Honoring the 35th Designer of the Year


A full room of 600 attendees at the Interiors Awards Breakfast, presented by Contract, on January 24 in New York. Photograph by Christian Grattan.

I was so pleased to have presented the 35th Annual Interiors Awards on January 24; hosting my third Interiors Awards as editor in chief of Contract.  We celebrated 14 Interiors Award winners, and you can view all of the winners here.

For the first time, both our Designer of the Year honor and the Legend Award both solely went to women in the same year. We honored Legend Award recipient Trisha Wilson, who has had a tremendous influence on the world both by founding and leading the global hospitality design firm Wilson Associates, and by establishing the Wilson Foundation that has provided education and healthcare support to disadvantaged populations in South Africa and beyond.

And the 35th Designer of the Year Award is Krista Ninivaggi, who has been entrusted by the firm SHoP Architects here in New York to lead its interiors practice. She represents the best of the present and the future of our design profession.

Here is what I said about Krista at the Interiors Awards Breakfast:

We are building a terrific legacy with the Designer of the Year Award. For the second consecutive year, we are honoring a Designer of the Year who had a significant start working for one of the previous Designers of the Year. Krista had began her career as a designer at Rockwell Group, and learned a great deal from our 1998 Designer of the Year David Rockwell. She moved on to AvroKO, honing her skills in hospitality design while helping to hire new staff while the firm grew from about 10 to nearly 40 people in her 4 years there.

And just about exactly three years ago, SHoP Architects took a leap of faith and hired her to head its interiors practice. You’ve known SHoP—which began in the late 1990s and is now a firm of about one hundred sixty people—for its architecture and urban design work, and it won the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award for architecture in 2009. And, yes, SHoP did design interiors for many of its buildings previously. But the firm did not have a team focused solely on interiors, until it hired Krista to establish that team. She, in turn, has grown the interiors practice in three years. It was about a dozen designers last summer, it is about 20 now, and she expects to lead an interiors studio of about 30 later this year.

A video about Ninivaggi shown at the breakfast.

But, seriously, SHoP is a well-respected firm that now has a well-integrated interiors practice led by Krista Ninivaggi that is designing interiors of offices, such as both the New York and Washington DC office of law firm Kirkland and Ellis, and SHOP’s own office in the Woolworth Building that it is moving into next week, as well as schools, residential interiors, a hotel in Williamsburg, a restaurant in TriBeCa, and a healthcare innovation hub in Botswana.

As you know, SHoP designed the Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn, and Krista led the interior design of the public concourses and premium suites. In the video we are about to show, she is interviewed in the Vault suites that she designed within Barclays Center for her client group that included Jay-Z. Her picture on the cover of our January/February issue is also from inside the Barclays Center Vault suites.

She and her team are about the future of our profession. The way we work today and in the future. She is a designer of real substance, not just style. She takes a multi-pronged, multi-faceted approach to interiors for a variety of project types and, with the leadership of SHoP, she is helping to define what that firm’s interiors practice should be. She is absolutely on a trajectory to do more, to take on exciting new projects, and to really lead SHoP’s interiors team with exciting new possibilities.


Krista Ninivaggi of SHoP Architects is Contract’s 2014 Designer of the Year and is on the cover of Contract’s January/February issue.


Krista Ninivaggi, Contract’s Designer of the Year, and Contract Editor in Chief John Czarnecki, at the Interiors Awards Breakfast on January 24. Photograph by Christian Grattan.


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Above, 2013 Designer of the Year Joey Shimoda and 2014 Designer of the Year Krista Ninivaggi enjoy the Designer of the Year limelight at a dinner the night before the Interiors Awards Breakfast. Photographs by John Czarnecki.

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