Shauna Levy_DMBlog

Meet Shauna Levy: Building Toronto’s Design Community

In the Canadian design industry, Shauna Levy is regarded as a steadfast and visionary leader. Appointed in 2012 as President of Design Exchange (DX), Canada’s only museum dedicated exclusively to the pursuit of design excellence and the preservation of design heritage, Levy is known for her dedication in positioning the city of Toronto as an international design destination. Established in inventive experience and expertise, Levy’s path to being honored with the prestigious Leadership Award of Excellence at this year’s Leaders Breakfast Toronto is a dynamic one.

Internationally versatile, Levy was born in Montreal, but grew up in Toronto. She moved to Paris after school where she found she had a passion for design and its influence on everyday life. Because of this influence, Levy believes that design should be accessible to everyone.

According to Levy, “Design is not luxury. It is, and should be, accessible and available to all, from fashionistas to families, coast to coast.” She also stated, “Design is ubiquitous. It touches each and every one of us on a daily basis. Design is the cornerstone of society… It is as much about addressing basic human needs, such as post-disaster housing or caring for an aging population, as it is about luxury goods and novel experiences.”

Her notions are proven in her efforts to renew DX’s programming. With a mission to capture and educate a vast demographic of supporters for the museum, she has secured renowned exhibits from Canadian and international designers, including a retrospective Design Museum London’s Christian Louboutin, as well as a guest curated exhibit by Pharrell Williams called This Is Not A Toy.

In addition to her role as President of DX, Levy is known for her contribution to co-founding the internationally acclaimed Interior Design Show (IDS) in 1998, which she developed into one of the largest contemporary design fairs in North America. By 2012, the show was bringing in over $40 million in sponsorships and sales and 600,000 visitors.

With her significant contributions to the Toronto design scene, the selection for the Leadership Award of Excellence was unanimous. “Shauna is a design evangelist,” said Susan Wiggins, CAE, Hon. IDC, CEO of Interior Designers of Canada (IDC). “Shauna is innovative, connected, and has been instrumental in cultivating Toronto’s design community. Given that our corporate headquarters are in Toronto, we are members of the community and create the growth that has been inspired by Shauna.”

“I am very grateful to be this year’s recipient of the Interior Designers of Canada and the International Interior Design Association’s Leadership Award of Excellence,” said Levy. “When I co-founded the Interior Design Show 18 years ago and built it into one of the largest contemporary design fairs in North America, I believed interior design was an oft-overlooked and undervalued design discipline, and I wanted to change that. I wanted to recognize the thoughtful and creative emerging and established individuals responsible for creating the spaces we live in, we work in, and we play in.”

As for her upcoming endeavors in the design world, Levy is carrying out her refreshing direction of DX, offering a roster of programs in 2016 that includes talks, workshops, competitions, and more. “[These programs] encourage critical thinking about how interrelated design disciplines offer innovative and tech-driven solutions for the most critical issues facing the world today. Keep your eyes peeled and ears open for a big announcement in January! I encourage everyone to sign up for INDX, Design Exchange’s weekly e-newsletter to stay informed,” Levy said.

IDC is in partnership with IIDA for the IIDA Leaders Breakfast. Few tickets are available for purchase until Nov. 22. Click here for ticket information. For information about Leaders Breakfast, please contact Anastasia Gedman, Leaders Breakfast and Special Events Manager, at

Adele Bonetti_DMBlog

What Can an Interior Design Organization Do for You?

“It’s about what the profession has offered to me, rather than what I have done for the profession,” said Adele Bonetti, FIDA, IDC, AAA, this year’s Leadership Award of Excellence honoree at the inaugural Leaders Breakfast Calgary. “This award is something that I share with [interior design] associations because they have given me wonderful opportunities.” Having a presence within interior design associations for over 40 years, Bonetti was the perfect fit for the award. As a steadfast volunteer, she demonstrates the importance of being involved in industry associations and how supporting her passion has presented opportunities and opened doors.

Encouraged at a young age, Bonetti credits her university professors for engraining in students the importance of joining a professional organization for interior designers in order to attain a more global outlook. “We were educated to understand that as a professional, our lives would be much more than what we did at work every day,” said Bonetti. Without hesitation, she became involved with her local association, Interior Designers of Alberta (IDA), and her national association, Interior Designers of Canada (IDC) shortly after graduating college in the 1970s, and has remained an active member ever since.

