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.

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

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.

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.

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.

Translating Architecture through Radio

Frances Anderton’s background reads like a plot of a summer novel. Early childhood in England, renovating a casa colonica in Florence, studying the Haveli in Jaipur, writing for magazines in Los Angeles – and, it all leads to one of today’s most influential architectural radio shows. Anderton is this year’s recipient of the Leadership Award of Excellence at the IIDA Leaders Breakfast Los Angeles. As executive producer and host of radio show and blog DnA: Design and Architecture, Anderton’s path to the award stems from a meaningful past that has led her to becoming a preeminent voice on exploring what matters in our designed world.

Growing up in Bath, England, where her childhood backdrop was that of a Jane Austin drama, Anderton lived in Georgian houses that her father would purchase and remodel, creating interiors as modern of a style as possible in neoclassical houses. It was this way of living that sparked her love for design, giving her a strong sense of how one’s environment can shape the quality of life.

During her early years, Anderton spent a year in Florence, Italy, renovating a farmhouse. Later, she studied at the University College London and soon transferred to the Bartlett School of Architecture. She concluded that while she loved architecture, she “did not have the personality or requisite skill set to be an architect.”

Drawn to communications, Anderton found her way to becoming an editor at the London-based Architectural Review magazine. In 1987, her first assignment was to travel to Los Angeles, California, to produce a special issue on emerging architecture on the West Coast. In 1991, she moved to L.A. to become editor-in-chief of LA Architect.

On arriving, the region was shaken up by the 1992 Rodney King riots, which lead to the founding of Which Way, L.A.?, a public radio show hosted by the esteemed journalist Warren Olney. Anderton felt there was much to learn about how cities work from this show and went on to become the show’s producer while continuing her design journalism. In 2002, the two tracks merged when DnA: Design And Architecture was launched. She believes her knowledge of politics and current affairs gives her a unique vantage point on architecture and design.

Anderton credits her late father for her interest in architectural landscape and her success in the media sector of the architectural world. She believes that due to his lack of a formal architectural education, he would speak about architecture and buildings in a language one could understand. She feels she owes her “desire to ‘translate’ architecture and design to the public — through DnA and other archi-writing — to this exposure to very different ways of talking about buildings.”

In addition to offering her voice on air, Anderton writes for many publications and has served as L.A. correspondent for Dwell and The New York Times. Her most recent book is Grand Illusion: A Story of Ambition, and Its Limits, on L.A.’s Bunker Hill, based on a studio she co-taught at USC School of Architecture with Frank Gehry and partners, the architects of numerous landmarks including the Walt Disney Concert Hall.  Most recently, she curated “Sink or Swim: Designing for a Sea Change,” an exhibition of photographs about resilient architecture.


Learn more about Leaders Breakfast, the annual IIDA series event that celebrates design’s importance in the global marketplace. Upcoming speakers include writer Cheryl Strayed and Jonathan Perelman, vice president of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures.