The Design Enlightenment Challenge is something I have been dreaming of for many years. Design Enlightenment is not an exclusive concept to me or the clients I serve. I simply can’t withhold my secret to helping people find alignment and happiness in their homes. In fact, I’ve been working to actively share it with anyone who will listen, both my clients and fellow interior designers.

Recently, when I was thinking about how to ensure that this Design Enlightenment momentum continues on, I asked myself, “Who is the future of interior design?”

“It is the students,” continued the internal conversation, “And I need to reach them too.” Another ah-ha moment was made.

Crafting the Challenge

I started with my alma mater, Miami Dade College, which has an incredible School of Architecture and Interior Design. Rather than merely preach as a guest lecturer, I wanted to make it engaging and fun (I say that no matter the design scheme, the process should always be fun!). I also wanted to see how these young minds work. So, I presented them with a Design Enlightenment Challenge, which stems from a beautiful book I cherish entitled Inspired Styles by Barbel Miebach and Dominique Browning.

The rules were simple, but the task was not: Evoke a feeling using design. Submissions were to be presented in vignette boxes incorporating traditional and non-traditional materials.

And the winner is…

I was confident that I would receive quality creations, but nothing prepared me for the abundance of talent and creativity these students showed me. The selections were diverse, unique and compelling in their own way. My final Top Winner pick, Paula Stevenson, however, struck me the most. To start, her inspiration photograph was perhaps the most challenging to translate to a vignette, yet somehow she managed to do so perfectly. Her choice of words to communicate her emotion was irrefutable and her use of materials was incredibly thoughtful. I not only instantly saw, but felt deeply, exactly what she was trying to convey.

These emotions went on and on, as I continued reviewing each student’s work. In fact, it was such an arduous decision, I ended up expanding the honors recognition to include five more finalists to accompany Paula.

The feedback about the process itself was equally validating. The professors collaborated together to create educational initiatives to support the challenge, taking their students to the Design Center. Top industry manufacturers like Keys Granite and Dal tile, further engaged them, opening their doors to them for showroom visits and providing samples for their use. I was touched to see a sense of community growing within the department, but also amongst top industry players.

Working with these students was a beautiful experience. As young adults, they aren’t yet regimented to conventional notions of what interior design should and shouldn’t be. They simply create from the heart. And they understand that it’s not enough to put yourself into the design, you have to put your respective client into that creation.

I look forward to staying connected to these students. Paula will actually be joining me for my Design Enlightenment Retreat as part of her prize package. In my attempt to help them develop their talents, I found new growth within me as well…The concept of Design Enlightenment has yet again taken on new meanings for me.