Phyllis Harbinger and Her Students Help George to the Rescue

Tune in to NBC this weekend to see Interior Design faculty member Phyllis Harbinger and her students on George to the Rescue, an Emmy-winning human interest/home renovation series that “rescues” the homes of deserving families.

Harbinger, president of Design Concepts/Interiors LLC, was lead designer on a project to make a Yorktown Heights, NY, house accessible for a 3-year-old girl with cerebral palsy. Before the renovation, young Mia Finnegan had to be carried up and down stairs, and she was still sleeping in a crib for safety reasons. The show brought in two Acorn Stairlifts, and Harbinger moved and widened doorways to ease navigation. She also added wheelchair ramps as well as a pull-down rod in the closet and a safe bed for Mia to sleep in.

These adjustments, Harbinger noted, “are part of ADA education, which FIT students learn from the first semester.”

Her first-year class, Interior Design Studio I, got involved, too. Mia loved a series of alphabet artwork her brother had made, but her brother was embarrassed by it. Harbinger’s class came up with the idea to photograph the pieces, arrange them into a tableau in InDesign, and print out the poster to be hung as a keepsake in Mia’s room. The family was ecstatic.

The project is just one example of the Interior Design Department’s efforts to provide students with real-world, service-learning opportunities.

Harbinger, having appeared on HGTV shows in the past, was used to being followed by cameras, but she wasn’t expecting how easy it would be to work with George Oliphant, the show’s affable namesake. “He was the most authentic, down-to-earth guy,” she noted.

George to the Rescue runs in NBC’s top markets. On WNBC-TV in New York and New Jersey, the episode will air Saturday, April 1, at 9:30 am and 7 pm, as well as Sunday night, April 2, at 12:30 am. After that, it will stream at Interact with the show on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.