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How do we tackle diversity in the Interior Design industry?

Bringing together a group of 30 interior designers and manufacturer representatives, the 19th International Interior Design Association (IIDA) Industry Roundtable, held Friday, Jan. 8 through Sunday, Jan. 10 in Chicago, tackled the often-personal, sometimes uncomfortable topic of diversity in the Interior Design industry.

“Diversity is not only about race and gender, but also diversity of thought and discipline. It is in that spirit that IIDA brings together a group of interior designers, architects, and manufacturers to discuss a topic that can be difficult to address in a way that is productive,” said IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO Cheryl Durst, Hon. FIIDA, LEED AP, who moderated the lively group discussion. “As industry professionals, we talk to clients about how to live beyond definition and expectation, and that is why this topic is so germane to who we are and what we do.”

Durst set the tone for the Roundtable by playing Mellody Hobson’s TED talk, Color Brave.

Speakers Gabrielle Bullock, FAIA, NOMA, LEED AP BD+C, Director of Global Diversity, Perkins+Will, and Shauna Stallworth, IIDA, Principal, LUHF & LUMM LLC, shared their experiences as African-American women in interior design who are creating opportunities for cultural awareness and inclusiveness both in their own firms and across the industry.

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“I’m used to being the only one in the room,” said Bullock. “I want more people who look like me to have the opportunity to be in the room. I see myself as a change agent and an advocate of diversity.”

“Race enters every single equation so if we’re not comfortable talking about it we’re never going to get to a solution,” said Stallworth.

Both Stallworth and Bullock highlighted the need not just for diversity, but also inclusion.

“Diversity is the mix. Inclusion is what you do with the mix,” said Bullock.

Participants were inspired to go beyond conversation with the 30 designers and manufacturer representatives forming the Interior Design industry’s first-ever Diversity Council on the final day of the Roundtable. The newly formed Council, chaired by Stacy Walker, Ind. IIDA, Director of Customer Experience at Milliken, has been charged with creating a diversity policy statement for the Interior Design profession and will tackle goals ranging from funding diversity research and promoting diversity resources to creating a curriculum that encourages students of diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in design.

An executive report on the 19th IIDA Industry Roundtable will be released in March 2016.

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10 Memorable Moments from Leaders Breakfast Fall 2015

“Know more, do more, and be more before 9 a.m.,” said Cheryl Durst, Hon. FIIDA, LEED AP, to the audience attending Leaders Breakfast San Francisco, one of this year’s six fall breakfasts. “The essence of Leaders Breakfast is about leadership and honoring leadership within and outside of our community.”

The IIDA Leaders Breakfast is an international event series that celebrates design’s importance in the global marketplace by honoring local contributors to the design community and hosting a renowned keynote speaker. The eight-city series has come to a close for 2015. More than 3,300 people attended this year, the largest number of attendees in the history of the 26-year-old event.

Here are a few of our favorite memorable moments from fall 2015:

1.  A Moving Speech by Tom DiRenzo, Ind. IIDA

(Photo by Sam Breach) Tom DiRenzo, Ind. IIDA, accepting the Distinguished Achievement Award at the Northern California Chapter's 2015 IIDA Leaders Breakfast.

(Photo by Sam Breach) Tom DiRenzo, Ind. IIDA, accepting the Distinguished Achievement Award at the Northern California Chapter’s 2015 IIDA Leaders Breakfast.

San Francisco – The 15th annual Leaders Breakfast San Francisco began with a packed house of 500 attendees on their feet when the Northern California Chapter recognized Tom DiRezno, Ind. IIDA, with its signature Distinguished Achievement Award. DiRenzo spoke to the audience passionately and humbly, encouraging them to get involved with IIDA and work together to continue to grow the community. “The voice of IIDA is only as strong as the members of IIDA,” said DiRenzo, who also urged the audience to not underestimate the scale of work they provide. “Design is not a commodity sold to the lowest bidder. Do not undervalue [the Interior Design profession].”

2. The CityHome

(Photo by Linda Dove) Kent Larson on stage in front of attendees at Leaders Breakfast Chicago at the Hilton Chicago.

(Photo by Linda Dove) Kent Larson on stage in front of attendees at Leaders Breakfast Chicago at the Hilton Chicago.

Chicago – Keynote speaker Kent Larson, Director of Changing Places at the MIT Media Laboratory and MIT Living Labs, surprised the Chicago audience with his scientific discoveries of the evolution and future of city landscapes, including how we can reinvent interiors of apartments to save space and money. Larson showed the CityHome, an affordable and “ultra-efficient” 200 sq. ft. apartment aimed toward a younger demographic. The “responsive urban home” features internal motors to eject each piece of the room, giving the user the ability to extend or compress a room. Larson’s other items included sharable cars that fold into themselves and smart offices that ensure workplace well-being.

