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NeoConnect 2017 | San Diego


The design community is still buzzing after another successful San Diego NeoConnect show held Tuesday, September 26th for the third year at the Port Pavilion at Broadway Pier. Participation from our exhibitors and attendees reached an all-time record, pushing beyond the 600-person mark, at 620 attendees! The evening was quoted by many as “magical” with a high-energy environment stretching from one end of the venue to the other. As the day turned to evening, a rose-colored sunset captured the crowd’s attention with drinks flowing and phenomenal products offerings by each and every vendor.  The party lasted well into the evening, ending with fireworks that lit up the sky for an epic grand finale.


Check out the photos and video from the event.

Almost 100 manufacturers and dealers were represented in this year’s show featuring incredible products released at the 2017 NeoCon in Chicago. Five designers from the San Diego design community were selected to be judges for this year’s Best of NeoConnect competition, where all of the exhibitors had an opportunity to submit one product to be considered, and the judges selected their 10 favorites to be voted on by the rest of the design community. The submissions for Best of NeoConnect can be seen on Pinterest.


Our five, highly esteemed judges were:

• Robin Carrier, Robin Wilson Interior Design
• Adel Smith-Chapman, Delawie
• Angela Ryan, Ware Malcomb
• Nancy Andrade Polito, Hollander Design Group
• Bethany Carlson, LPA Inc.

The top 10 products in this year’s Best of NeoConnect competition were:

• C3 Lines | Lightcorp Amble
• Mohawk | Lichen
• ICE + WorkShop | Cottonwood Table
• West Elm + Think OI | Modern Benching
• BuzziSpace + SVNDR | BuzziPleat
• OFS Brands | Heya
• Moz Designs | Laser-cut Collection
• EPIC | Contract Leaf Collection
• Shaw Contract | Emergence

The attendees at the event voted on their top choices by texting on their phones, results showing live on a projected screen above the show, and the winners were as follows:

GOLD: ICE + WorkShop’s Cottonwood Table, with 51% of the votes!
SILVER: West Elm’s Modern, Height-Adjustable Benching (by THiNK OI)

Special thanks to the 2017 IIDA San Diego NeoConnect Committee:
Alysse Cooper, NeoConnect 2017 Co-Chair, ICE
Hillarie Martorell, NeoConnect 2017 Co-Chair, OFS Brands
Angela Ryan, IIDA City Center Co-Director, Ware Malcomb
Ymisserah Eddington, IIDA City Center Co-Director, Steelcase
Shana Van Namen, SVN Design Resource
Bethany Carlson, LPA
Courtney Kirian, Think OI
Diana Tracy, Commercial Décor Gallery
Elise Holmes, MDC Wallcovering
Erica Roman, Cultura
Kari Schultz, Mannington
Kimberly McCready, DesignTex
Manuela Bravo-Smith, Carrier Johnson
Nicole Dotson, bkm Officeworks
Rebecca Hetter, Coalesse
Tony Robson, Crossville
Tricia Mauller, EPIC Contract Group
Ana Seabra-Gomes, Delawie
Lauren Knapp, ICE
Jessica Becker, Cultura
Sonja Helton, The Scheffey Group
Lauren Bencivengo, Delawie

Additional thank you to our day of volunteers:
Ashley Achleithner, Gensler
Cody Flora, Gensler
Elizabeth Rhone, Gensler
Tanya Villalpando, ARE
Jen Khor, Student
Garret Marsh, Student
Kathleen Quirez, Student
Hope Knuckles, Student
Kelly McWhorter, Student
Ginet Casido, Student
Katrina Shea, Student
Kate Davenport, Student
Shaunessy O’Brien, Student
Breeann Ray, Student

Thank you all for making this another memorable NeoConnect in San Diego, and we will see you again next year on September 25th, 2018.

Fresh Gossip from the Hollywood Backlot

Fresh Gossip from the Hollywood Backlot: Cory Grosser & Associates is Primed for Victory in the Musical Category!

Unscrupulous Hollywood gossip monger Nicole Gemma corners a busy Christy Wulfson of Cory Grosser & Associates to get the skinny on competing in “ENVELOPE, PLEASE!”

Wulfson (far right) with her team.  Their film genre is MUSICAL.
Wulfson (far right) with her team.  Their film genre is MUSICAL.

GEMMA: “Christy!  Christy Wulfson!  Do you have a moment to talk to IIDA-Socal Gossip?”

WULFSON: “Not really, I’m on a deadline.”

GEMMA: “SMASHING!  Tell our gossip readers – what excited you most about this year’s theme, ENVELOPE, PLEASE?”

WULFSON: “Personally, I was excited about the theme being a genre, as opposed to a specific movie—lots of options. Have a great day.”

GEMMA: “Not so fast, Christy!  Inquiring IIDA Minds want to know – how are you using this year’s new competition structure to motivate your design?”

WULFSON: “I would say knowing that other teams have been assigned the same genre motivated us to be extra sure to do something super original—it would suck so much to have the same concept as the other team!  Can I say “suck”?

GEMMA: “Absolutely not!  Tell our readers, Christy, what is your favorite film of all time?”

WULFSON: “Moulin Rouge!  Which is in our genre!!  But I was totally outvoted so no Elephant Love Medley from CG+A this year.  OK, take care!”

GEMMA: “I will….AFTER you tell our readers what your biggest challenge has been thus far!”

WULFSON: “Narrowing down our ideas and maintaining a clear concept.  There are so many musicals to choose from.  Oh, and then finally making a decision and discovering that our chosen movie (NO SPOILERS!) is actually a tragedy and not a happy-ending love-fest.  We were all devastated.”

GEMMA: “RIVETING, CHRISTY!  Last question: if you could give an award-winning speech, whom would you thank?”

WULFSON: “My team, who has never participated in Haunt before and had no clue what I was really getting them into when we signed up!  Now I really really have to go.”

GEMMA: “You’re a STAR, Christy!  See you on the runway!”


Cory Grosser & Associates is proudly sponsored by HAWORTH with textiles by ARC COM.

Haunt Couture is a place where we project our dreams, fashion and desires onto the widescreen.

For the last century, the icons of celluloid have amused, amazed and thrilled us. This year’s theme will transport us to faraway lands and back in a flash with music and costumes! The team with the best story-line, choreography and performance will bring home the trophy and bragging rights! Hit your marks and be ready for “lights, camera, action!”


Sponsorship opportunities are still available here!
Tickets for the big show are available here!
Want to volunteer for envelope, please? email us here!

Highlights of Last Week’s Leaders Breakfast 2017


Another successful Leaders Breakfast at the new venue, Wilshire Grand. Mimosas were flowing while Julie Bernstein talked about the creative process using tactile methods.

Take a look at the photos of the event here.


Honoring an amazing non profit organization, Affordable Living for the Aging (ALA), Antonio Manning delivered a heart felt speech.


Thank you to everyone that joined us this year.

Great committee. Julie’s interactive speech help keep the audience engaged. Mimosas were a very nice touch to an early morning. VIP Tour of the new Wilshire Grand was amazing.

And thank you to the event sponsors that supported us this year:


Herman Miller
Interior Design Magazine


Mohawk Group

Herman Miller

Emser Tile
Garrett Leather
OFS Brands
Pivot Construction Services



California Lighting Systems
IOS Ideation Lab
SitOnIt Seating
Taslimi Construction

Big Reveal Recap!

Nicole Gemma interviews Creative Co-Directors Sean Kim (Lionakis) and Dan Nickerson (United Interiors).

EXTRA! EXTRA! HOT NEWS FROM HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA -The stars came out in droves for last month’s Big Reveal Party and we have exclusive footage of the event!

Join Haunt Couture Correspondent Nicole Gemma as she browbeats this year’s committee into spilling the secrets of IIDA SOCAL HAUNT COUTURE 2017: ENVELOPE, PLEASE!

Take a look at the video of the event here!



Here’s a list of this year’s competing teams and their generous sponsors.


Sponsorship Opportunities are still available here!
Tickets for the big show are available here!
Get involved with IIDA SoCal here!

Michelle Rodriguez of Gensler LA reveals her team’s film category: Horror.

Stay tuned to IIDA-SOCAL.ORG for more behind the scenes coverage of the big show!

Haunt Couture 2017: Come Play With Us! (Volunteers Needed)


The Big Reveal has come and gone and now it’s time to get down to business…SHOW BUSINESS, that is!

We’re putting out our very own casting call for top-tier volunteer talent! This year’s production is sure to be a Box Office smash!

Please contact NICOLE GEMMA at ngemma@glas-pro.com if you’d like to join our volunteer team.

See you on set!


Haunt Couture is the premier place to see your name in lights. We can’t make the magic happen without your support. Please click here to see all of our sponsorship opportunities.

Haunt Couture 2017: Wednesday, October 25

Haunt Couture is a place where we project our dreams, fashion and desires onto the widescreen. For the last century, the icons of celluloid have amused, amazed and thrilled us. This year’s theme will transport us to faraway lands and back in a flash with music and costumes! The team with the best story-line, choreography and performance will bring home the trophy and bragging rights! Hit your marks and be ready for “lights, camera, action!”

Click here for tickets and sponsorship opportunities!

NY Fashion Week 2018 Color Trends!


Do fashion trends inspire you and the way you design?

Many designers use other industry trends to help them be creative and think forward when designing a space. PANTONE recently announced the upcoming Spring 2018 NY fashion color trends! Color is a huge influencer not just for fashion but architecture and design as well – we love to embrace colors when the opportunity is presented.

PANTONE announced the top 12 colors and a “Classic Color Palette”

The top 12 colors reflect a sense of fun and playfulness! While the Classic Color Palette is a bit more quiet.

To read more and see all colors, click here!


I’m usually not a huge fan of red BUT Cherry Tomato is another story! LOVING IT!


Tanya Villalpando, Associate IIDA
VP of Communications

Leadership of Excellence Award: Presenting the Herman Miller Red Walnut Stool


Throughout the years, Herman Miller has presented recipients of the Leadership of Excellence Award with an innovative and steadfast symbol of design excellence. Until late 2014, Herman Miller honored award recipients with a molded plywood splint in its original packaging from World War II designed by Charles and Ray Eames. With the splint in limited quantities and held in the Herman Miller archives, Herman Miller produced a special edition stool made from sustainable ash, stained in a signature translucent aniline red, a favorite color of Charles and Ray Eames. Exclusive only to Leaders Breakfast award recipients, the stool is now the symbol of the Leaders Breakfast series. A specialty book about the history of the stool, including a framed print from the Herman Miller design archives, accompanies the award.

We are excited to present this year’s 2017 Leadership of Excellence Award to Affordable Living for the Aging! Please join us next Friday, September 15th to honor this great organization in Los Angeles!

Leaders Breakfast
Friday, September 15th, 7 – 10am
InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown
900 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90017

Purchase tickets and become a sponsor today at iida.org. For more information about the event, visit the event page here.

Spotlight on Alexandra Milkovich


Alexandra Milkovich is one of our professional members for San Diego City Center. She relocated to San Diego from Dallas earlier this year, and is excited to be a part of the San Diego interior design community. We spoke with Alexandra to get to know her and find out about why being NCIDQ certified is important to her.

With a Masters in Interior Architecture & Product Design from Kansas State University, Alexandra Milkovich has 8 years of experience in the interior design and architectural industry.  She spent the early part of her career at RTKL Dallas, where she worked on hospitality, healthcare, and commercial projects, as well as exhibit design. She has since been employed by Wilson Associates Dallas and Harwood International, also in Dallas, where she gained additional experience the aforementioned fields as well as in high-end residential and multi-family housing.

After much consideration, Alexandra and her husband decided to move to San Diego. She is currently a part of the interior design department at HBG Design, where she is focused on hospitality design. Alexandra has done extensive research in restaurant design and the culinary arts through both her masters degree and professionally, and continues that passion through not only her job, but her personal food blog where she showcases unique culinary dishes and beautiful plating designs.

Here are her answers to a few of our questions regarding her experience in becoming an NCIDQ certified professional:

Q: How long have you been NCIDQ certified?

A: 5 years

Q: Name one thing that you learned while studying for the exam that you are able to apply to your everyday work.

A: Every firm does things slightly differently, therefore I learned a lot about the typical industry standards and how I can apply those standards at each place I worked.

Q: How do you feel that being certified has helped you professionally?

