Surrounded by the crisp art deco design and pyramidal sconces of the Arizona Biltmore, the best and brightest of Arizona designers glitter in their cocktail attire among a record turnout of attendees to celebrate the American Society of Interior Designers 2017 Design Excellence Awards Gala.
This night is the culmination of a year of hard work and dedication for many designers and their collaborators—as Denise Milano, of Coco Milano’s design, says, “It’s like the Academy Awards for designers.” It is a night of recognizing the many ways in which the creatives of the Northern Arizona chapter of ASID are upholding the organization’s core drive to advance the craft.
The ASID in its current incarnation has existed since 1975 as a bastion of providing education, networking, and support for its over 40,000 members nationwide. Each chapter celebrates their own Excellence Awards night annually, in an effort to honor the effort and vision of its outstanding designers. Our own Northern Arizona chapter is quickly on the rise—not only did this year have a record number of entries for the awards contest, the chapter now boasts almost 600 active members, and continues to grow. Membership director Erin Linstrom says that it is the “amount of dedication that everybody in this chapter puts into it is what makes it different than all the other chapters,” and draws in emerging professionals. In a similar vein, Brian Gallop, the Director-at-Large, points out that Arizona, in particular, offers “a great representation of all design forms…I think in Arizona you get a broad spectrum of what design is.” Anything from Tuscan country home to cutting-edge contemporary is in demand, Denise Milano agrees: “Right now, everything’s in.”
Miranda Gwilliam, industry partner (left), with myself
It’s not only the designers themselves who flocked to the Awards Gala—with them came the many industry partners whose goods and services make every breathtaking design piece possible. One pair ASID members, Scott and Miranda Gwilliam of Rugworx, even cut short their California trip in order to make it back to Phoenix in time for the event. Speaking on the advantages of becoming ASID members and working with its designers, Miranda says, “I think for us…we get to see them on a regular basis, we get to form longer-lasting relationships and deeper bonded relationships, and also we understand better what their needs are.” The monthly chapter meetings provide them with constant updates on the issues of interest to the local design community, which makes up a good portion of their clientele.
Another industry partner, Shelley Wyatt with Facings of America, also stressed the benefits of working with an organization which provides not only encouragement for but also an internal structure to achieve and maintain a higher level of quality in design standards. “I think that ASID is a place where we can work with folks who are more elevated in their design,” she says, “and who, in return, will want more elevated materials.” Wyatt also expressed her enthusiasm for the growth and flux of the Arizona design world, echoing Gallop’s and Milano’s sentiments. “We’re seeing a lot of exciting things,” she enthuses. For her, the most stimulating camp is the modernist movement: “There’s a lot of talent and collaborative energy around that modern movement right now and that’s really some place where I passionately want to be.”
Whether in the capacity of a member, designer, industry partner, or even just a guest, what every single person attending had in common was their passion and support for interior design. Gallop—perhaps speaking for everyone in attendance—says that he considers designers “unsung heroes,” who deserve far more recognition and respect than they currently receive. It is for this very reason that nights such as the Gala are so important to the design community. For a resplendent, glamorous evening, designers can be applauded for the truly breathtaking pieces that their work can accomplish, as the Valley honors an art form that is capable of both incredible grandeur and touching intimacy. This dynamic field can only continue to grow with time and continued support, proving with each passing year that more than just cacti can bloom in the Arizona desert.