3. Interior Design Media Donating Its Table to Students

(Photo by Shau Lin Hon, Slyworks Photography)

(Photo by Shau Lin Hon, Slyworks Photography)

Houston – Interior Design Media, a Leaders Breakfast International Benefactor, provided the Texas Oklahoma Chapter with a chance to give a group of 10 lucky students the opportunity to sit front and center at Leaders Breakfast Houston. As one of the only cities within the Leaders Breakfast series 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 to support three tuition reimbursement scholarships and one study abroad scholarship. For more information about the fund, contact chapter administrator Megan Romboletti.

4. Inaugural Leaders Breakfast Calgary

(Photo by Kelly Mulner) Keynote speaker Chris Fields, Senior Brand Strategist of Twist Marketing.

Calgary, AB – The inaugural Leaders Breakfast Calgary sold over 200 seats in its first series event in Alberta, Canada. Attendees enjoyed an inspirational morning honoring Adele Bonetti, FIDA, IDC, AAA, for her more than 40 years of volunteer service and commitment to the Interior Design profession, and listening to keynote speaker Chris Fields, Senior Brand Strategist at Twist Marketing. Fields touched on rising above the average and finding why we should be different and stand out. The audience’s minds never stopped moving as Fields shared ideas about how to live your life thinking differently.

5. A Long Line for an Autograph

(Photo by Sam Breach) Award-winning writer Cheryl Strayed signing autographs at Leaders Breakfast San Francisco.

(Photo by Sam Breach) Award-winning writer Cheryl Strayed signing autographs at Leaders Breakfast San Francisco.

San Francisco – A long line formed after the San Francisco Leaders Breakfast for attendees to get their hands on an autograph from Cheryl Strayed, author of the novel Wild and featured keynote speaker. Strayed spoke about her enduring journey on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) as told in the book and discussed the difficulty she had writing the novel. “We all live lives worthy of literature,” she said. The timing of the breakfast was the day after her 20th anniversary of hiking the PCT.

6. The Kick-off of North America’s First Architectural Biennial

(Photo by Lynn Dove) Sara Herda, Director of the Graham Foundation and Co-Artistic Director of the Biennial, accepting the Herman Miller Eames stool.

(Photo by Lynn Dove) Sara Herda, Director of the Graham Foundation and Co-artistic Director of the Biennial, accepting the Herman Miller Eames stool.

Chicago – The day before the city of Chicago captured the global design community’s focus with the first architectural biennial in North America, the largest international survey of contemporary architecture, Leaders Breakfast Chicago honored one of the biggest names within the celebration, The Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. The foundation makes project-based grants to individuals and organizations and produces public programs to foster the development and exchange of ideas about architecture. In a twist of fate, the keynote speaker Kent Larson received two grants from The Graham Foundation.

7. The Story of the Fogo Island Inn

(Photo from fogoislandinn.ca)

(Photo from fogoislandinn.ca)

Toronto, ON – Audiences stood to their feet after the speech given by keynote Zita Cobb, President and CEO of Shorefast Foundation, and founder and innkeeper of the Fogo Island Inn. Cobb’s story started with her childhood on Fogo Island, Newfoundland, through developing the Shorefast Foundation with her brother (who also attended). Her incredible speech was accompanied by breathtaking photos of the island. She spoke about investing in culturally rich, community-owned economic assets, including the world-class Fogo Island Inn, Fogo Island Arts, and Fogo Island Shop, which sells furniture and textiles hand-crafted on Fogo Island. Cobb told audiences, “Everyone who creates something has civic duty to contribute beauty.”

8. Advocating for Design

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(Photo by Chris Hatcher) Advocacy table at Leaders Breakfast Los Angeles.

Los Angeles – “This is the year of advocacy,” announced Robyn Taylor, IIDA, President of the IIDA Southern California Chapter. This statement rang true throughout the series as other chapters honored those who advocate for the profession. Southern California hosted an advocacy table during the coffee reception to further engage attendees with legislative and advocacy issues, such as stamping documents to obtain building permits from local jurisdictions and working with local coalitions. The Northern California Chapter honored two advocates, Arlene Blum and Judy Levin, for their ongoing commitment to passing laws to eliminate flame retardant chemicals in furniture. Watch Blum’s video that played during the breakfast to learn more about the cancer-causing chemicals and her fight to end their use.

