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.

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.