Bonetti tackled her role as an interior designer by growing her own business while volunteering within her associations. She has served on the IDA Board, in various roles, for more than 25 years, including six as president. She also represented the IDA on the IDC Board on two separate occasions, serving both as treasurer and secretary. In addition, she played a role on a national task force that charted a new vision for the interior design associations in Canada and led to the recent restructuring of IDC and the roles and responsibilities of the member provincial associations.

Her passion for the profession was further fuelled by the inclusion of interior design in the architectural legislation that was enacted in Alberta in the early 80s and placed the legal definition and practice of interior design under the scope of architecture in the care of the Alberta Architects Association (AAA). She has since served on several tasks forces for AAA with a voice that has heralded not only the skill of interior design practitioners and their right to chart and administrate their own futures, but also the need for common representation and a link to the interior design community within the province, country, and internationally.

Bonetti’s years of work and dedication have not gone unrecognized. “In the association world, volunteers come and go, but there is that rare occasion when a really good volunteer – a passionate, dedicated, 100 percent committed volunteer – comes and never goes,” said Susan Wiggins, CAE, Hon. IDC, CEO of IDC, and former recipient of the Leadership of Excellence Award honoree.“Ask her to do anything and she is there.”

Bonetti continues to volunteer within IDA and IDC by working on by-laws and policies for both organizations so their standards are professionally recognized and updated. She currently serves as the IDA Registrar and still participates in advocating for more self-governing laws for interior designers. Bonetti recognizes that modifying legislation is a slow-moving process, but reminds all members that “we need to chart our own futures, and the only way to do that is to be involved.” She is currently the Principal of Concetto Interior Design Ltd. in Grande Prairie, Alberta.

IDC is in partnership within the IIDA Leaders Breakfast, encouraging designers across Canada to become involved in what they are passionate for. To become involved in IIDA, Dual Memberships are available for IDC Members, here. Tickets are selling fast for Leaders Breakfast Calgary. Purchase your tickets before Oct. 27.

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Energized and Engaged: Advocacy Symposium Recap

Have you ever had a weekend that made you feel a part of something bigger than yourself? During the innaugural IIDA Advocacy Symposium, Sept. 11 – 13 in Austin, Texas, I did. Over 90 people attended, staffed, or spoke at the symposium, where the energy was infectious. Interior design advocates from every IIDA Chapter but one listened, talked, learned, advocated, and shared their experience, advocating for the Interior Design profession. The event highlighted the passion, dedication, and persistence of amazing design advocates from across the country.

“Teamwork, tenacity, and clear communication are the key to advocacy,” Rep. Celia Israel said. And she couldn’t be more right. The rest of the presentations echoed her sentiment. But we can’t just rely on social media. Rep. Israel added, “Good advocacy can start online but it has to hit the streets.” The key to advocacy is to talk to everyone! Some fantastic IIDA members took it to heart. Corinne Barthelemy, IIDA, LEED AP, and Aimee Schefano, IIDA, from the New England Chapter had a cab driver tell them about a previous group of interior designers who had been advocating to him earlier in the day! He couldn’t believe all the things interior designers did.

In addition to Rep. Israel’s presentation, we heard the story of Melanie Bahl, IIDA, President of IDEAL–Utah, and Amy Coombs, IDEAL-Utah’s lobbyist, who have worked tirelessly to introduce interior design legislation in the state of Utah. Amy shared this quote with us: “To rise above the din and be heard, voices must be linked in something approaching unison.” Interior design advocates must share the same message to be heard about all the other voices. Donna Vining, IIDA, FASID, shared her bountiful knowledge on empowering and mobilizing advocacy efforts in the state of Texas including having meaningful events and building a great team of advocates.

One of the best parts of the weekend were the opportunities for advocates to share with fellow advocates techniques and strategies that worked or didn’t work and why. Among many amazing ideas, advocates advised making strategic relationships in your community like working with the Special Olympics, adding a $1 fee to all events that will go towards advocacy, and being agile because sometimes you’ve got to embrace a new direction. I can’t wait to see the amazing initiatives and events this will inspire!

The symposium wasn’t all talk though. We toured the impressive Texas State Capitol and learned about Texas state government and the architecture and interiors of the building. Everything really is bigger in Texas; their capitol dome is taller than the U.S. Capitol dome!

A special thanks to the wonderful Texas and Oklahoma Chapter who served as the host chapter for the first Advocacy Symposium. Krystal Lucero, IIDA, RID, and Clara Karnei, IIDA, RID, took over the IIDA Instagram account and did a fantastic job capturing the spirit of the event. Check it out!