9. A BuzzFeed Breakfast

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Houston + Los Angeles – Keynote speaker Jonathan Perelman, former Buzzfeed VP of Motion Pictures, gave audiences a chance to see how online content is forming conversations in our lives and that it is no longer just for consumption. Perelman taught attendees in Houston and Los Angeles why we share content online and how our daily lives are affected by social media. “Content is king, but distribution is queen, and she wears the pants,” Perelman reminded the audience. He discussed how to share your message and build a personal brand more effectively online, and engaged the crowd with entertaining BuzzFeed videos, “If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead.”

10. The Voice of Design in Toronto

(Photo by Yianni Tong) Shauna Levy, President of Design Exchange (DX), accepting the coveted Leadership of Excellence Award.

Toronto, ON – “Design is the bridge between culture and commerce,” said Shauna Levy, President of Design Exchange (DX), Canada’s only museum dedicated exclusively to the pursuit of design excellence and the preservation of design heritage, in her Leadership Award of Excellence acceptance speech. In the Canadian design industry, Levy is regarded as a visionary leader, most known for her dedication to positioning the city of Toronto as an international design destination. “I saw that interior design was being overlooked and undervalued in the community, and I wanted to change that,” said Levy, who rallied the audience to pay attention to upcoming changes in Toronto’s political agenda and stand up for design as interior designers are “occupying an increasingly important role” in the world.


Learn more about the Leaders Breakfast series.

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2015 IIDA Advocacy Highlights

As you all know, IIDA HQ hosted its first annual Advocacy Symposium in Austin, Texas, which was a resounding success. We appreciate each and every one of you who attended and can hardly wait to see you in 2016 in Denver.

Thank you to the IIDA Texas/Oklahoma Chapter for hosting the IIDA Advocacy Symposium. In 2015, the Chapter, in collaboration with the Oklahoma Interior Design Coalition, also supported legislation amending the law requiring CEUs in Oklahoma. The IIDA TX/OK Chapter, with the Texas Association for Interior Design, also defeated a deregulation attempt in the Texas legislature.

The IIDA Northern Pacific Chapter’s Advocacy Team had its first annual community service project, BRIDGE. Along with IIDA members and other supporters, the advocacy team is working to complete a design renovation for the Central Area Senior Center. A very special thank you goes to the Chapter members who volunteered with HQ staff at the IIDA booth at the 2015 National Conference of State Legislators Summit in Seattle in August.

The IIDA PA/NJ/DE Chapter created the “I DID” advocacy campaign to support the Interior Design Legislation Coalition of Pennsylvania’s introduction of SB1021, which would allow for registration of interior designers and allow for them to submit interior construction documents for permits from local jurisdictions in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The IIDA Rocky Mountain Chapter held a successful, creative event at the Denver State Capitol in Denver. With the Colorado Interior Design Coalition, the Chapter had a coffee cart at the capitol allowing them to network with dozens of legislators.

The IIDA Tennessee Chapter was instrumental in helping reshape and rebuild the Tennessee Interior Design Coalition. They assisted the coalition in renaming (TN-IDEAL) and helped the coalition rebuild as it enters its 25th year in 2016.

The Wisconsin Chapter also has been instrumental in reorganizing the Interior Design Coalition of Wisconsin. Several chapter members are on the interim board, which already hosted a CEU event in 2015. A special thanks to Janet Hirsch, IIDA, who successfully kept the coalition running before this recent influx of fantastic volunteers.

The IIDA Ohio Kentucky Chapter held a successful Advocacy Roadshow throughout its region. A special thank you to Cheri Tucker, IIDA and VP of Advocacy, who organized the event.

The Illinois Interior Design Coalition in collaboration with the IIDA Illinois Chapter, led by VP of Advocacy Dan Bassano, IIDA, organized a successful Lobby Day in Springfield, Illinois, with over 100 interior designers and students walking the capitol to inform legislators on their current bill to license interior design in the state.

In 2015, IIDA Advocates. . .

  • Met with their state legislators
  • Sent letters and emails to state legislators
  • Attended legislative committee meetings
  • Organized and attended Interior Design Lobby Days at state capitols
  • Held town halls, forums, and panels about advocacy
  • Hosted NCIDQ study groups
  • Supported introduced bills in Utah, New York, Illinois, and Pennsylvania
  • Help passed CEU requirements in Oklahoma
  • Met with students at universities
  • Volunteered with HQ at National Conference of State Legislators Annual Summit
  • Produced advocacy campaigns
  • Planned an advocacy roadshow
  • Volunteered and participated in community events
  • Distributed advocacy flyers, brochures, and pamphlets
  • Attended the first annual IIDA Advocacy Symposium
  • Led and participated in Coalitions’ Board of Directors
  • Planned and execute strategic advocacy plans in IIDA Chapters and coalitions

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

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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 agedman@iida.org

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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 advocacy.iida.org. #IIDAadvocacy