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A+D Partner Spotlight: LPA, an Interview with Laura Andrews

LPA Managing Director of Interiors, Laura Andrews, sat down for an interview with G|M to discuss what makes her a great leader, her love of travel, and advice for young new designers.

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1. Tell me a little bit about your professional background.

I currently work at LPA as the Managing Director of Interiors for our San Diego office. It's been quite the journey – over eight years and counting! I also wear the Associate hat and play a key role in the leadership team here at LPA. I have more than 20 years of experience in the industry, and I can honestly say I'm still passionate about what I do. My main focus revolves around overseeing our workplace practice area, ensuring everything runs smoothly. In college, I earned my Bachelor of Arts in Communications and Government and a minor in Women’s Studies from the University of Connecticut. Later, I pursued my passion for design at the Design Institute of San Diego, where I earned my Interior Design degree. Interestingly, neither of my parents pursued higher education, but I always had a feeling I would. Beyond my work at LPA, I've been actively involved with CREW for about six or seven years now, contributing to the programs and education committee. It's been a rewarding experience, to say the least!

2. What does a typical day look like for you?

Every day is a little bit different and brings its own unique challenges and opportunities in my role. I oversee any project that passes through our interiors team, and I do a lot of project management as well. I really have a global view of all of our projects. I'm also deeply committed to fostering leadership within our team and empowering individuals to take on greater responsibilities. This involves mentorship, conducting reviews, facilitating sit-downs, and maintaining regular touchpoints to ensure everyone is on the same page. I also play a role in the business side of things, overseeing the operational aspects and ensuring smooth execution. Given LPA's integrated nature, I'm frequently involved in interviewing and orienting new team members, ensuring they integrate into LPA’s collaborative environment. It's a dynamic role that keeps me engaged and constantly evolving.

3. Where are you originally from?

No, I was actually born and raised in a fairly rural area of Connecticut. I can't seem to shake off my preppy mom clothes! (laughing) After I graduated from UCONN, I found myself in Boston working for an E-Health company. Let's just say, I was sort of a glorified receptionist, and it wasn't exactly my cup of tea. However, a turning point came when we conducted a TI project, and I found myself deeply involved in organizing the move. It sparked something in me. Interestingly, I owe a lot to my roommate's aunt and uncle, who happened to be an architect and designer. We had dinners in their lovely home, discussing their work, and it left a lasting impression on me. It's funny how they probably have no idea how much they influenced my career path today.

4. How did you find your way to San Diego?

I had a college roommate who moved to San Diego and said I should come out to California. I told her only crazy people lived there (laughing). But eventually, I took a leap of faith. I knew I wanted to study design and I saw that there were some programs out here. I had done art in elementary and high school and just didn’t follow it. It was difficult in the beginning, but with a few supportive friends, I navigated through and built a community, and here I am today.

5. When and why did you know design was your destiny?

I would say I was always artsy, but I didn’t really know how to tap into it. I didn’t realize could channel these skills into a fruitful career. The TI project and my friend’s family probably impacted me the most though.

6. What do you enjoy about what you do/working for LPA?

I love working with people, learning about what they do and how they do it. I really like learning how people use their space and things, and how they do their jobs. Until I got older, I didn’t really think that was a selling point. I had to figure out my strengths and figure out how to talk to a wide variety of people. I also love the creative aspects and when a project is complete. It’s this sort of “Mom, look what I made” moment that feels really special.

7. Do you have a favorite or memorable travel destination?

I typically take a big trip every year, with a group of my well-traveled girlfriends. It's become somewhat of a tradition for us. We typically seek out unique destinations that none of us have experienced before. One standout trip that comes to mind is our trip to Croatia. It was a perfect blend of breathtaking scenery and rich culture. There were four of us on this vacation, and we opted to do a small boat cruise. We were joined by around 40 other people, and we went island-hopping. Croatia is just stunning – pristine landscapes, delicious food, and lovely people. The lakes and waters were crystal clear. It was a bit of a war-torn country until just a few decades ago, so it’s filled with a lot of history too. It’s a trip I will cherish for years to come.

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8. Has anyone made a memorable impact on your career journey?