We can’t wait until the 2016 IIDA Advocacy Symposium! We’ve barely scratched the surface of what it means to be an interior design advocate. Next year’s IIDA Advocacy Symposium will take place on Sept. 23 – 25 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Denver, Colorado. The Rocky Mountain Chapter will serve as host chapter. Stay tuned for more details as they become available!

Be a part of something bigger. Advocate for your profession. Learn more at #IIDAadvocacy


Perfect Timing

With the perfect combination of timing and significance, Leaders Breakfast Chicago will kick off the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the largest international survey of contemporary architecture. The day before the city of Chicago captures the global design community’s focus with the first architectural biennial in North America, IIDA Leaders Breakfast Chicago will boast some of the biggest names in design at their annual headline-grabbing celebration.

The Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, one of the driving forces behind the biennial, will receive this year’s Leadership of Excellence Award at the breakfast. The foundation, which makes project-based grants to individuals and organizations and produces public programs to foster the development and exchange of ideas about architecture, is supporting the biennial in partnership with BP and the City of Chicago. The decision to honor the Graham Foundation came from the IIDA Illinois Chapter’s notion that the collective institution is a powerful force in the expanded role for leadership.

Leaders Breakfast committee member Neil Frankel, FIIDA, of Frankel + Coleman, recognizes the connection between the missions of the Graham Foundation and IIDA. “[The Graham Foundation’s mission] encourages our membership to expand the discourse of design beyond the practice of interior design,” he said. “The demands of client service and academic compliance often can limit the definition of the role of the designer. The scope of the sponsored grants advances new frameworks for investigating design and its role in contemporary society.”

With the profession of design relying on the continuous development of new information, the Graham Foundation’s avid support of academic research and discussion of the designed environment builds upon those needs. This year, the Graham Foundation awarded almost $500,000 in grants to 49 groundbreaking projects that chart new territory in the field of design by organizations and individuals.

The honor of the Leadership of Excellence award will serve as the invitation to all IIDA Members to actively participate in the ambitious agenda of the Chicago Architecture Biennial exhibition and lecture hosted by the Graham Foundation. The similarity between architectural and interior design practices encourages a ground for collaboration and cooperation, and this award builds a platform of communication between the Graham Foundation and IIDA.

Accepting the Leadership of Excellence Award on behalf of the foundation is Sara Herda, the Director of the Graham Foundation and Co-Artistic Director of the Biennial. Attendees at Leaders Breakfast Chicago will be able to hear about her work with the Graham Foundation and her behind-the-scenes take on the planning of the biennial.

To coincide with the theme of the biennial, The State of the Art of Architecture, Leaders Breakfast Chicago will also feature highly acclaimed keynote speaker Kent Larson, Director of the Changing Places research group at the MIT Media Lab. Larson will discuss his current research, which focuses on four related areas: responsive urban housing, new urban vehicles, ubiquitous technologies, and living lab experiments.

The Chicago Architecture Biennial will run from Oct. 3, 2015 through January 2016, and feature groundbreaking architectural projects and experiments through exhibitions and installations. Join the kick-off of this celebration by purchasing tickets to IIDA Leaders Breakfast Chicago on Oct. 2, 2015, at the Hilton Chicago. Few seats available.


Want to Inspire a Green Building Movement? 5 Reasons to Join 2015 Greenbuild

Do you sometimes feel like you’ve run out of new and interesting ways to make sustainability successful? Are you ready to roll up your sleeves and put in the work but don’t know where to start? Waiting for your “Aha!” moment? Well, keep reading.

This year, IIDA is proud to partner with Greenbuild, the largest sustainable building event in the U.S., for a truly monumental week in Washington, D.C. It all kicks off Nov. 18 and continues through Nov. 20 at the Washington Convention Center. In addition to industry leaders, experts, and frontline professionals dedicated to sustainable building in their everyday work, prepare to be invigorated by an itinerary of inspiring events. Below are five reasons to register for 2015 Greenbuild today.

  • Green Building Tours

Go beyond the walls of the Washington Convention Center and into some of the celebrated buildings in our Nation’s capital. Take half-day or full-day tours of buildings and exhibits like Hotel Monaco, once the U.S. General Post Office; the 12,000 square foot LEED certified Seal & Sea Lion Exhibit at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park; and the National Geographic Society’s Headquarters, one of the first existing buildings in the country to receive LEED certification.

