I couldn’t help but think of this column as a State of the Union address. The state of my union as president of the IIDA Pennsylvania/New Jersey/Delaware Chapter is a little different than most IIDA chapters, especially because even the distance between our chapter “hubs”—ranging across Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pocono Mountain—is so vast. I practically need to clone myself in order to get to all of their signature events. (I do have the closest thing to a clone; I am an identical twin. Although, she also lives in Pittsburgh and would have to drive equally as far to make it to New Jersey.)
As the state of the entire IIDA union expands, with a record setting 15,000 members, there appears to be no stopping us from pushing the boundaries for the 21st-century design professional. Here is a midyear address to our industry (that will take less than an hour to experience and doesn’t include the word “taxes”).
As the pages of the association roster gets thicker, the products we use are getting thinner. Their lighter size is being accentuated by a softer palette of materials that is right at home with the movement towards warm and inviting interior landscapes. And even though we design types are known for our signature all-black looks, the products we use are anything but. This year Haworth’s showroom, designed again by Patricia Urquiola, featured visual and tactile softness with a variety of colors and textures and a lot of natural wood and wool. The manufacturer describes the upholstery seams and curved lines of the Openest collection as “bring[ing] forth an environment that invokes a sense of warmth and comfort.”
The next line that comes to mind is Textus by Momentum Textiles. With fabric names of their Felt collection like Limon, Spritz, Slice, and Lemongrass, these colors are working far beyond their good looks. They are a response to wellness-focused design. The continued desire to be connected to nature invokes the feel of residential furniture for a workforce that has redefined where and at what time it works, ultimately contributing to the radical workplace revolution.
What has remained constant is that, each year, thousands of us travel outside of our own union to the commercial interiors design capital that is NeoCon for a world’s-fair-meets-fashion-week experience. Whether it is logged on your time sheet as business time or vacation time, it is clear that industry and workplace is looking to have some fun. I’m talking about the type of fun that includes Cheryl Durst, executive vice president and CEO at IIDA, and Chris Stulpin, senior vice president of design at Tarkett North America, lip syncing for a video at this year’s annual IIDA COOL gala.
A showroom that is always a NeoCon favorite is Bentley Mills, which featured a “Born & Raised” theme this year. It showcased “grit meets couture” elements like a black leather Chesterfield sofa and record sleeves from classic rock bands juxtaposed with the newest fashion for the floor modular and broadloom styles. Attendees came for the carpets and stayed for the rock ’n’ roll music, or they could make their own screen-printed bag.
Complementing the new collection from Bentley Mills was furniture from BuzziSpace, located across from Starbucks in the Merchandise Mart where NeoCon attendees could catch the best and brightest from this brand. BuzziSpace brought the outdoors to us with BuzziPicNic, their award-winning table. When paired with the BuzziCactus and the BuzziDonut, these were definitely a few of my favorite things. What could be more fun than a picnic?
To be a true state address, it is important to cover not only what we are doing, but also the strategies and priorities that push us forward toward a more perfect design union. These days we are not just keeping our heads above the water. We’re swimming the 200-meter individual medley and winning. We have spent extensive time defending our livelihood. This is particularly true on the legislative front where we have battled stereotypes and job descriptions written for us, not by us. We have taken that energy, turned it around, and have thrown everything in, including the farmhouse sink. We’ve done it through grassroots advocacy efforts, books, and publications explaining what we do, why we do it, and how other interior design industry professionals can do it too. This year alone has seen releases from Art Gensler, founder of Gensler, and Primo Orpilla, principal at Studio O+A, who are sharing years of hard-learned lessons from their design experiences. In the words of Ryan Ben, staff member at IIDA, “If you embrace what you do for a living, then you should be able to talk that weird uncle’s ear off until Thanksgiving is over.”
Embracing what we do allows us to build on valuable networking experiences and volunteer leadership, which is necessary to incorporate into any career, especially in the design profession. Actively participating in IIDA has allowed me to seek additional opportunities to take on responsibility, contribute to our industry, and constantly challenge myself and build character. These aspects translate into an offensive strategy that adds value within my firm and to the clients I serve.
My fellow interior designers, as part of this global design community, we are a strong, tightknit family. Days before I officially became chapter president, I listened to Scott Hierlinger, newly inducted president of IIDA, share that “the best thing that you can be armed with is incredibly talented people in your office.” These talented people are in our chapters, in our association, and in our entire union—no matter how vast the distance.
Jane Hallinan is president of the IIDA Pennsylvania/New Jersey/Delaware Chapter and an interior designer at Fukui Architects in Pittsburgh. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Fabiola Lara is an illustrator and GIF-maker at casagirl.co. She can be reached at email@example.com.