Designer Spotlight - Lilliana Alvarado
What do you think about when you step into a hospital or even an adult senior living facility? Do you get anxious? Do you get nervous? Or, do you feel at ease knowing you are in a facility that takes care of you or your loved ones? This is precisely why we had to get to know Lilliana from UpHealing! They specifically dedicated to creating healthcare environments that are friendly, comfortable, and empathetic to patients and family members whose experience in hospitals and clinics can be scary and intimidating.
What’s one thing you would change about the interior design industry and why?
I would like to improve the general public’s perception of the interior design profession. I believe reality TV has perpetuated ideas of how interior designers work and what we do, likely to the detriment of those designers who focus on residential. Even with seasoned clients, we find it necessary to take time to explain our approach and how we will guide the design process.
Who is your biggest influence in the industry? What makes them special to you?
I have admired and been influenced by many incredible designers, past and present, including my mentors. I greatly respect Suzanne Tick for being a wonderful multi-faceted designer, artist, mother, businesswoman, and friend.
When you first start designing projects, what is one thing that you use as a focal point for your design?
Even though we are visual designers, my focal point starts with “the story” and not just one element. I like to get a full understanding of how the space will be used and who will be using it. I quietly listen and observe first, then the inspiration comes very easily.
What advice would you want to give to a new designer starting out?
I always tell new designers to do their research and ask a million questions. A thorough understanding of each material specified or detail drawn is extremely important. We are getting hired for our expertise and we need to be confident about what we select and specify.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Someone dear to me once told me “always pay yourself first”. At the time, I didn’t fully comprehend what that meant. Now, as a business owner, I understand and am grateful for her advice.
You are stranded on a remote island, in a log cabin with no furniture. You are given 1 free import from anywhere in the world. What company would you choose and what piece of furniture would it be? And why?
My first choice would be the Womb chair designed by Eero Saarinen because I feel that chair was made for me. However, I would have to switch to the analytical side of my brain and choose a very comfy recliner (with a cupholder) that I can sit, relax, and even sleep on. I am stranded after all!
What’s one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a designer?
When I was a young designer, I often fought many assumptions about what I knew and what I could do, particularly at a construction site. Sometimes people wouldn’t take me seriously, even though I had the knowledge and experience. I’ve also heard my fair share of inappropriate remarks, and have had to prove myself over and over again. Now after being in this industry for over 20 years, I prefer dealing with an occasional issue directly and professionally so there is clarity for the other party about my involvement on a project.
2020 was by far a hell of a year. How did you make it positive through design? Would you change anything?
Although 2020 kept us socially distant, it also unified us in many ways. Our work has evolved to embrace clients from other sectors like retail, corporate and hospitality, who want to infuse a healthcare design approach into their projects. Our human-centered, empathic approach to design allows us to equalize each sector and merge the silos.
Could you see yourself doing anything else besides designing?
Not really. From a very early age, I always loved art and I found the idea of creating spaces for people fascinating. I have been designing and drawing since I was 5 years old.
What’s next for you?
I will continue to be heavily involved in the industry and I am looking forward to in-person meetings!