  • Greenbuild Master Series

The Greenbuild Master Series brings together leaders of diverse industries who share the common trait of championing sustainability and green building. Listen to Chief Product Officer Scot Horst and Chief Operating Officer Mahesh Ramanujam present a vision of the future of the U.S. Green Building Council that includes an integrated platform of tools based on performance. Or catch Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist Elizabeth Kolbert whose series on global warming, The Climate of Man, won the American Association for the Advancement of Science magazine’s award.

  • Women in Green Power Breakfast

This year’s Women in Green Power Breakfast will examine the impact gender has on mentorship.  Stripping away convention, the breakfast will ask attendees to take an honest, frank look at the attitudes and insecurities of women and men within the work place. Five generations of trailblazers will call upon attendees to demonstrate leadership as individuals and as an industry towards a truly equitable workplace. You won’t want to miss this.

  • Greenbuild Film Festival

Watch films that matter. The Ninth Annual Greenbuild International Film Festival will feature documentaries, films, and informational videos that promote innovative green building practices and address social, environmental, and health topics related to the built environment.

  • 2015 Greenbuild Celebration

Sustainability doesn’t have to be so serious! Eat, drink, and dance yourself green with Fitz and the Tantrums at the famed Newseum for the 2015 Greenbuild Celebration.

Are you hyped now? We thought so. Get on it. Early bird registration ends before Monday, Sept. 14, 2015. Celebrate another year in one of the greenest cities in the country. See you in Washington!

Learn more about the 2015 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, including the expansive Greenbuild Exhibit Hall featuring the latest technology and services in sustainable building.


IIDA Leaders Breakfast Houston: Focused on the Future of Design

On a typical morning of Leaders Breakfast, attendees listen to an individual at the podium accepting the Leadership Award of Excellence. The honors are usually bestowed upon someone described as a trailblazer who has paved a way within the design community. But this year, IIDA Leaders Breakfast Houston has decided not to give the award to an individual, but to an organization that is a recognizable force within their community. The IIDA Texas Oklahoma Chapter has selected the Rice Design Alliance (RDA) as this year’s recipient. Chosen for their community outreach in advancing architecture, urban design, and the built environment throughout the Houston region, the chapter’s values on education and the future of the design community align with RDA’s values; the chapter cites RDA’s diverse membership involvement for anyone interested in design and their educational programming as the main reason for receiving the honor.

RDA was formed in 1972 by a small group of academicians, Rice School of Architecture alumni and civic-minded citizens under the leadership of David Crane, FAIA. Since then, RDA has emerged as the preeminent public forum in Houston for conversation and programming of design and the built environment. Its membership has grown in the thousands and includes those in the design communities, as well as those who have a personal interest in architecture and urban planning. The association embraces diverse people, professions, and points of view within their organization.

RDA is a forerunner in sponsoring lectures, symposiums, architecture tours, grant competitions, and national design competitions, to name a few.  With education being the cornerstone of RDA, their civic forums are a vehicle for examining issues that affect Houstonians and the city. These discussions allow the public to gather information about current issues and to join the dialogue with experts.  Along with their rich programming, their 33-year-old publication, Cite: The Architecture + Design Review is one of their most recognizable contributions to the community. The publication has been the only consistent voice of architectural criticism in Houston and one of the few sources for thoughtful, well-researched analysis in architecture, design, and infrastructure.

Keeping up with the importance of education and the future of Houston, RDA formed rdAGENTS, RDA’s young professional group. Each August, the rdAGENTS host an all-day design charette where architects and designers propose solutions to community issues. On a somewhat smaller scale, the design charettes sponsored by dAGENTS also bring lasting improvements to public spaces and provide opportunities for collaboration.

With the same educational values as RDA, the Texas Oklahoma Chapter understands the importance of educating and involving the youth of the cities. As one of the only cities within the Leaders Breakfast organizations to do so, the chapter delivers all profits from the Breakfast to the Texas Oklahoma Education Fund. So far the chapter has raised over $125,000 from Leaders Breakfast profits to support three tuition reimbursement scholarships worth $4,000 each and one study abroad scholarship also worth $4,000. To date, the fund has awarded students in the interior design field over 32 scholarships totaling $100,000. The Texas Oklahoma Chapter also pays for students to attend their annual Student Conference and celebrated its fifteenth one this year.

This year, the chapter introduced a Special Initiatives Grant to support faculty and students by providing funding resources in three categories: research, educational experience, and educational tools. Up to $3,000 will be awarded from this grant.

Support the Texas Oklahoma Education Fund and attend Leaders Breakfast in Houston. Learn more about RDA.