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Jan 31, 2022 By IIDA HQ
Member Spotlight: Lakiesha Stanley
We talk healthcare-informed design, the impact of designing from a place of empathy, and the importance of engaging multicultural design ideals.
By IIDA HQ Jan 31, 2022
Published in

Why are there rough transition strips between emergency room doorways making transfer to hospital beds so uncomfortable? How can we better serve patients with empathy and resilience? With a problem-solving mindset and a unique background in emergency medicine, Lakiesha Nicole Stanley, IIDA, realized she could offer more than just bedside care—so she entered the design world with one thing in mind: to bring change. In her eyes, interior design and health and wellness are intertwined.

Stanley, the first Black president and current Immediate Past President of the Hawaii Pacific Chapter of IIDA, and one of the few interior designers of color at Gresham Smith was the recipient of the chapter's 2019 Emerging Professional Award (pictured above, courtesy of the IIDA Hawaii Pacific Chapter). She talks about the importance of mentorship, her commitment to building a community where students and design professionals, especially those of color, have equal opportunity through empowerment, and the ways effective interior design promotes positive health.

What drove you to pursue interior design after working in a healthcare setting?

I truly traded in my scrubs to impact more patients at a time. My friends would joke and say, “I can never understand how you can handle body fluids, and the sad situations that you encounter everyday.” There is a true beauty in the physical act of caring for people, but an even larger beauty in the intentional design of a space that positively impacts people in these experiences. I can think back to the critical moments of working in a trauma emergency department, wishing that the environment was planned differently to help save a life. Simple questions like, “Why isn't the elevator closer to the cath lab so we can help this patient that's having a heart attack quicker?” Or, “Why are there rough transition strips between the doorways, making the transfer from the ER to a hospital bed so uncomfortable?” Thoughts like these made me realize, I needed to transition to more than just bedside care.

In what ways has your healthcare background prepared you for, and informed your role within the design community?
My wonderful previous boss and mentor, Sheryl Seaman, said it best, “It is my empathy and patience that was instilled from working in the emergency department that prepared me for a role in interior design.” My healthcare background has allowed me to be able to listen to the problems of clients, designers, and reps and really problem-solve to achieve the right solution. Healthcare also taught me how to “triage,” or assess a situation to find out what is most critical and then build from there.


Can you talk a little about the importance of interior design in promoting health and wellness?

In my eyes interior design and health and wellness are one—they are intertwined. Effective interior design promotes positive health. Organized interior design can improve sleep and reduce stress and anxiety. It can also involve positive emotions when done right. Effective interior design can also reduce falls whether in the home setting, or public setting. In my personal experience, effective interior design can truly save lives, even from the simple notion of having more sinks in a space to effectively wash your hands in order to not spread deadly viruses to one another.

What are some of the greatest challenges facing the design of healthcare today?

I truly value how healthcare design has evolved over the years—of course like everything else there is still much to learn. There are so many more opportunities for designers to study and research healthcare settings than ever before. Organizations like the American Academy of Healthcare Interior Designers (AAHID) and The Center for Health Design (CHD) are paving the way for the forward advancement of healthcare interior design. There are also opportunities for designers within the workforce to research full time. Gresham Smith, my current employer has provided me with a full gamut of research tools at my fingertips. That's truly inspiring.

What are some of the things that you noticed over the past year with the shift into a pandemic-minded workplace?

The biggest shift that comes to mind is empathy. In effective workplaces employers have an opportunity to be human and heal. In terms of this mind shift, employees are working more effectively.

Tell us a little about your experience in the IIDA, how has it shaped your career and professional network, and what did it mean to serve as chapter president?

I am one of the few African American interior designers in my firm, and the first African American to be named chapter president of the IIDA Hawaii Pacific Chapter. The journey began earlier than this moment at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, but since has been heightened in the lack of networking opportunities in the field with designers of color. IIDA provided an outlet for students to voice their concerns and frustrations that they are not being exposed to designers of color.

Becoming president not only sharpened my communication skills but heightened my level of knowledge within the design community. IIDA also helped to find my passion of mentoring students of color and closing a gap of culture-based design that was inspired in the Hawaiian community. In my design career, while working at G70 in Honolulu, I have had the opportunity to be emboldened and unindicted with designers of all nationalities. This has greatly impacted my design career. Designing in Hawaii has taught me so much more than what color or furniture to choose—that it is more important to know the story of the Ohana (people), and the Aina (land), to build a powerful design concept.

Learn more about IIDA's education pipeline program, Design Your World, empowering high school students with exposure to careers in interior design.

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