Shop Talk: Happy Place Panel Recap


LEFT TO RIGHT: Hillary France, Marleigh Culver, Lacie Porta, Stephanie Tam, and Alda Ly.

At Brand Assembly, it's important to us to arm our community of designers and brands with the tools they need to not only succeed but to remain inspired through the trials and tribulations that come with building a business. We'd like to believe that this resourcefulness came to life in our most recent panel, Happy Place, which focused on the vital role interior design plays in our spaces. From our two co-working spaces to our trade shows, we're no strangers to the idea of designing spaces that ignite creativity and commerce to come together seamlessly. To build on this, and to celebrate our first ever pop-up at SHOWFIELDS, we were ecstatic to facilitate a conversation with some of the leading experts in the design, interior, and architecture industries.

The setting for the event lent itself to the themes explored in our discussion. On a beautiful July evening, we assembled a dynamic group of panelists to talk shop and share how modern design has evolved throughout their careers. The speaker lineup included Marleigh Culver, Artist and Creative Lead at Lalo, Lacie Porta of Framed Florals, Alda Ly of Alda Ly Architecture & Design, and Stephanie Tam (formerly of Everlane). With unmatched views of the city skyline, delicious sushi rolls courtesy of ROLLN, and drinks from our friends at Usual Wines and Owl's Brew, our attendees were able to fully immerse themselves in the discussion with #gramworthy aesthetics to match.

While there was a lot to unpack during the discussion, below are a few key takeaways:

"It's important to remember what works best for the client and their space. Keeping that original inspiration in mind, I love to find a balance between what the client is requesting and what works best for my art form. Often the projects that stretch my creativity and force me to think outside the box wind up being my favorite projects to work on." - Lacie Porta


Collaboration is an essential element of creating a space that is considerate of a team or customer group's evolving needs. All of the speakers agreed that this collaborative nature also presents a new opportunity to flex different creative muscles that may not have been considered otherwise. Lacie Porta specifically stressed the importance of being open to communication to create more room for innovative (and creative) solutions for the final product. She also spoke more about collaboration in the context of designing her own (shared) office space, which came together successfully as a result of working closely with her studio mates.

"Modern design is the streamlining of all interests and ways of living amplified through technology and social media. This means the echo and joining of physical spaces and digital spaces. Design is so accessible now, to view and enjoy it and to work with it and use it. We're more than ever able to execute, curate, and create our life the way we like, and that is pretty exciting." - Marleigh Culver


There's no doubt that the digital landscape has an immense influence on the way we look at designing spaces today. Our panelists also spoke about the importance of sharing expertise and disciplines to create a dynamic space that appeals to many sensibilities (and platforms). Marleigh Culver shared that even in a digital-first landscape, it is important to maintain authenticity and not fall into the trap of creating "empty" or shallow things. Alda Ly also mentioned that while shareable moments are important, it is crucial to create a space that naturally produces a sequence of storytelling opportunities rather than designing solely for #content.

"There are definitely a lot of logistics and planning involved when it comes to the spatial design process! From things like timeline and budget to existing conditions within a venue, there are constraints and moving parts from the get-go. The creative part of this is definitely a bit of problem-solving — working within these parameters to come up with creative solutions that fulfill the vision for the experience. So much of this is about balancing the production side of the mind with the creative part. One might not realize the strategy piece that is integral to the project that happens before the design; at least in my process. There's a lot of processing and balancing the production parameters with the client's vision for a project to create a creative concept that honors both." - Stephanie Tam


Aside from the forward-facing elements of designing a memorable space, there was also talk of the importance of the backend details that keep everything moving operationally. Stephanie Tam spoke more about this and outlined a few critical moving parts to keep track of (including a venue’s lease duration, spacial flow, etc.) when in the initial planning stages. More so, considering the logistics of designing a modern space is a form of problem-solving, which in many ways, can make room for unexpected creativity and feedback.

"We almost work as a branding agency, but for the space, so the process is different every single time based on what clients need, and we do a ton of research on who they are and what they do. We started a project for a women-run company, and they felt strongly that they wanted to support female entrepreneurs, so we put together an all-female design and construction team — we have great female contractors that we work with who are the best of the best. It is so exciting; we all work together (as women) really well and solve problems together." - Alda Ly


Beyond aesthetics, our panelists were all in agreement that well-designed spaces create opportunities and a sense of community at every phase of the design process — from exploratory workshops with clients to working with a team to physically bring all of the details to life to enjoying the final product with all relevant individuals and stakeholders. Additionally, the space itself can also be an extension of the client's mission, in turn, providing value to that brand's community in more subtle ways (like Alda’s example of hiring an all-female team to build an all-female space).

As new technologies and resources redefine our relationship with design, this panel confirmed that we're heading in an exciting direction when it comes to creating happy places that inspire us both on and off duty! For more information on our panels, workshops, and trade show events, be sure to follow along with us daily @brandassembly as we share real-time updates about our programming in New York City and Los Angeles.

Thank you again to our partners! Follow them on social: @usualwines @rollnco @showfields @theowlsbrew.