Member Spotlight

Chelsey Atkins, Associate IIDa

IIDA PA/NJ/DE Pittsburgh City Center Director

Interior Designer, Strada (Pittsburgh, PA)

What is your current job title and what types of projects do you work on?

My title is Interior Designer and I work on a broad range of project types from Corporate to Tech offices, Higher Education to Multi-family Residential.  

Where did you go to school and what degree did you receive?

I received my Bachelor of Science in Interior Design from The Art Institute of Pittsburgh in 2014, but interior design was actually my second academic pursuit. Before that I received my BA in Religious Studies with a double minor in Art History and Women’s Studies from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2008.

What is your favorite moment of your career so far?

Though I am fairly new in my career I have been lucky to have had the opportunity to work on a lot of fun projects with some really great clients. However, my favorite moment (so far) is the day that I was offered a full time position with Strada. I had been working as an interior design intern with them for several months and knew that there was no firm I would rather be at- hands down. I accepted their offer of full-time employment right before Thanksgiving and, as is Strada tradition, we were having our annual “Family Thanksgiving Feast” in which the whole office gathers around one large table to eat, drink, and socialize together. One of the partners took this opportunity to announce that I would be joining the firm full time and everyone welcomed me with clapping, clinking glasses, and heart felt words of welcome. It was that moment that I realized I wasn’t just a member of a firm, but a member of a big family.

Why are you a member of IIDA?

I joined IIDA as a student member during one of my early quarters at The Art Institute. As a “non-traditional” (read: older) student I had a different perspective on the importance of this education and felt a lot of pressure to turn this degree into a viable career. I quickly recognized the benefits that IIDA offers to its student members- everything from volunteer and leadership opportunities, to education and networking- and I knew that involvement in this organization would be an asset to me as I started my career. I have continued my membership and involvement with IIDA as I have moved into my professional career for many of the same reasons. IIDA has provided me with opportunities for leadership and a platform to be a voice in my local design community, gives me access to education that keeps me current and informed about my industry, and most importantly because I meet the BEST people! I have made so many connections and formed wonderful friendship through IIDA and that is something I can’t put a price on.

What do you enjoy most about your position of Pittsburgh City Center Director?

I think what I enjoy most about being the Pittsburgh City Center Director is having the opportunity to plan and execute programming and events that benefit our membership and bring our local design community together. I really like thinking about the needs of our membership and working with my City Center board (a group of straight up awesome people) to brainstorm unique events and experiences we can offer them. Whether that be a Roundtable event focused on an honest discussion about diversity in the A&D industry, or hosting a social night at a totally kitschy Pittsburgh arcade. I like bringing the people in our industry together.

What is your favorite way to spend a Saturday?

I think I am probably supposed to say something like “I prowl the streets looking for design inspiration in unexpected places…” or “I catch up on reading all my design magazines so I stay current on all of the industry trends…” None of that is true. My weekends are for decompression, relaxation, and taking a break from thinking about interior design. That doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally browse through a magazine, or that I don’t often find myself inspired by something unexpected, but I strongly believe in the importance of stepping away from my day-to-day focus and turning off the “design brain” from time to time. For me creativity isn’t limitless, my reserves can get low and some days I am just tapped out and need to take a break and let myself “recharge”. My truly favorite thing to do is to sleep in late, catch up on my favorite crappy TV (I am binge watching reruns of The Jersey Shore right now – don’t judge me!), and relax on my back porch with a glass of wine and a book (sounds more sophisticated that it is – I sit on the floor on a stack of pillows, the wine has a twist-off cap, and I am currently totally engrossed in a fantasy fiction series).

What is your favorite part of being an Interior Designer?

My favorite part of being an Interior Designer is the impact that we have on other people. We literally create the environments in which they spend their lives- where they work, play, learn, sleep, etc. As Interior Designers we influence people’s experiences in a really intimate way- from selecting the task chair they spend 8 hours a day sitting in, to the flooring their bare feet hit first thing in the morning, to the temperature of the lighting in the spaces where they heal. In many ways it is fun, but it is also an enormous responsibility. Good design has the capability to significantly improve quality of life while bad design can have a detrimental effect. I like working with my clients, and with my team to create spaces and places that create positive experiences.