Star Power

The Colorado chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) recently anointed five “Rising Stars” in the design world.

From Left: Kristen Randall, Deidrie Knowles, Nicole Snyder, Tamara Higgins, Susan Downing. Photo by Jensen Sutta

The Rising Star awards came into being in 2013 during designer Lynn Williamson’s tenure as president of the ASID Colorado. “We decided to pull the two student design categories out of our Crystal Awards in order to give our student members more recognition and tailor the competition to their unique schedules,” says Williamson. Entrants can submit projects from any point in their student career, and they are judged on design intent (30 percent), design resolution (60 percent) and presentation (10 percent). We got to know these soon-to-be superstars on the design scene.

Susan Downing

Susan Downing currently works at SPIRE Design and Construction in Denver, and she hopes to pursue her passion for historic preservation and restoration as well as sustainable design practices throughout her career. “I have always been interested in art and design,” she says, “especially creating spaces and structures, whether it was designing elaborate pillow forts or building entire cities out of Legos.” Downing sees interior design as “art with a purpose,” a blend of innovation and practicality. “This means creating spaces that are aesthetically beautiful and engaging while providing all the functionality needed to positively impact people’s lives.”

Downing’s grandfather is architect William Robb, and he instilled in her a love of designed spaces. She also studied set design at Colorado State University and developed an appreciation for creative solutions. “My favorite part about approaching a design project,” she says, “is that it is like a puzzle with hundreds of moving pieces, and the challenge is to find the best way all these pieces fit together to create a beautiful, functional design.”

THE PROJECT: The Twin Owls Rehabilitation Center for Women, a facility for women struggling with addiction. “My four main goals when designing this project,” she says, “were to create a building that has a healing and comforting environment, to incorporate nature throughout the building, to create a balance of interactive spaces and private spaces for patients to utilize, and to design a sustainable building that incorporated renewable resources and materials.”

Tamara Higgins

Interior design is a second career for Tamara Higgins, now an associate with Carol Moore Interior Design in Edwards. Out of high school, Higgins pursued a commission in the United States Air Force at Kent State University through the ROTC and went on to serve from 1992 to 2012. While contemplating retirement from the military, she began to think about whether a love of home furnishings and shopping might translate into a new vocation and applied to the Art Institute of Colorado’s interior design program.

Higgins chose to specialize in residential design because she felt like it offered the biggest change from her former life. Still, comparisons to the Air Force do present themselves. “Honestly, our clients seem like the generals I use to support, and my wonderful boss [Carol Moore Mink] is the colonel I take care of now,” she says. “She’s the mentor I needed to make this transition into the field.”

THE PROJECT: A rehabilitation center for veteran amputees. Higgins won a Rising Star Award in addition to the People’s Choice Award, voted on by the attendees at the Chapter’s Annual Meeting. “The overall goal of the Center was to provide Phase 3-4 prosthetic rehabilitation, returning the veteran to full independence,” she says. “We all know the sacrifices our service members have made, and it was inspiring for me to research amputees, limb loss, PTSD, traumatic brain injury and all that can impact the lives of our combat vets. It was truly a rewarding project in many ways.”

Deidrie Knowles

Originally from the Seattle area, Deidrie Knowles’ background is in landscape design. After a nine-year career, the job’s seasonal fluctuations got to be too much. “I enjoyed that each project was a new and unique challenge, and I also enjoyed problem solving and being creative,” she says. “But I did not appreciate the extremes of having nothing to do in the winter and no free time in the summer.” However, she wanted to stay in design. “It is very exciting for me to see a design that started as an idea on paper become a reality for others to use and enjoy,” she says. Now, having completed the interior design program at The Art Institute of Colorado, Knowles works for an architecture firm specializing in K–12 school buildings. “I love to do the research at the beginning of a project and learn everything I can that will inform the design process,” she says. “I enjoy programming, concept development and schematic design. I am a true believer that form follows function. It is important to get the functional elements of the design correct before spending time thinking about finishes.”

THE PROJECT: TouchDown Lounge, an airport lounge for business travelers in Terminal 3 of San Francisco International Airport. “The mission for the project was to offer a refuge space within the airport terminal for business travelers that blurs the lines between work and leisure,” she says. “An oasis of calm.” The design also provides for users’ needs for technology, communication and security. “The overall design concept is the oyster shell,” she says. “The gnarly exterior of the oyster shell represents such airport hassles as flight delays, etc. The shimmering interior of the shell represents the comfort and convenience of the lounge.”

Kristen Randall

Although she had a 20-year corporate career before enrolling in Arapahoe Community College’s interior design program, Kristen Randall says, “I honestly can’t remember a time that I wasn’t interested in design.” She adds, “I have always loved looking at floor plans, imagining walking through them and wondering how they would look furnished.”

When it comes to her approach, she says, “Client communication is key.” A prime example is the project she entered in this competition. “With this project, I met with the client initially to understand her family’s lifestyle, needs, wants and style and color preferences,” she says, “I continued to check in throughout the process to ensure I was on track as my ultimate goal was to delight the client with a beautiful and functional design that would work for this active family.”

THE PROJECT: A residential space. Randall started with a basic floor plan. The home required all spaces to be planned—with the exception of the kitchen and master bath, which had already been renovated. In addition, the master bedroom and family room needed new furniture and fabrics and window treatments, lighting and finishes. “The major challenge with the project,” says Randall, “was combining the client’s desire for classical style with a rustic feel.”

Nicole Snyder

Interior design is a new-found love for Nicole Snyder, whose background in property and project management provided a foundation for her current work as lead interior designer for Vertical Arts Architecture. Snyder is based in Steamboat Springs although she got an initial taste for interior design as a hospitality property manager in Park City, Utah. “I had the opportunity to be the liaison for the hotel owners and interior designers,” she says, “Through a hotel refurbishment process, I learned that I wanted to design. Selecting the finishes, textiles, furnishings and presenting to the owners made my heart sing.”

She adds, “My approach is about understanding what a client is seeking and tuning in closely to their wants and hopes. I believe the bliss of a space is about how it feels. And the way we feel in a space is created by the perfect mix of superb functional design and aesthetic dreams realized.”

THE PROJECT: An experiential restaurant design in the Strings Pavilion in Steamboat Springs. Snyder describes it as being “as much a nature and art gallery as it is a restaurant.” The space features a bowstring truss roof design, and many elements of Snyder’s design incorporate this characteristic. The project, called Crisp, “offers an opportunity for guests to meander through a beautiful garden,” she says, “and enjoy stunning glass art sculptures as well as farm-to-table fresh food.”


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