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Sep 05, 2023 By Laura Botham
2023 Member of the Year Dani Sheley
Our 2023 Member of the Year shares her journey, IIDA story, and her vision for the future
By Laura Botham Sep 05, 2023
Published in Awards & Honors

Each year, IIDA recognizes an outstanding member for their commitment, passion, and leadership—our 2023 honoree, Dani Sheley, IIDA, embodies these attributes and has made a big impact on the IIDA Gateway chapter. Design is ultimately a collaborative practice, and Sheley’s impact with the association, peers, colleagues, and mentees affirms her as an outstanding example of what an IIDA member can be.

Sheley served as the IIDA Gateway Chapter President from 2020-2021, where she revamped budgeting, grew membership, and expanded the role of the board through establishing the position VP of Community Impact which oversees EDI, and environmental and community impact for the chapter. 2019 Co-VP of Membership Michelle Land, IIDA, says that “She exemplifies the IIDA mission at all levels,” having recruited her for the role, Land continues, “It was her energy and organizational skills I saw that made me want her on my team.”

As an associate and interior designer at CannonDesign, Sheley has made an impact with her commitment to IIDA, and also the mentorship of other designers. Vice President and Interior Practice Leader at CannonDesign Michelle Rotherham glowingly points out that “Dani chooses to spend a lot of her personal time advancing the practice of interior design and being an ambassador for IIDA. She has true passion for this profession, something I am grateful for every day.”

Continuing that “She is proactive in every sense of the word, creating a positive impact around her before you even knew it was a need. Mentoring comes naturally to Dani and could not be more important in this new world of hybrid work. She understands the role that she plays in the careers of others, both above and below her in experience, and takes continual responsibility for that role.”

Dani Sheley shares with us how membership in IIDA has impacted her, and why it’s important to build community within your profession.

Why is it important to you to maintain a volunteer and service practice as a designer, and specifically in IIDA?

Dani Sheley: Throughout my career, I have experienced the kindness of many peers and mentors. As a volunteer, I can share those same experiences with others with the goal to help improve the quality of their career and life. From mentoring students to young professionals, it is a joy to be a listening ear and the start of a student’s network. I am an enneagram one wing two—the perfectionist with a servant’s heart. I rarely say no to an opportunity to help others. My motivation to volunteer stems from the desire to be involved and make an impact. The easiest thing I can do is to be available and connect others to their next experiences and opportunities. As a designer, we have this unique opportunity to create impact in everything we do. Serving with IIDA is a platform with greater reach to sustain the future of interior design and all those affected by the built environment.

(Below: Dani Sheley with her 2023 Member of the Year Award at the IIDA Annual Meeting)


When did you discover your passion for design?

DS: Since I was twelve years old, I wanted to become a designer. From drawing elevations of my bedroom before I could define elevation to presenting floor plans to my parents for a basement renovation, I was hooked on design.

What has been the most impactful part of your IIDA membership?

In reflecting back on my time with IIDA and the Gateway Chapter, I am grateful for all the wonderful experiences to mentor, be mentored as well as forming lasting friendships made along the way. IIDA has given me and others a platform to create change. We still have a long way to go but with IIDA as our backbone, there is no boundary to what we can accomplish together.

What has been the most impactful project you’ve worked on, professionally or otherwise?

Every project I touch has a nugget of joy, learning and discovery. As I am sure others can relate, when in the thick of a project it is difficult to see the overall impact. When you finally take a step back, you relish in those client a-ha moments and realize the impact we have as designers in this world.

What does the future of interior design look like to you?

DS: To me, the future of the interior design profession is much more accessible to all. While we continue to be more and more digital by nature, proper exposure to interior design and our profession’s expertise can have a greater reach. People are appreciating their spaces more and it is the design community’s role to educate our clients. We are redefining healthy spaces well beyond any sustainable certifications and plaque on the wall. The future of interior design is open and available to all who want to make change and an impact. Right now, my goals are wide open…much like the possibilities of design.

Applications for the 2024 IIDA Member of the Year open October 9, 2023, learn more here

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