Hey, Designers of the Year: What inspires you as a designer?

In anticipation of the 30th
Annual Interiors Awards Breakfast on January 30 (
tickets available now), Contract asked past Designers of the Year (or, as we affectionately dub them,
our DOYs) for their thoughts on a selection of industry-related questions. Each
Thursday leading up to the Interiors Awards, check back in for their thoughts
on the latest topic.

This week’s question: What inspires you as a designer?

Carol Groh 

Carol A. Groh Design; Greenwich, Conn.; DOY 1987 

Traveling and experiencing the visual of other cultures and traditions around the world. This has always been a great inspiration to me throughout my career in design.

Karen Daroff 

Daroff Design Inc., Philadelphia; DOY 1990

Since founding Daroff Design Inc. in 1973, I have been inspired by the day-to-day personal interaction among my staff, between our staff and our clients, and between the fellow team members we collaborate with on our client’s projects. I very much enjoy team building and the collaborative design process, and I gain personal inspiration from this collaborative process every day.

Since we have developed a global practice, I embrace the wonderful opportunity to travel the world both for business and with my family when on holiday, so I can honestly say that I draw much of my inspiration from my travels, every minute, every day. 

I am constantly amazed and inspired by the extraordinary beauty of nature, and fascinated by the contextual environments, culture and historical heritage of the people and places where our projects are located. 

Debra Lehman Smith 

Founding Partner, Lehman Smith McLeish; Washington, DC; DOY 1995

The trust of our clients, and their belief in our firm’s creative vision. Our clients know we will never stop encouraging them to achieve their business goals. Their trust, in turn, inspires my dedication to our staff and to promote an environment where excellence flourishes.

Neville Lewis, FIIDA

Consultant/educator; New York; DOY 1997

Creating spaces and products that enrich peoples lives.

David Rockwell 

Founder and CEO, Rockwell Group; New York, with satellite offices in Madrid and Dubai; 

DOY 1998

I love the collaboration, the melding of so many diverse and creative minds within and beyond my firm, and the crossing of disciplines in order to push boundaries, experiment with new materials, techniques and vocabularies. I have also been so lucky to have been able to bring in my interests in theater and public space into my practice.  

William McDonough 

Principal, William McDonough + Partners and MBDC; Charlottesville, VA; DOY 1999

A cherry tree in the spring. Its materials are in constant flow as all those thousands of cherry blossoms fall to the ground and become soil again, so there's no problem of waste. From my designer's perspective, I ask: why can't I design a building like a tree? A building that makes oxygen, fixes nitrogen, sequesters carbon, distils water, builds soil, accrues solar energy as fuel, makes complex sugars and food, creates microclimates, changes colors with the seasons and self replicates. This is using nature as a model and a mentor, not an inconvenience. It's a delightful prospect.

Shashi Caan 

Principal, The Collective; New York City; DOY 2004

Hope, Optimism and knowing that anything is possible with intention, will, desire and effort.

Ken Wilson
Principal, Envision; Washington, DC; DOY 2005

I am inspired by design that is both beautiful and smart. Design that reduces our impact on the environment and improves the lives of people.

Mark Harbick, AIA, IIDA 

Vice President / Director of Design, Huntsman Architectural Group; New York; 

DOY 2006

What doesn’t inspire me? Inspiration is everywhere. Knowing how to filter it is the tricky part.

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