces people already have by repurposing them and moving them around. Sometimes seeing things through a new set of eyes is all that is needed. I mix old items with new. I enjoy using things my clients already love to tell their story.
- If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three things would you bring?
Definitely my husband and my two sons. Then we’d build treehouses and totally re-do the island!
Photo courtesy Marlene Kinney