Posted on 7/21/2012 8:06 PM by Debbie Designer

Last Thursday I found myself in the new Milliken showroom on 31st and 5th, watching the sun slowly turn the Garment District orange. It was LMNOP’s annual Summer Benefit for Architecture and Design Professionals, and a lovely sight to behold.

One of LMNOP’s founders, Jennifer Graham, and several other attendees were there from M Moser Associates, who renovated the showroom. It was all oversized window expanses and airy white rooms with eye-catching accent walls in cool royal hues. Oh, and also maybe a carpet swatch or two.

This was my first introduction to LMNOP, so aside from the crisp freshness of a super-new design space, I didn’t quite know what to expect.

The organization, it turns out, was created by a group of struggling interior designers and architects right around the crash of 2008. They were afraid to see their friends and peers—and themselves—drop out of the profession altogether for lack of work, so they set up support meetings and got together throughout the year to keep abreast of the industry. As the group evolved, they focused on helping each other learn what most designers don’t get in design school: how to successfully run a business without getting sued, or robbed, or homeless.

LMNOP. That’s Leadership, Mentoring, Networking Opportunities for architecture and design Professionals. Get it?

A likely story, indeed. Sounds like LMNOP was a place for designers to drink out the recession together, rather than alone. Let’s Make Next One a double Please. Count me in.

For a bunch of drunks, these people are wildly good networkers. Just walking right up, shooting the proverbial design chiffon, whipping out cards like they were born to build a Rolodex. They are an extremely pleasant crowd—humble, while proud of and dedicated to their work. LMNOP is an almost entirely volunteer-based organization.

I brought along a friend (no, it wasn’t a cat), who is shifting from building energy consulting and lighting retrofits back into interior design. She was welcomed into the brood like a stray duckling on a bunny farm. Just adorable. Suddenly designers and professionals from all walks of life, including many of the LMNOP leadership staff, were making introductions, giving her sound advice, and being generally great conversationalists.

If anyone is looking to acquire a handful of new people for mingling around showroom events and making small talk with, this is the place to be. Plus, you’ll learn a thing or two about protecting your intellectual property rights. No big deal.

Warmth and niceties aside, LMNOP was also giving out some good raffle prizes, including Yankees tickets, MoMA memberships, and the Knoll coffee table book. In addition to totally winning the general raffle for a Barnes and Noble gift card, I snagged a geometric-print Milliken notebook, and eyed some patterned pins strewn about with words like “Classy” and “Wild” printed on them. Swag: even if you don’t want it, it feels good to have the option.

All in all, a delightful event. LMNOP = great people doing great work (and for the record I was kidding about the drunk thing). I sincerely hope this year’s benefit raised a good amount of money for their cause.

For information about upcoming professional development workshops, CEUs, and networking events, check out the LMNOP website here: