ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Rocky LaFleur

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You may remember him as a guest speaker if you took Fundamentals with Eleanor Schrader, or crossed paths with him at the Pacific Design Center (PDC) or an event around town. This month we are not spotlighting an interior designer as we typically have in past months, but rather Rocky LaFleur, who has become a central fixture, guru, and mentor many in ASID. Having his finger on the pulse of the interior design industry in Los Angeles and Paris, we were excited to ask him a series of questions because he boasts a unique and unparalleled perspective.

There is no question he cannot answer, or seemingly anyone who is better connected than he. Rocky recognizes students are the future designers of the Industry, and donates much of his time to the enrichment and growth of those who are interested.

You may have heard the whispers of Paris in the halls at school recently. Rocky has invited UCLA Extension ARC-ID students to join him in Paris for Design Week next month (January 17 – 21, 2018). While students are fully responsible for all aspects of the trip themselves, they will be seeing the latest materials, designs, colors and learning the lay of the land of Paris, first hand. Here is what he had to say:

Where did you grow up?

A small town of 430 people in South Dakota. I am the oldest of nine children.

What attracted you to the industry?

Creative nontraditional people.

Current occupation within the industry?

Hospitality sales for Needler Fauchere.

What are 3 qualities that got you to where you are today, professionally?

Listening, empathy, and curiousity.

What is one of your biggest challenges?

Organization.

What does your typical day look like?

Up at 5:30 read the papers and meditate. Go to the showroom in the PDC and jump on the carousel. Ending dinner with design friends.

Best career advice you've gotten?

Never expect from other people what you expect from yourself.

What is one helpful design resource you can recommend to our students as they enter the field?

The PDC and its people. Get to know them.

As someone who is in the thick of the LA Design scene, how do you suggest students break into the industry and get involved?

Show up. It’s always been and always will be about relationships. Go where designers go and see what designers see and speak up and introduce yourself. Get on mailing lists, event lists. Museums and art openings. Lectures. Parties. Make friends in the industry.

How have you been involved with ASID, professionally?

I got involved with ASID when I moved to LA forty years ago when I knew no one. Got on committees and attended events and made friends. These are still my friends today who shared with me how to be good in this business and a how to receive value from community. And as time moves on and enormous challenges change this business ASID helps keep me in the current world of business and design. I show up and give back. ASID is the base of my design universe for sources, clients and satisfactions.

Who do you admire and why?

Interior Designers who have great passion and want to make a difference.

Where do you go for inspiration?

Nature, museums and travel.

What is your favorite 'thing' in your home?

Huge map of old Paris.

What is something on your bucket list?

Japan, a culture that draws me and I want to experience before my time is up. Keep moving!

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Laura Muller, Allied ASID

Laura Muller, Allied ASID, is the CCO/Founder and Principal Designer of Four Point Design Build Inc. (www.fourpointdesignbuild.com), a full service residential and commercial interior design-build firm based in Los Angeles, with clients nationwide. She has been designing, developing and building diverse residential and commercial projects in Southern California for over thirty‐five years.

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With a strong and lengthy background in community outreach and service, Laura consistently spearheads large charity “passion projects” with organizations such as ASID, Ronald McDonald House, Step Up on Second, and others. Laura’s key passion is to reduce youth homelessness by raising awareness about mental illness, and building community connections that inspire hope, and firmly believes that together we can build a better tomorrow for all those in need.  

We wanted to know more about Laura, and hear her advice for students who are emerging into a new field. Here is what she had to say:

What are you currently working on?

We currently have 9 projects at some point of development or completion.  Current projects include a 10K sf and 4K sf commercial tenant improvement, a 34 room Hancock Park historic restoration project (interiors and exteriors), and some very cool residential remodel expansions in areas such as Culver City, Venice, and Calabasas.

What attracted you to interior design?

As a former set designer/builder and performer, (and for as long as I can remember), it was always a passion to discover how space, lighting, path of travel, furniture and people work together to influence and express a clear message or feeling.  In theater, EVERYTHING on a set has meaning, and how people interact with “things” is very intentional. It is fantastic how completely powerful design really is! It was a perfect match to take those intuitive talents and focus them into a design-build business, where these skills I learned over many years, it is EXACTLY what I have the great pleasure of doing every day.

3 qualities that got you to where you are today:

Persistence, resilience, and faith.

What is one of your biggest challenges?

Time. There is never enough of it.

What does your typical day look like?

I start my day at 5:00am with a prayer, coffee and 30 minutes of dedicated social media updating and engaging. I’m at the Studio by 7:00 am and I plan the day, update calendars, send emails.  By 10:00am the team is all in, and we’re in full-swing with designing, drawing, site visits, resourcing, managing projects and fielding the unexpected until 5:00pm.  I, personally, will stay at the office at least two days a week for quiet design work, as I tend to be most creative later in the afternoon.  Shoes off, coffee in hand, drafting board, music, and I am in heaven.  The other days I’m out by 6:00pm for family time and/or design events.

What is one helpful design resource you can recommend to students as they enter the field?

Get involved (I mean get REALLY involved) with your local chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID).  Convert your student membership over to Allied as soon as you graduate and go to the events.  Call your Local ASID chapter office and volunteer your service.  The rates are fantastic your first years out of school…and you won’t be sorry.  Here you will continue to grow with professionals who are MORE than ready to guide you along your emerging professional journey.

Something you wish you knew when first got started designing?

I wish I knew more about budgets, timelines, contracts, clients and real-life expectations. It’s a BUSINESS first. I learned that very quickly. I had a wonderful, gifted, and patient mentor who allowed me to jump in 110% and make mistakes in a very contained condition. I learned fast.

How did you find your mentor?

I’ve had many mentors.  Some came to be way of chance.  I would say, fate! Some have come virtually and thru research. I’ve had some very important and very special mentors guide me via ASID. But my most important mentors have come to me via UCLA.  I am blessed to have had the very best guardian angels and some very strong women and teachers in my life who lift me up, and challenge me to greatness! 

Best career advice you’ve gotten?

There are no stupid questions, take risks, be kind, give back what you take, work your ass off, be authentic, get and BE a mentor, and “…persistence and determination alone, are omnipotent!”

Who do you admire and why?

I admire anyone who is kind. Kindness and integrity are two very important and valuable acts that transcend all professions, lifestyles, and profit. At times kindness, tolerance, acceptance, integrity, truth and forgiveness can be difficult, and that’s what makes it important.

Where do you go for inspiration?

I travel. It gives me time to listen to my heart and restores my creative spirit, and soothes my tired eyes.

What is your favorite thing in your own home?

My family…and my Keurig.

What is something on your bucket list?

Singing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl. In the meantime, I’ll take Ireland.

When did you attend UCLA’s Extension ARC-ID program? 

2005 – 2008 (2008 graduate with distinction)


 

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Darra Bishop, Allied ASID, President, ASID LA 2017

Darra Bishop describes her personal style as “Mid-Century Modern, Mod, Vintage Industrial but with a healthy dose of unconventional thrown in for good measure,” and says one of her favorite things in her own home is a pair of vintage orange and white glass Holmegaard capsule shaped table lamps.

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While she is busy as current sitting President of the ASID LA Chapter, owning her own residential design firm, bespoke design, as well as being a partner in a boutique hospitality design firm, make | model | method, with a UCLA Extension colleague, Meredith Pominville, her dream project is to design a veterinary clinic one day. “Even the ones on the cutting edge of technology leave a lot to be desired in terms of function and comfort. No one wants to be at the vet, it should be designed to be as comfortable and pleasing as possible.”

We wanted to know more about Darra and how she got to where she is today. Here is what she said:  

What attracted you to interior design?

I spent a good deal of time as a child and young adult helping my mother paint and furnish our homes. We moved around a lot, and every new place was a chance to create something beautiful. Interior design remained a deep interest to me, even through my careers in sales, marketing and advertising. I have always felt that one's surroundings can have a material effect on one's mood and outlook.

What are you currently working on?

I currently have 2 larger house remodels and one small, but interesting garage renovation. I love integrating a client's personality into their home. One of the house remodels centers around 2 properties - one house that is being converted into an AirBnB in Topanga that we are designing with a real beachy playful vibe - think bright encaustic concrete tile and bold colored furnishings paired with soft muted linens and breezy fabrics. The garage conversion is on its face an office, but digging deeper, I am creating a very special display / retail area for a client and his extensive childhood collectables. I am very excited about this project because it will end up being an unconventional and deeply personal space for the owner.

What is one of your biggest challenges?

To be a successful owner of a design firm, you need to work ON your business not just IN your business. That means always looking for prospects even when you are too busy to think about additional work. It is difficult being a rainmaker and balancing that with the day to day demands of interior design projects.

What does your typical day look like?

I try to spend at least 2 half days a week at make | model | method so my business partner and I can strategize and find the types of boutique hospitality (independent restaurants, coffee shops, hotels + retail) projects that we want to do. Since our formation in 2014, we've been very busy with mostly multi-family renovation projects and really want to pivot to doing more restaurants and retail, etc. My typical days are divided between project management of projects in construction and design work for projects in the schematic design phase. Every day is a little different which keeps things interesting, but is also very challenging, especially if all you really want to do is shut yourself in a room and get some drafting done!
 

Best career advice you’ve gotten?

Identify 30 people in your industry that are potential ambassadors for your services. Maintain and deepen these relationships, as your business will be 70% referrals. Hopefully you will have repeat clients, but it is important to have enough prospects and potential jobs lined up do that you end up doing the projects you want to do, not just whatever comes your way so you can pay the bills.

3 qualities that got you to where you are today:

1. Curiosity
2. Diligence

3. Honesty/Transparency

What is one helpful design resource you can recommend to students as they enter the field?

Join ASID. Take advantage of ASID events. These events bring together industry professionals and Industry Partners and will prove to be amazing resources for your design questions and sourcing or specification needs. I have IP resources that I can really lean on when I need an expert - from fabric to lighting to hardware and plumbing - we can't know it all, but we should know where to get the answers our clients need.

Something you wish you knew when first got started designing?

I wish I had been better at communicating my value as a designer. When I first started out, I was excited just to have clients! Understanding that what we do is valuable is a great help in standing behind and sticking to your design fees.

Who do you admire and why?

I am a big fan of Charles and Ray Eames. They lived and breathed their work, had a family that produced their designs, and created things that are timeless (and tremendously comfortable)! There are many designers and architects whose work I admire, but I mention the Eames because I also admire the way they created their work.

Where do you go for inspiration?

Everywhere. Retail stores, Coffee shops, The movies, Pinterest, Shelter Magazines, different cities and countries.

Where did you grow up?

I moved around a lot as a child, living in a few cities in Pennsylvania as well as Paris, France. I went to college in Pittsburgh, PA so I tell people I am from Pittsburgh

Where do you currently live, and how does it influence your work?

I live in the Westside of Los Angeles, but before that, lived for 8 years in Downtown Los Angeles. Living in DTLA absolutely influenced my work. My favorite projects are loft or live work spaces.  I love that you can design around how a client wants to use their home instead of the home's layout dictating how it is to be used. DTLA also has so many and diverse hidden gems from an interior design and architectural standpoint.

When did you attend UCLA’s Extension ARC-ID program? 

I started in 2005 (part time) and ended up being the first class to graduate with the MIA in 2011.