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A+D Partner Spotlight: Interior Architects

Interior Architects Managing Director, Lisa Kelly, sat down for an interview with us, where she opened up about her start to architecture and design, her first role at Disney Imagineering, and advice for aspiring young designers.

October 21, 2021
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1. Can you tell me a little bit about your and your professional background?

I studied architecture in college and ultimately received my Bachelor of Architecture from Cal Poly Pomona. Eventually, I became a licensed architect and I have been in the industry for 30 years. Over the course of my career, I have worked at a small handful of companies and I currently work as the Managing Director at Interior Architects (IA). I have been at IA for 10 years and this role was my first time working in corporate interiors. I realized that I wanted to design for the user experience which is what IA is really focused on.

2. Are you originally from Orange County?

I was born and raised in San Diego, but went to school in LA County and ultimately found my way to OC.

3. When and why did you know the a+d field was your destiny?

When I was little, I loved drawing and sketching all the time. I was always involved in something artsy. Once I got into junior high, I remember telling my parents over dinner one evening that I wanted to go to art school. My dad was very supportive and suggested that I consider the field of architecture since I excelled in math and science. So I enrolled in a drafting class at a local junior college and loved it. I found the world of architecture and space fascinating.

4. Do you have a favorite or most memorable design project?

One of my first jobs after graduating college was at Disney Imagineering and I got to work on the Animal Kingdom in Florida. It was a dream job! The lead designer on the project was an artist and was so creative. We spent a lot of time talking about ideas and sketching and it was really my first introduction to the user experience.

5. That sounds like an amazing job and experience! What do you enjoy most about the design process?

Definitely what I call the blue-sky conceptual design. Developing innovative solutions and ideas, brainstorming, interpreting the client’s vision is and translating it into an actual project. I love the collaboration that goes into this phase.

6. What advice would you give to a new designer?

One piece of advice that my dad instilled in me is to try to live my life this way: Are you going to be an asset or a liability? This has to do with your approach to everything-- your job, friends, family. Always think about how you can be an asset to a team. It’s really the question of “what can I do for others vs. what can others do for me?” Thinking this way makes you feel more purposeful, gets you more engaged in life. It changes your mindset.

7. Love that advice. You have a wise dad! Has there been anyone in particular who has made a memorable impact or influence on your career journey?

There’s not really one person, but rather every person I have worked with has made an impact on me. Every good boss and every bad boss teaches you a lesson. They have all made a positive impact because they influenced how I lead and conduct myself now.

8. Since you mentioned you wanted to be an artist, what is your favorite art form?

I’m such a junkie for museums. Not just museums but anything having to do with art—castles, farms, anything.

9. Do you have a favorite museum?

The American Museum of Natural history in New York. It’s a great blend of history and archeology.

10. Do you have a favorite old classic movie?

I love classic movies—they calm me. I love watching them for their set direction and because you get a peek into that time of history. My favorite classic movie is “The Best Years of Our Lives”. It’s a post-WWII movie about soldiers re-entering their lives after the war. My favorite new movie is “Midnight in Paris”. My fantasy would be to do something like that; to be able to go back in time and meet all those awesome people.

11. Is there anything people would be surprised to know about you?

People are always surprised that I am half Cuban. My mom immigrated here from Cuba in the 60s, so I grew up in a dual culture household. She always promoted education, especially for women, and made sure that my sister and I were aware of all the opportunities we had and not take them for granted.