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A Conversation with Boutique 18 Awardee, Kenya Jones-Lowell

Rice Fergus Miller is pleased to announce that Kenya Jones-Lowell, an Interior Designer working in the firm’s hospitality studio, has been selected as one of Boutique Design magazine’s Boutique 18 honorees. This prestigious group of rising design stars was chosen based on criteria by the Boutique Design editorial team and were nominated by industry peers. All of the 2021 Boutique 18 winners, including Kenya Jones-Lowell, will be honored at the BD|NY Kickoff Party on Saturday, November 13, 2021.

We sat down with Kenya as she prepares to head to New York to learn more about what this honor means to her, and what’s next for the rising star. Here’s what she had to say.

Photo – Kariba Jack

RFM: Congratulations Kenya! This is quite the award and we’re so happy for you. What does this mean to you?

KJL: Being inducted into the class is truly an honor, and certainly not one that I expected to receive. I have been pinching myself that the selection panel believes I am someone who is shaping the future of the hospitality industry, and I’m looking forward to attending BDNY to celebrate.

RFM: What is something about you and your work that has changed as you have grown in your career?

KJL: In 2019, I was involved in a serious car accident which left me with a traumatic brain injury and an essential tremor in my drafting hand. Relearning how to navigate the built environment as a designer, now living with a disability has transformed the way that I think about equitable design. The dynamic situations that I find myself in today are ones that could benefit from inclusive design practices

In committing ourselves to leadership roles and pushing the boundaries of what we think interior design is, we can create a more hospitable world. This is the work that I have been involved with both through projects at RFM, and also on my own. I’m currently working on a project to design a truly accessible hotel room, I am a member of NEWH Inc’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee (DEI), and I serve on the Hospitality Diversity Action Council (HDAC). In these ways I have been singularly focused on design justice and helping give a voice to underrepresented communities.

RFM: Can you speak to a recent RFM project that you’re particularly proud of?

I am very fond of the 7 Cedars Hotel that we recently completed for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe. In addition to designing the guest room experience including custom textiles, I had the opportunity to curate the incredibly impressive collection of first nation and Coast Salish art. In fact, it’s one of the largest such collections in the United States. The hotel features more than 500 pieces, representing over 60 artists from 11 tribal nations, and at times spanning 3 familial generations. It was a huge honor to work with the Tribe to curate this collection and help them tell their story.

Photo – Andrew Giammarco

RFM: What do you hope comes next for you in your career?

KJL: As I move forward in my career, I believe my biggest impact will be in the realm of education. As mentioned, I have placed an emphasis on striving for equality in design and that includes education, organizing design scholarship and mentorship opportunities for underrepresented communities. Through NEWH Inc’s EDI committee, I helped establish directorship and student relation roles for each of the international chapters. These roles work in tandem to provide scholarship and education opportunities to a more diverse group of students. In my HDAC role, I am helping establish additional design scholarships for underrepresented communities.

RFM: Just for fun, what is something can’t live without?

KJL: my library. I’m a huge reader and I love history, especially architectural history. It is part of the reason I started Deleted Pages, it’s a place people in the hospitality industry can come together and talk about forgotten stories and histories of minority led hospitality ventures, both past and present.

RFM: Jennifer Fleming received this honor back in 2017, what do you think that says about RFM?

KJL: I am so grateful to RFM and to Jennifer Fleming for helping make this possible. A firm having a designer make the list is an achievement, a firm having two designers make the list is a rarity. A rarity that is only born out of outstanding mentorship in conjunction with a practice ethos that embodies not only producing good work but also working toward the greater good for our community and our industry. RFM has an integrity that goes far beyond one achievement, building, or generation of leaders.

RFM: Aww, we are honored to have you be a part of the practice! What else do you hope comes from this recognition?  

KJL: I hope that it shines a light on a new school of hospitality design, a more conscious one. Rice Fergus Miller is Washington state’s only architectural B- Corp. that means that we have made the concise choice to take part in a global culture shift, this includes our hospitality team. We believe that we can design hospitality projects that reduced inequality, lower levels of poverty, provide healthier environments, enable stronger communities, and the create high quality jobs with dignity and purpose. Basically, we believe hospitality can change the world.  

Photo – Andrew Giammarco

RFM: Thank you for chatting with us Kenya, and we hope you have a great time at BD|NY and the awards ceremony!

KJL: Thank you, it’s an honor to work for a practice that believes so strongly in fostering a culture of mentorship and leadership and grateful for the support of everyone who helped me achieve this recognition.

 

To learn more about Kenya and her experience at BD|NY, please follow Rice Fergus Miller on Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn.