Cama is president and principal interior designer of CAMA, Inc., an interior planning and design firm based in New Haven, CT. The firm's current staff of nine interior designers and support personnel is one of the most respected interior design firms in the Northeast. It has completed design work for many institutional, corporate, professional, hospitality and residential clients, however, its main area of activity has been in health care and academic settings for higher education. CAMA, Inc. has participated in projects at more than 25 major hospitals across New England and the United States.
The firm's mission is to partner with its clients, in support of their strategic mission, in the creation and management of their interior environments.
Founded as Rosalyn Cama Interior Design Associates, Inc. (RCIDA) in 1983, the firm has been honored for its design excellence many times since its inception. The first of many awards was bestowed in 1983 for renovation concepts to the 1883 Queen Anne-style Victorian house that is the firm's headquarters.
D&WC: What do you see as the up-and-coming contract and residential style and color trends?
Rosalyn Cama: After 23 years in the profession, I've learned that styles and trends are predicted by the manufacturers of product. Most products are colored by a forecast consortium that crosses all disciplines of manufacturing, from clothing to automobiles to housewares to furnishings. Those trends are predicted three to five years out and will emerge in the order I've mentioned above. So shop the women's department of a high fashion store to look into the crystal ball for furnishings. Gray is on our horizon!
Style is fairly open now. Most historical styles are available in good quality reproductions and modern technology allows us to partner with workrooms to create unique offerings for the daring client. Functional requirements tend to reel-in extravagance, hence there seems to be more predictable solutions. Interior designers, unless they are working on a totally custom project, will build a scheme around the most limiting product offerings first, then push the envelope with the more generous offerings in paints and textiles.
D&WC: In keeping with these design trends, what role(s) will window treatments be expected to play?
Cama: Window treatments can be broken into two categories, functional and decorative. But I would be remiss if I discussed the treatment without discussing the actual window.
Modern technology has created options in the window structure itself. For northern and southern climates thermal and reflective qualities now are inherent in the glass. Privacy is available with films or in electrostatic charges activated between two pieces of glass. The window frame or glass itself has become an important decorative element needing little or no dressing as evidenced in most window manufacturers' advertisements today. But not to worry, the treatment still is an important part of our culture.
Residentially, the window treatment is open to the creative mind. Because most interior designers work with custom workrooms the treatment will follow the style of the room. The "blinds-only" solution of the '70s is still here, but so are the more period thermal layers of shutters and fabric of centuries past.
In the commercial market, window treatments usually are standardized from the exterior, but with more and more computer screens operating in these spaces, glare will be the number one consideration for selecting a treatment. In spite of the great advances in window development, the role of the window treatment will continue to be sought for controlling privacy, glare and style in both commercial and residential settings.
D&WC: What variables most affect your recommendations for window treatments?
Cama: Window construction, directional exposure (for thermal and glare considerations), view (for aesthetics), location in a room (for practical and decorative considerations) and flexibility (for multi-purpose needs).
D&WC: What do most clients consider first, second and third when choosing interior furnishings: price, function or aesthetics? Where does maintenance come into play?
Cama: A professional interior designer organizes a project by first understanding what the client wants to achieve. The interior designer will garner long-range plans, functional requirements, flexibility for growth and image considerations from client interviews. Once that information is documented and approved by all, a preliminary plan and budget is developed for approval. It is only then that the discussion of designing the space comes up. Therefore, consideration for the solution is made as a whole, not by individual components. The interior designer will factor price, function, aesthetics, longevity and maintenance in every design decision thereafter.
D&WC: How can manufacturers be better attuned to the needs of interior designers? What about drapery workrooms?
Cama: ASID dealt with this very issue three years ago as we launched our research-based marketing and educational programs. The study, known as strategic mapping, continues annually as a means of understanding what clients value most about interior design services. (D&WC, August 1998, page 14.)
The study revealed that our clients most value the creation of an image that supports a desired function and the professional project management that makes a project reality. An ASID interior designer will hence expect his or her suppliers and workrooms to support them to that end.
D&WC: Are clients more or less knowledgeable about interior design than in the past?
Cama: Interior design was once for the elite few. With the growth of retail stores offering interior design services and the advent of the likes of cable television's home and garden channel (HGTV), the idea of hiring someone to professionally design a space is less intimidating to the average consumer. These venues have certainly educated the consumer.
With interior design more mainstream, the consumer is certainly more aware of what to expect in services or products. ASID is about to launch a research project on the needs one has for interior environments at different stages of life. The marketing and educational programs that will grow out of this research will influence consumer spending behavior. Ask this question again in six months.
D&WC: What segment(s) of the consumer population is using design services today?
Cama: The easy answer is upper income earners, but wealth no longer correlates with the procurement of professional design services. Major metropolitan dwellers and the upwardly mobile are the predictable residential markets. Corporations and institutions with facility planning and design departments are the sure commercial bets. Hospitality and retail markets have always been the savviest about equating professional design with the bottom line. These hospitality specialties have influenced health care, long-term living and cluster housing.
A study commissioned a few years back found that households with combined incomes of $75,000 or more were the consumers of professional design services. That represents 10 percent of all households in the United States. ASID has determined that about eight percent of that market actually procures our services. It is likely that the income level today is somewhat higher, however, this research still demonstrates that there is a large portion of our targeted audience not contracting professional interior design services.
D&WC: Are consumers spending more on the design of their homes?
Cama: The interior design profession has been remiss in tracking such important data. One indicator is the retail marketplace. Growth in retail usually predicts spending potential. There seems to be more specialty home furnishing stores filling our malls and city marketplaces. Have you noticed how many home furnishing mail order catalogues there are? The real estate market, another indicator, is speculating in greater square footage homes. Logical deduction would, therefore, say yes.
D&WC: Which rooms in a home are designers asked to design (redesign) the most?
Cama: Most rooms in a house have flexibility with the exception of kitchens and bathrooms. Because these rooms house more functional fixtures and appliances, they are the most likely candidates for major refurbishment and renovation. They also will often tell the age of a home faster than any other room. Older homes without master bathrooms, master dressing rooms or family rooms, in my opinion, come in second. The newest trends are for at-home offices and media rooms.
D&WC: What will be the most important societal and environmental issues facing interior designers heading into the next century?
Cama: Change itself will be the most important issue facing interior designers. Our society is evolving with the speed with which information is shared. That affects our personal as well as our professional lives.
As our lives change, so must our interior environments; residential and commercial. As designers we must provide flexibility in our plans. Gone are the days when a new interior lasted 10 to 15 years. The decor may survive, but the functional object the interior houses will evolve with the changes happening in lifestyles, life stages and business protocols. This level of churn in functional objects will require a responsible, sustainable approach to manufacturing, transforming and disposing materials.
This freneticism will need to be balanced in some way. How the interior that evolves continually can offer stability and comfort will be the challenge.
ASID sponsors executive forums several times a year with major publishers. The last two have focused on this very subject. Watts Wacker, author of The 500 Year Delta, predicts we no longer will focus on the stuff we accumulate as the determinate of who we are, but rather our experiences will emerge as the definition of our self worth.
That is a change in mind set for most manufacturers of the interior furnishings industry. Design with an emphasis on product or look will not be good enough. The end result is that the experience one has in a space will be what the consumer will seek in professional services.
D&WC: What are the most important industry and career-oriented issues facing designers?
Cama: Most important today is staying abreast of all of the research that is being conducted. Interior design is no longer a soft subject. It is no longer subjective. ASID is partnering with industry members in hiring professional researchers to study the actual affects interior design has on the end user, i.e. workplace performance, retaining and recruiting employees.
Qualitative research, such as focus groups, is identifying the most important issues in which quantitative research, such as field study experiments, is now being conducted. Interior designers will need to know about these studies and fully understand the impact they will have on how best to satisfy client needs.
D&WC: How is present-day economics affecting designers' businesses? Are some regions more affected than others?
Cama: I believe all on the mainland are doing well. Hawaii, however, has been hurt by the Asian markets. More and more of our ASID members are practicing globally, so regional shifts in the economy will become less of an issue.
ASID is focusing on the flip of this question. We are doing research to understand how interior design impacts workplace performance, which will have an economic impact on any marketplace in any economy. The data from this research has the potential to make the profession less vulnerable to stock market fluctuations.
D&WC: What are your plans for your term as ASID president?
Cama: ASID is a strategically driven organization with a clear long-range vision. Each year the national board of directors, with an additional at-large professional member and industry partner, works to scan the various influences on our profession.
Our vision for the year 2010 is that ASID will be an organization that:
• defines interior design by what we do rather than who we are;
• is key to the success of interior designers, partners and customers through shared knowledge and action;
• gives interior designers the tools to understand and perform beyond customer expectations;
• is the recognized leader for understanding and managing changing workplace and living environments.
The research we have done and are continuing to do will guide us toward that vision. Our immediate mission is to use this data in fulfilling the needs of ASID's customers through market expansion, knowledge sharing and education.
I am honored to be a member of this insightful leadership team. My job will be to keep us focused and open-minded. Keep your eye on ASID, we are in your future!
Rosalyn Cama holds a Bachelor of Science degree with distinction in Interior Design and Textiles from the University of Connecticut. She is NCIDQ certified and holds title registration in Connecticut. CAMA Inc. is located at 31 Audubon St., New Haven, CT 06511; (203) 777-9921; fax: (203) 777-7781.
The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) is headquartered at 608 Massachusetts Ave., N.E., Washington, DC 20002-6006; (202) 546-3480; fax: (202) 546-3240.