Student Stories: Sheri Bolton

Sheri Bolton

Sheri Bolton majored in Interior Design. Watch the above video as Sheri talks about her career and the positive impact of College of DuPage.

Sheri Bolton originally earned a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Communications and an MBA. 

But after leaving corporate America to start a family, she wanted a career that allowed her to follow her passion of design, making her the third generation of designers in her family. Bolton utilized her business background in planning how to juggle being a wife, a mother and a student. She initially enrolled at a Chicago-area community college and then switched to another institution. 

However, mindful of tuition costs, she decided to research schools with a competitive tuition rate that offered strong computer-based Interior Design programs with professors who worked in the field and honed their craft. After meeting with Jane Kielb, Assistant Professor and Coordinator of College of DuPage’s Interior Design program, Bolton had a strong sense of how the program could benefit her.

“When I was in the classroom, it was competitive and rigorous and real,” she said. “In the end, I was able to marry my business and marketing background with the skills set that I gained at College of DuPage. I am very happy and pleased with the education that I received.”

Having earned her associate’s degree, Bolton is now the owner and lead designer of Bolton Designs and Interiors LLC in Chicago. In 2015, she was one of nearly 100 volunteers from 35 states selected to help decorate the White House for the holidays. Bolton had her first meeting at the White House on Thanksgiving Day, and for the next five days helped to transform the iconic presidential residence.

“We met First Lady Michelle Obama at the Volunteer Reception, and she gave a speech to us that was heartfelt and warm. She appreciated the sacrifice we all were making to be away from our families,” she said. “Working on this project was up there in terms of excitement level and pressure. It made me proud to be an American and to serve in this way, to have a hand in giving back to all of the people who graced the halls of the White House.”

The lead designer on the project was Bryan Rafanelli, who previously coordinated and decorated several state dinners and events. He was chosen by the First Lady, and together they developed theme, Timeless Traditions. In addition, the First Lady selected fashion designers Carolina Herrera, Humberto Leon, Carol Lim and Duro Olowu to decorate three rooms of the White House.

“Once the vision was established, they gave us the vision and allowed us to execute it,” Bolton said. “Imagine coordinating an event with all of these moving pieces. We spent two days just prepping all of the elements.”

Bolton was delighted to work with Olowu – one of the First Lady’s favorite clothing designers – on the Vermeil Room decorating two eight-foot Christmas trees and the mantel. The latter featured miniature trees, gifts wrapped in signature fabrics, original dolls, pom-poms, and several international treasures and antiques.

One of Bolton’s favorite projects was turning the Lower-Cross Hallway into a silver wonderland. She hand-fashioned nearly 4,000 elements in helping to create garlands with silver bells and balls that arch over the hallway and doorways.

“It’s one place that everyone walks through every day, including President Obama, and I wanted it to have that ‘wow’ factor,” she said.

The Rafanelli Events staff also called Bolton the “Tree-Skirt Magician” for her work on the cloth beneath the official White House tree.

“I was given this piece of fabric with frays along the edge and asked, ‘Can you please do something with it?’ I really connected with this project because of what the official tree symbolizes.”

Bolton thanks Kielb and professors like Shelly Mocchi who prepared her well for a career and future opportunities, such as the one at the White House. She also created Design From Within, a comprehensive system to help people navigate home projects. 

In addition to growing her business, working in both the residential and commercial sector, Bolton also has been a part-time faculty member at COD, teaching Residential Design Studio. She said COD provided a great foundation with which to follow her passion. 

“College of DuPage prepared me well with technical knowledge and cutting-edge CAD techniques,” she said. “I learned how to be meticulous in the drafting of 2D and 3D drawings that give customers a true perspective of how their space will look. That level of precision has been so valuable in helping my clients visualize their spaces before commencing any construction.”