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Designers to Watch

by Jenna Lippin

A recent graduate from Mesa College in San Diego, Calif., Leonardo (Leo) Herruzo was encouraged to study interior design by a friend. Herruzo is from São Paulo, Brazil, and he originally wanted to study architecture; just before declaring his major, he decided to earn his bachelor’s degree in publishing and advertising at Universidade do Vale do Paraiba (known as UNIVAP). After that, he came to the United States, learned English, and enrolled in a program for interior design at Mesa. He graduated last spring with an associate’s degree in Interior Design.

“Design school was eye-opening because the coursework started with basic classes like Interior Design 101 and sources and materials, then moved on to residential design and non-residential design, and then to kitchen and bath, etc.,” Herruzo reflected. “You really start to understand your likes and dislikes in the industry. You get a taste of every aspect and the phases of interior design, and school really prepares you for what is out in the world, especially at Mesa. [The school] gives students all they can to learn, graduate, and then find a job.”

While attending Mesa, Herruzo’s concept for a hotel lobby and restaurant won the Merit Award in the Student Commercial category for the San Diego ASID chapter awards. He also received an honorable mention and took home $1,000 in the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) Charrette Design Competition. “While I was [enrolled in] kitchen and bath classes, Mesa college was associated with NKBA, and students participated in the national charrette,” he explained. “Students had three hours to design a kitchen, all under NKBA standards and codes. Concepts are first graded within the school, competing with classmates, and then the top three designs are passed to the NKBA chapter of San Diego where they select the best from each city. Those are sent to compete nationally with others from the U.S. and Canada. At our school, three students received an award for the charrette.” In 2016, he also received the NKBA Design Star Award for Best Kitchen Design, Student Work.

After graduating, Herruzo started working at Restoration Hardware as a design consultant, but quickly moved up the ranks and within a few months became an interior designer as part of a service the store offers to customers. While he is currently working in the residential market, Herruzo has a passion for the commercial side of interior design. “I really want to explore hospitality design,” he said, “I think it would be a really fun field to dive into.”

He continued, “As I am developing, and as a recent graduate, I am always eager to learn and see what’s new and upcoming. I love going to markets and design centers to see what’s really out there. What I envision is one day having my own firm and designing boutique hotels and restaurants because they allow some more creativity and create more unique experiences. Today with social media, designers are being asked to be bold and creative, to create a memorable experience. That is what I look forward to for the future. People want to take photos with your designs in the background. You get to work with a client for their business, and then with people as they experience your design. It’s a cycle—it’s your baby, a fast-growing baby, turning into a better version of yourself and making you proud. That’s design; you give your all to the process, you want it to grow, and you want people to love and appreciate it, resulting in successful business for both the designer and the business owner. That’s my goal.”