handle
top_graphic bottom_graphic
Mar 24, 2022 By IIDA HQ
Chapter Spotlight: IIDA Northern Pacific
Vancouver-based designer Sara Namdarian and IIDA NPC President Jessica Cody sit down to talk about working together to build a new city center.
By IIDA HQ Mar 24, 2022
Published in Articles

When interior designer Sara Namdarian, IIDA, IDC, moved to Vancouver from Malaysia, she wanted not to simply find a community in which to belong, but help to build the community she wanted to find—and that was IIDA. She connected with IIDA HQ who put her in touch with the leadership at the IIDA Northern Pacific Chapter, including Chapter President Jessica Cody, IIDA.

We sat down with both to talk about why IIDA when there are other associations for interior designers in Vancouver, and all of the work that goes into building a city center from the ground up. Whether you are an IIDA member that wants to expand your chapter into new markets, or someone that wants to bring IIDA to your community, this conversation is a must-read.

Can you tell me a little bit about your careers, and your histories with IIDA?

Sara Namdarian:
I am an interior designer and project manager, currently residing in Vancouver, Canada where I have stepped up to launch an IIDA Vancouver City Center with the support of the IIDA Northern Pacific Chapter (NPC). I am a professional associate member of IDC (Interior Designers of Canada), and IIDA.

My passion for design and architecture led me into many creative fields ranging from building design, interior design, photography, sculpture, and fashion design—particularly shoe design.Having lived in Malaysia and the UK for more than 17 years provided me with many great experiences, and turned me into a global citizen—and thanks to the multinational cities that I lived in, a multi-cultural person as well. After I graduated with a B.A. in Interior Architecture from Limkokwing University in London, I got a chance to build my academic career as a teacher assistant, and later on, teaching and leading many international students at various universities in Malaysia as a full-time educator, guest speaker, industrial advisor, and juror for many international interior architecture/design students. In 2013, right after my graduation with an M.A. in Architecture Science from University Malaya, I established my own design firm in Malaysia (Melaka and Kuala Lumpur). Since then, I have been able to accomplish more than 40 commercial and residential projects in Malaysia, Canada, and Iran.

1
Sara Namdarian, IIDA, IDC, founding member of the forthcoming Vancouver City Center
Sara Namdarian, IIDA, IDC, founding member of the forthcoming Vancouver City Center

Jessica Cody: Currently, I’m an interior designer at Helix Design Group in Tacoma, Washington. I graduated from Florida State University with my B.S. in Interior Design. After graduating, I moved to Memphis, TN where I worked as an interior designer at a residential firm, and then at a Haworth dealership. During school and throughout the first few years of my career, I volunteered with ASID, totaling about 5 years. After 5 years in Memphis, I moved to the greater Seattle area joining IIDA in 2016. I started volunteering with the Seattle City Center, eventually becoming the Director in 2018, before starting my Presidency track in 2020.

Sara, how did you hear about IIDA, and what made you want to create an IIDA community in Vancouver?

SN: Well, I knew about IIDA since I graduated, but all this while I was working in Malaysia— I never had a chance to meet with an IIDA chapter. When I decided to move to Canada, like any other person, I wanted community. I knew that until one feels like a part of the community, only then can they feel at home. IIDA is the top international platform that connects designers with like-minded people and a platform where they can share, care, learn, and grow. “That is where I want to be,” I thought. Undoubtedly, Canada has its own interior design association, councils, but IIDA was always in my mind as the international association from many years ago. I have lived and worked in Malaysia, the UK, and Iran, and a majority of my projects could relate to a multicultural scale, so I found IIDA a good fit for myself as a designer. Moreover, IIDA provides a variety of memberships so that professionals with various education levels and work experiences can find a suitable type of membership,—mine being International Professional Member. After doing some research into an IIDA community in Vancouver, I found out that there was not one yet, so I stepped up to be a volunteer to form a Vancouver City Center.

Can you tell us a little bit about the Vancouver interior design scene?

SN: This is a significant question and I can only respond to that from my perspective during my short stay in Vancouver. I realized that both residential and commercial interior designers' professions are in high demand, as the interior design scene is evolving rapidly in Vancouver. There is a huge market for interior designers and architects in the city, therefore, I see the role of an active association and council more crucial than ever, in providing guidelines, leadership, advocacy, to interior designers and firms to take the right path to build up the city. The more projects taking place, the more support and tips are required, as the risks of defeat and errors are high

What are some interior landmarks, or designers that have made a big impact in the region?

SN:
Vancouver’s oceanfront penthouse properties have become the most prominent listings in the residential market in Canada. The Vancouver Convention Center is also an interior design landmark. The Convention Center was completed in 2009 and is known as the World’s first LEED-certified convention center, designed by Seattle-based LMN architects.

How did the two of you connect, and can you talk a little bit about how this process got started?

