IDA 2021 Emerging Interior Designer of the Year
What do you see as the strengths of your winning project and what does this award mean to you personally?
First and foremost, I would like to thank IDA Design Awards, and the jury for this incredible honor. As a designer, it provides strength, validation and inspiration to keep moving forward in design, while staying relevant with the ever-evolving world we are living in, for the present, and for future generations.
The focus of ‘Rich’s Department Store Rehabilitation’ was to preserve what existed already – a beautiful Italian Palazzo, and renovate it to meet the needs of today’s society. I believe the strength of the project was the unraveling of an historic downtown community with the cultural significance of the Magnolia Room and its ties to the Civil Rights movement. I wanted to create a space that would not only celebrate a city’s history, but also provide a space that would potentially elevate quality of life.
What was most important for you when planning the project and what were the biggest challenges you faced?
When planning the project, I believed it was important to recognise that the structure was a classic historical building that could be returned to life to bring back moments in history that may have been forgotten or taken for granted. Rich’s Department Store was one of the first retailers in Atlanta, and one that offered white glove service. The importance of these special services offers a human touch that could get lost in today’s technological world. Reviving the interior with historical artworks reminiscent of the original Magnolia Room, gives the space life through movement and color, and an opportunity to provide a little art history lesson to the visitor.
The biggest challenge was in reviving some of the history. I did a lot of historical research on the surrounding buildings and area to get a sense of what life was like during the original construction of the building, and which elements of history and culture could be brought back today.
What are your guiding design principles?
My guiding design principles rely on a subject that I studied for my thesis project, and that is meta luxury; a paradigm that relies on four principles of rarity, history, craftsmanship and purpose. I am also guided by aesthetics and beauty as they instill a sense of well-being; architecture and design are also related to neuroscience. Another guiding principle is elevating the quality of life.
Where do you get motivation and inspiration from for your work?
I am motivated when I feel a project has a purpose; and I get inspired when I see the potential. For instance, filling an empty niche in the interior design body of knowledge, or a community. I also get inspiration from design magazines, Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles in particular, and have a library of books from historical architecture to fashion, figure drawing, and interior design which is my go-to collection. Travel also inspires me. Going to visit the site and feeling the sense of scale and seeing the surroundings helps to provide a clearer picture towards the realisation of a project, as it helps to imagine the space in real time. Organizations such as the ICAA (Institute of Classical Architecture) and ASID have been an inspiration as well.
When did you discover that you wanted to work in design?
The moment I discovered that I wanted to work in design was during the development of my thesis project. There were so many aspects of research, color theory, history, trends, and socio elements that were involved that I felt that the work had a sense of purpose and could change the world for the better. Not to mention preferring designing late into the night and on weekends. To me, every aspect of our lives is related to design – living, working, learning, travelling, dining, fitness, and more. All these aspects are touched by design. This to me, is incredible.
Is there something that you wished you had designed?
Yes, I wish that this project could come to life!
How do you think your own culture and environment has shaped your personal and professional creative vision?
I am very grateful for the opportunity to have lived abroad in Europe and Asia, namely Milan and Seoul – two cities which have impacted me greatly in terms of cultural influence, as well as creative vision. Having spent most of my life in New York, it was Italy which showed me history and authenticity. Seoul showed me tradition juxtaposed with speed and technology. Now I live in Atlanta, where Southern charm and hospitality has been intertwined in many of my projects. Also, originating from two cultures has instilled a sense of balance and harmony. I would say that my projects and vision have been a culmination of experiences and cultures.
Tell us about a project which has been your greatest achievement?
I would say The Magnolia Room at Rich’s Department Store Rehabilitation is one of the most aesthetically beautiful projects I have designed thus far. The cultural value of the project is important as well. During the project I undertook an analysis on return on investment, and this project could bring significant benefits to the community.
Which designer in your field do you most admire and why?
There are many great designers in my field, but the designer who I admire most is the iconic Peter Marino, who designs exterior architecture as well as interior design. From modernistic facades of luxury brands to classical renovations, he and his team produce impeccable artworks as the spaces are layered like veneers of icing on a cake. I feel that Peter Marino creates dramatic spaces telling a story. I remember visiting Bulgari on Fifth Avenue, New York during an interior design conference. The staff gave me a tour of the showroom and explained the inspiration behind the mapped panel of the city center, and colors of a Roman sunset behind a jewelry display. These aspects were memorable, delicate and sensual, yet bold and daring, carrying a certain DNA. There were moments of awe and wonder. I got the sense that little messages of love are included in the design throughout the space.
What do you think are the biggest challenges and opportunities in your career/industry now?
I think the biggest challenge in interior design today is evaluating the need to build new or to renovate. Sometimes, it is cleaner, and easier to build new but it is more sustainable to preserve and rehabilitate. I believe that a balance of historic architecture with an interior that meets WELL standards would be the most ideal. An opportunity in the interior design industry as in many other industries is the metaverse. It became more prominent after the pandemic, but to me, it is the alternative to a safer, and healthier environment.
What would be your dream design project?
My dream design project would be to design a smart city where everything from the cityscape to architecture and interiors would be sustainably manufactured, sourced, and built. The facades would consist of solar glass, and the streets would be made from low noise road surfaces like they do in Japan. As a person will sensibility issues, and still amidst a pandemic, a clean and quiet environment, yet highly intuitive and touchless would be ideal. Otherwise, with Rich’s as a cornerstone, designing a prototypical luxury mall including retail and hospitality that could be a precedent to revive neglected cities in America would be the next goal.
What’s your creative process and what creative software do you use?
For my creative process, I do a lot of research, especially studying nuances in culture and tradition that can be translated into a different and functional purpose. I travel to a site and undertake studies, to get a feel for a building or a space. I then make preliminary sketches which I then import into Revit, where I can create all the necessary elements including plans, elevations, and sections, as well as high quality realistic renderings. Usually, photoshop is used to add details, then finally put into a presentation in InDesign. I find that Canva has been a helpful tool lately, especially when working in groups. Revit is also very useful for teams in that it is highly collaborative.