A: Being a licensed interior designer not only makes you more knowledgeable in the profession, but also puts you in a higher pay range and potentially a higher position at your company.

Q: Why would you recommend certification to fellow designers?

A: I believe that once you become a Registered Interior Designer, your boss and colleagues will have a newfound level of respect for you professionally.  It shows them that you can accomplish a challenge and come out with much more knowledge in the profession than you had prior, which in turn benefits them.

Q: Did you take all of the exams at once, or did you spread them out, and why did you choose to do it the way you did?

A: I took all of my exams at once: multiple choice tests on a Friday and practicum on a Saturday.  It was a very long weekend, but I was happy to get them over within one quick swoop.

Q: Do you have any study tips for those of us who are preparing to take the exam?

A: For the multiple choice tests, I recommend to read the book once, read it again and highlight important notes, read it again and make note cards of the highlighted notes and study those note cards.  I also recommend reading any additional recommended study books/notes that the book may not cover (i.e. AIA standards).  For the practicum, I recommend practicing the test at least 2 times and timing yourself.  Also make sure you understand the different sections and what you could potentially be tested on.  I took a study course with IIDA and it was really helpful.

Q: In your opinion, what is the number one reason that an interior designer should become NCIDQ Certified?

A: Becoming a certified interior designer shows commitment and dedication to the interior design industry.

Q: Any words of encouragement?

A: I had to tell myself many times to ‘just do it’.  I know taking this test is daunting, but you need to rip it off like a band-aid, suck it up and just take it.  Don’t be discouraged by failure.  Many people do not pass the first time and no firms or fellow designers will judge you for that.

Welcome to the San Diego City Center, Alexandra! We are happy to have you as a part of our community.

Katie Toth & Denise Colestock
Co-Chairs of Advocacy, San Diego City Center

Meet the Designers Behind the Wilshire Grand Center – AC Martin!

*This interview was conducted with some members of the design team – Christopher King, Sandra Levesque and Michelle Sterling.

Overhead view of the Wilshire Grand Center and the Los Angeles skyline. Photography provide by AC Martin.

“The Wilshire Grand Center, encompassing the new InterContinental Hotel, aims to become a vital part of downtown Los Angeles’ ongoing renaissance. Its businesses, restaurants, bars and residents are fresh, vibrant, creative, innovative and constantly evolving. Formulating an “authentic” experience for local urban dwellers and visitors alike requires thoughtful understanding and representation of place, culture notwithstanding LA’s inescapable yet widely revered clichés such as weather and traffic.” – AC Martin

Wilshire Grand Center Quick Details:
Client: Hanjin International Corporation/Korean Airlines
Address: 900 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90017
Architect: AC Martin
Structural Engineer: Brandow & Johnston, Inc./Thorton Tomasetti
Contractor: Turner Construction Company
Hotel: InterContinental Hotels Group
Type: Mixed-Use Commercial
Construction Started: 2012
Completed: 2017
Height: 1,100 ft.
Floor Count: 73
Floor Area: 2.1 Million SF
Elevators: 38
Sky Lobby Express Elevator Speed: 1,600 FPM (feet per minute)

What was the program for the Wilshire Grand Center? What was AC Martin’s scope of work for the project?
AC Martin was the design architect, architect of record, interior architect and hospitality designer of the 2.1 million square feet contained within the project.  The program for the Wilshire Grand includes the InterContinental Hotel, convention and meeting spaces, restaurants, retail, and offices.
Under the signature curving skylight is a gallery space that features a coffee shop, lounge and arrival lobby connecting to the porte-cochere. The lower hotel lobby features a custom three-story art installation by Do Ho Suh, made up of 86,000 3” tall resin figures.  From there you experience a 35 second ride into the sky in one of the double decker, high-speed elevators delivering you to the 70th floor sky lobby and check-in.

Up-close view of the plaza lobby art installation by Do Ho Suh. Photography by Sylvia Yoo.

The client didn’t want the top of the building to be exclusive, but rather desired a ‘neighborhood in the sky’ of sorts – this was to be the differentiator. It consists of the highest open air rooftop bar in the United States, several bars and restaurants including a sushi restaurant, all-day dining and marketplace, steakhouse and a series of public lounges, all of which are publicly accessible.