SN:
Right before I moved to Vancouver in May 2021, I started looking for the IIDA chapter, found there was none, and wrote to IIDA on Instagram, and the team suggested to reach out to former Director of Association Experience, Ryan Ben who was very supportive. Soon after our virtual meeting he introduced me to the incredible NPC chapter team and VPs. I was thrilled to see everyone's support and encouragement to help form the city center, and became more determined to put in the work—the only way to get the community engagement I was looking for was to give my time and put effort towards having IIDA representation if I wanted to have IIDA in my city. I believe we need to “Give before we earn.”

I always live by this motto by Mahatma Gandhi. “If you don’t ask, you will never get,” I asked if I could do this, and I got “Hell yeah!” as an answer.

JC:
Ryan reached out to me, introducing Sara and saying that she’s interested in getting involved with IIDA and the chapter! This couldn’t have been a more perfect time, considering how diligent the NPC board was with incorporating a virtual element into our chapter-wide events to connect all of our chapter’s territories, including Alaska, Idaho, Washington, Alberta, and British Columbia. After a few introductory meetings, chapter leadership assembled a team who can help Sara in her effort to build local membership and onboard her with our chapter’s event planning processes, including Maddi Miller, VP of City Centers, Jennifer Collins, VP of Campus Centers, Louis Lanthier, VP of Membership, and fellow Presidents, Kendra Shea, President Elect, myself as President, and Carli Rasschaert, Past President. Of course, this is a whole Board effort, including our finance and sponsorship team incorporating sponsorship opportunities and budget for a few Vancouver meet & greet events this year, and everyone getting the word out to peers and local contacts.

1
IIDA Northern Pacific Chapter President, Jessica Cody, IIDA
IIDA Northern Pacific Chapter President, Jessica Cody, IIDA

What has been the most challenging thing about launching a new, and international city center?

SN: One of the challenges to me is that people are saying, “We already have Canadian-based interior design organizations and councils, why become an IIDA member too?” To this, I answer that IIDA has dual membership with Interior Designers of Canada (IDC) which empowers designers. IIDA is structured based on chapters and city centers, with a variety of membership options for a wide range of professionals to fit in, connect, nurture, and expand the design community. I would like to highlight that we are not competing with other associations, but are completing each other. Proudly, we had built a great relationship with the CEO of IDC, and executive director of IDIBC (Interior Designers Institute of British Columbia) since our very first virtual meet-up in November 2021. We believe in team and collaboration rather than competition—like the African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together.”

JC: In addition to what Sara mentions about building a membership base, we recently had an event that sparked us considering what Canada’s international travel guidelines would require, in addition to U.S. domestic and local guidelines due to COVID. The financial impact is something I’m looking into at the moment. I’m talking to our chapter’s bank about currency exchange fees and what our options are to understand how and what happens when we make purchases for Canadian members or Vancouver events with American dollars. Even something as simple as sending gift cards was initially a challenge due to different currencies. Thankfully, we’re finding solutions to each of these questions that arise.

quote
"I would like to highlight that we are not competing with other associations, but are completing each other."
Sara Namdarian
quote
Sara Namdarian

What are some goals or ‘deadlines’ you would like to hit/achieve in the next month, 6 months, or year?

SN:
My first goal is to reach a certain number of members to officially launch the city center. Then we can form a team of members and volunteers who can assist in planning and operating. Realistically, this is a huge task and beyond one’s capabilities, therefore, forming and expanding the team under NPC’s support and guidance is my primary goal to achieve by the end of this year.

JC:
To start building that membership base, we plan to have an in-person IIDA NPC/Vancouver, B.C. meet and greet event within 6 months. I’m sure we are on our way to meeting HQ’S membership requirement within this time, as well. The meet and greet events are open to professionals and students who are interested in learning more about IIDA and how to get involved. In one year, our chapter’s goal is to officially make Vancouver, B.C. an IIDA NPC City Center and establish the City Center Director role, which includes Sara and that small team of volunteers to plan local IIDA events!

What advice do you have for chapters that would either be interested in expanding to other cities, or designers that would like to approach a chapter to create a city center?

JC:
First and foremost, NPC could not be where we are today in this effort without Sara’s proactive passion! The chapter is going to require local volunteer support—if you want your location to become a city center, start spreading the word to peers, specifically IIDA members or prospective members, and approach chapter leadership about it. Talk to chapter presidents, city center VPs, and city center directors about how they’re structured and the types of events they do, and consider how that can be translated to a new location. Fellow chapter leaders: connect with HQ about what is required. NPC did not immediately make Vancouver, B.C. a city center because we knew that local volunteers are needed to help plan events and rally sponsors. We also didn’t immediately establish the city center director role to not overwhelm Sara with the ground work required to establish membership and a small team of volunteers, plus board responsibilities. We’re currently taking this time to support Sara with meet and greet events to build that membership base and onboarding her to eventually become a board member.

Learn more about becoming an IIDA member, or connect with leaders at your nearest chapter or city center.

Featured Articles
View All Articles
View All Articles