Boutique Design - June 2019 - 16

PEACEFUL WARRIOR

KIA WEATHERSPOON | PRESIDENT, DETERMINED BY DESIGN

NOBODY COULD FAULT KIA WEATHERSPOON for being adamant. Very

adamant. Seven years into helming her Washington, D.C.-based interior design
firm (whose mission is to advocate for design equity, whether in hospitality or
affordable and supportive housing) she's heard it all. From clients who really
wish it was a WASP guy taking on the project to ones who feel that upholstered
chairs are "too nice" for residents of affordable housing, this stuff is painful to
hear about, let alone to live through. So how does Weatherspoon stay levelheaded to create a better future (hint: it's not just a good therapist, but that
helps)? It comes down to respect for everyone's perspective. "A real estate
developer's 'why' typically is to make money, while Determined by Design's
[DBD's] is to bring design equity to the project," says Weatherspoon. "These are
sometimes two contradictory things. It always requires a certain level of advocacy and education as a firm that we must provide to a developer. However,
tolerance means we must see their perspective while meeting their needs." So,
she'll break down why that comfortable chair is durable enough and affordable
enough that it works with the budget. It's a question of using each and every
decision, from concept to FF&E selection, to reinforce her thesis that everyone
deserves access to well-designed spaces. "We won't do market-rate housing,
we'll only do affordable and mixed-income. I strongly believe housing should
not be segregated based on income, which comes down to race," Weatherspoon
says. "Somebody had to take a stand, and we did."
16

boutiquedesign.com JUNE 2019

Wetherspoon's mission is very evident and focused. "I want to be the leader
of color I never saw," she says. Of course, as the head of her own firm and a
frequent speaker (she's also a Boutique 18 honoree), the Air Force veteran (and
current Air National Guard personnel tech) is making herself a visible agent of
change. Yes, as she puts it, her continued success is an invaluable contribution,
but crafting a platform for equality goes beyond the standout individual. Her
advice to the industry? Start mentorship in communities of color at the grade
school and high school level-it's really that important for young people to see
themselves reflected in the profession. Industry leaders need to make a point of
speaking alongside minorities (she'd like to see at least three minorities at the
table in roundtable type discussions), and they need to look past the same few
"token" voices who are the "go-to" speakers. Acknowledge implicit bias toward
hiring/promoting team members in whom leadership sees themselves (read:
same ethnicity, background, sometimes gender) and look beyond it. Hire more
junior people if that's the only way to increase diversity, and put those
employees "out there" at conferences, awards ceremonies, etc. "It's not just
about the title, but about their cultural influences that bring a first-person
perspective told differently through experiences as designers of color," she says.
But, what happens when doing good also requires keeping the lights on and
her own and her team's batteries charged? Not so easy. A small team and low
overhead help keep costs down, but cash flow is a struggle, especially when big
projects stall, as a 199-unit mix income project, with a 76-unit senior affordable
housing component did for the past 10 months. Weatherspoon's solution? Finding
a niche and occupying it. "Developers and architectural partners know we design
with intentionality, beauty, function, and cost at the forefront. Most 'high-end'
architecture and design firms don't want to do 'this work [affordable, mixedincome or supportive housing],' or they don't know how to design to it. We do."
That helps reinforce the value of their services, and has already garnered the firm
repeat work from developers. DBD's current pipeline also includes a Cambria
Hotel, now underway again after major delays, and multiple affordable housing
projects. She's also recently completed Cherry Blossom Intimates, a boutique that
caters to breast cancers survivors of color (including onsite prosthetic fittings). In
the next five years, she'd like to add offices in Detroit and New Orleans, while still
keeping to a small team (less than 12 total). You could say she's determined to
design. Somehow, though, she also squeezes in time for a couple SoulCycle
classes, and, sometimes, just plain fun such as feeding her fondness for Game of
Thrones or grabbing two close friends and dressing up as KISS (Weatherspoon
was the Demon; her friends were the Spaceman and the Starchild while the
Catman went unrepresented) for Halloween 2017.

M A R Y G A R D E L L A P H O T O G R A P H Y ( W E AT H E R S P O O N ) : C O U R T E S Y O F D E T E R M I N E D B Y D E S I G N ( C A M B R I A )

WEATHERSPOON'S VISION FOR THE CAMBRIA HOTEL, PETERSBURG, VIRGINIA


http://www.boutiquedesign.com

Boutique Design - June 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Boutique Design - June 2019

Boutique Design - June 2019
Contents
From the Editor
The Buzz
Heroes And Mavericks: Fierce Friends
Fun Pass
Queens Of London
Go Small, Go Home
Products: Flooring
Products: Seating
Exit Interview
Boutique Design - June 2019 - Boutique Design - June 2019
Boutique Design - June 2019 - Cover2
Boutique Design - June 2019 - 1
Boutique Design - June 2019 - Contents
Boutique Design - June 2019 - 3
Boutique Design - June 2019 - From the Editor
Boutique Design - June 2019 - 5
Boutique Design - June 2019 - The Buzz
Boutique Design - June 2019 - 7
Boutique Design - June 2019 - 8
Boutique Design - June 2019 - 9
Boutique Design - June 2019 - 10
Boutique Design - June 2019 - 11
Boutique Design - June 2019 - Heroes And Mavericks: Fierce Friends
Boutique Design - June 2019 - 13
Boutique Design - June 2019 - 14
Boutique Design - June 2019 - 15
Boutique Design - June 2019 - 16
Boutique Design - June 2019 - 17
Boutique Design - June 2019 - 18
Boutique Design - June 2019 - 19
Boutique Design - June 2019 - Fun Pass
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Boutique Design - June 2019 - 24
Boutique Design - June 2019 - 25
Boutique Design - June 2019 - Queens Of London
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Boutique Design - June 2019 - 34
Boutique Design - June 2019 - 35
Boutique Design - June 2019 - Go Small, Go Home
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Boutique Design - June 2019 - 41
Boutique Design - June 2019 - Products: Flooring
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Boutique Design - June 2019 - Products: Seating
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Boutique Design - June 2019 - Exit Interview
Boutique Design - June 2019 - Cover3
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