Meeting and ballroom spaces occupy floors five, six and seven, including the grand ballroom – the third largest ballroom in Los Angeles.  While both ballrooms have access to outdoor light, the junior ballroom on the 7th floor has a retractable glass door to open seamlessly to the adjacent outdoor space and pool deck which is the terminus of historic 7th street.

The health club, which will be available for outside memberships, will be opening this fall and Seoul Jung, the signature Korean restaurant, is currently under construction (both designed by AC Martin) and will be open in January 2018.

What was your design inspiration?
The interior design concept focused on how the guest experience could authentically relate to Los Angeles.  We didn’t want the guest experience to only rely on the view but rather we wanted the interior design to interact and respond to the key landmarks or signature elements as viewed from each area of the project.   Back in the 70s, architect Reyner Banham wrote a book entitled Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies and classified the four different ecologies he observed in Los Angeles – beach culture, or what he called “surfurbia”, “autopia”, foothills, and the flats which he referred to as “the Plains of ID”.  Since this project was located downtown, we ended up adding downtown as the fifth ecology.

From the 70th floor, with 360 degree views of Los Angeles, you end up viewing all the different ecologies – one way you’re looking towards the foothills, or the 110/10 intersection, or you see the bustling downtown below.  For example, immediately above the check-in area hangs a three-story tall light sculpture made up of internally illuminated, multi-color resin segments. The intersection of the 10 and 110 freeways, directly in view, are the inspiration for this “autopian” design. Freeways, while often uninspiring by car, become a light show of red, white and orange lights at night from 70 stories above. The ‘strung’ form is derived directly from mapping this key intersection including the on and off ramps, underpasses, overpasses and connectors.  As if made from string, these draped strands are given form by gravity. The resin is molded to resemble head lights, tails lights and side lights.

Custom-designed light installation at hotel lobby.  Photography provided by AC Martin.
Custom-designed light installation at hotel lobby. Photography provided by AC Martin.

How do you think the Wilshire Grand impacts the overall Los Angeles skyline?
It adds a unique profile to the skyline because of its three dimensional rooftop. AC Martin together with the City of Los Angeles forever altered the ordinance requiring the helipad for emergency purposes and ultimately opened up the possibility for more uniquely shaped tall buildings to be built in LA in the future.

By code, high-rise buildings in LA were required to have a helipad.  We worked with the building and fire departments to change the code by implementing more modern and efficient methods of both fire rescue and fire suppression.  We added a very large holding tank of water stored onsite in the parking garage and a dedicated fire department elevator with three foot thick concrete walls surrounding the elevator shaft.  We also added a third exit stair from the upper floors of the tower – more than what is required by code.  We were able to achieve a more complex, three dimensional rooftop design and overall help other high-rise projects in the future achieve a unique building shape.

Leaders Breakfast
Friday, September 15th, 7 – 10am
InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown
900 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90017

Purchase tickets and become a sponsor today at iida.org. For more information about the event, visit the event page here.

Sylvia Yoo, CID, LEED AP
Herman Miller

Haunt Couture 2017 Reveal Party


And the nominees are…

Join us for the Haunt Couture 2017 reveal party Thursday August 24. Please RSVP by 8/23, 5pm to secure your spot.

Haunt Couture is the premier place to see your name in lights. We can’t make the magic happen without your support. Please click here to see all of our sponsorship opportunities.

Spaces are limited, act fast before all the seats are taken.
If you are interested in competing this year, please contact:
Goli Nagdali: gnagdali@westelmworkspace.com
Teri Burkhart: Terri@EPICcontractgroup.com

Haunt Couture is a place where we project our dreams, fashion and desires onto the widescreen. For the last century, the icons of celluloid have amused, amazed and thrilled us. This year’s theme will transport us to faraway lands and back in a flash with music and costumes! The team with the best story-line, choreography and performance will bring home the trophy and bragging rights! Hit your marks and be ready for “lights, camera, action!”

Save the Dates!
Haunt Couture Reveal Party: Thursday, August 24
Haunt Couture 2017: Wednesday, October 25

Click here for tickets and sponsorship opportunities!

Stephen Sudeth