In one of my previous roles, I had the pleasure of working alongside another Laura – Laura Metcalf. Let me tell you, she was quite the force to be reckoned with, with a personality that could fill a room! She was extremely determined. Laura had this uncanny ability to know exactly what she wanted in design and how to make it happen. Her articulate nature and specificity in expressing her likes and dislikes always left me in awe. It felt like she had an answer for everything and with the knowledge base to back it up. She was truly a champion for me, and I'll forever be grateful for her guidance. As I've journeyed through my career, I've been fortunate to have several other incredible mentors, including my current principal, Dave Gilmore. Dave is the epitome of a big-picture thinker, always strategizing for the greater good. He has this knack for pulling you out of the minutiae, urging you to see beyond the immediate and take a broader perspective. His guidance has been invaluable in helping me grow both personally and professionally.

9. What types of industries do you primarily support?

I'm pretty much involved in all industries except for K-12. My area of expertise lies more in offices and workplaces. It's where I feel most at home. But let me tell you, workplaces have shifted, and the idea of ‘workplace’ isn’t quite the same as it used to be. The focus has shifted a bit, and it's been interesting to see how things are changing. I also round out my work with additional practice areas- commercial, healthcare, higher education, and civic/cultural work.

10. Do you have a favorite or memorable project you did?

Oh, I have many memorable projects and clients – what type of memories are you asking about? (laughing) Joking aside, I have one project that is wrapping up with a secure government contractor. Unfortunately, I cannot really discuss the details of the client or project as I signed an NDA. But I’ve been working on it for five and a half years doing full interior design, fit out drawings, and the whole gambit. It’s been a lot of work, but rewarding to see it all come together.

11. How about a memorable project with GM?

A recent one was Hyundai Translead; it was a pretty dramatic transformation. We basically cleared out all the offices and gave a whole floor-and-a-half a fresh new look. We still need to get some artwork installed on the walls and we’re in the process of getting that sorted out. I can't wait to see how it adds that extra spark to the space! Once everything's in place, we'll definitely be snapping some project photos.

12. How would you describe your leadership style?

At LPA, we're big on fostering leadership through programs like our accelerated leadership program. One tool we use is the CliftonStrengths book, which outlines 34 different strengths. My top strengths include Responsibility and Maximizer. Empathy plays a significant role in how I lead as well. I truly value kindness and believe in treating everyone with respect, regardless of their position. It is all about recognizing the individuality of each team member and appreciating their unique strengths. Being approachable is key for me too; I strive to create an environment where people feel comfortable coming to me with their thoughts and concerns. I don’t believe in being rude to people. You'll often find me being the person strangers strike up conversations with strangers in Costco (laughing). It's all about fostering positive connections and making everyone feel valued.

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

I would say to be open to experiencing a lot of different project types. A great designer has a good understanding of both the creative and technical sides. New designers love the creative side of the business, but that is such a small part of what we do. Think of yourself as a sponge – soak in as much as you can. It’ll make you a more well-rounded and valuable asset wherever your career takes you. I'm a firm believer that designers shouldn't limit themselves to a niche too early on. It's all about gaining that broad understanding first.

14. What do you enjoy doing in your free time? Do you have any side hobbies?

I’m an avid reader and my friends tease me about it. I love fiction, I always have a stack on my nightstand. I love Reese’s Book Club recommendations. Beyond reading, I love travel, crafting, and eating good meals with good company.

15. Do you have a comfort TV show?

I love sitcoms. I’m a Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Friends gal. Those shows are always on, even if just in the background. I love those long series that you can just watch over and over.

16. Do you have a favorite piece of furniture?

I love the Eames Bentwood Chairs or the Eames Lounge Chairs. Who doesn’t want one of those?! That’s the dream.

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17. Do you have a favorite restaurant?

I’m an Italian food lover. My mom’s family is half Italian and half Lebanese. I love the Italian restaurant Cesarina in Point Loma. The food is delicious and the restaurant is very cute. I also wrote an essay about steak in the 3rd grade and that love has continued!

18. Adult beverage of choice?

I’m a wine gal – white in the summer and red in winter. I also love a good old-fashioned with rye.

19. Coffee or tea?

Coffee – relatively dark and not too sweet.

20. You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?

It would be a coral color, not too bright that it blinds you, but not too dark either. It’s not too salmony or pink, and it’s not overly girly. It’s that perfect in-between shade – warm and inviting with a little sass and pizzaz (laughing). That’s me!

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