International conference inspires business owner

The editor of CREW Corner recently sat down with Jill Winchell, CEO of Jill Winchell Design, a San Diego-based commercial real estate interior design firm. Winchell has more than 25 years of design expertise and works with clients in biotech, technology, corporate, mixed use and health care. She is also an adjunct professor at SDSU.

Editor: You attended an international design conference in Milan, Italy. Tell us about it.

JW: The Milan Furniture Fair is held annually in Milan. It is the largest trade fair of its kind in the world. The exhibition showcases the latest in furniture and design from countries around the world.

Editor: With conference participants from around the world, what similarities do you see in approaches to design? What differences?

JW: I attend Neocon in Chicago and have also attended the ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair) in New York City. The shows are always inspiring. However, traveling to a show with global presence brings a very large perspective being among so many international designers.

It was absolutely amazing being a participant among languages from all over the world, housed in an industrial city known for fashion and exquisite design definitely added a huge impact to the conference. Being immersed internationally with experiences even in airports and local transportation are part of the journey as to how people connect in daily living situations. The impact of awareness in design was apparent in Italy.

Editor: How did meeting other design professionals from other parts of the world give you a new or different perspective on your work?

JW: Networking was amazing! The trip consisted of meeting designers from other countries, in addition to a U.S. presence, including San Francisco architecture and design firm CEOs and principals, the design director from a California carpet manufacturer and the owner of a furniture dealership in New York City.

We had multiple dinners together and had great discussions about their approach to today’s business challenges and projects they are working on in their markets. The saying ‘in the moment’ had major impact with being current in the world of business. Great business, great food, great wine … great combination package!

Editor: What new ideas and inspirations did you come away with?

JW: I came away with new levels of design, particularly in learning more about Italian furniture and the beauty of ergonomics. Attention to detail not only for design, but detail to scale was most impressive. Slim lines, exquisite hardware, muted colors and the use of textures in natural materials seemed to be the common theme among the exhibitors.

Research, innovation, development, and technology were evident; however, the creativity of the aesthetic beauty created by the details was extraordinary. Gorgeous saturated colors noted in textiles and glass accessories were absolutely stunning. A strong focus on compact and modular furnishings made a strong impact to include multifunctional pieces for collaborative and innovative living spaces.

So much of today’s commercial real estate design is about “work, live, play,” so the crossover for transformative spaces was very apparent at this conference. Overall, the substance of craftsmanship was noted with perfect detail lending to the beauty of current, great design.

Editor: Was there one highlight to the trip that relates to your business that you’d like to share?

JW: I was fortunate to be a part of some personal tours as soon as I arrived in Milan. My first stop after a 12-hour flight and dropping luggage at our hotel was meeting up with a group of designers from California orchestrated by Cardenio Petrucci, founder and director of DSEGNARE in San Francisco.

We had the opportunity to visit the design studio of Francesco Rota, a charming building of old world elegance covered in wisteria, high interior ceilings and beautiful wood herringbone floors. We also toured Wonderglass, a showroom of handcrafted Venetian chandeliers that were surreal and dreamlike with imagination. I should have been going to sleep with the time change, but there was clearly no time to waste on sleep. … My overall experience in Milan was outstanding.

Editor: Why is it beneficial for those in the real estate, construction and design industries step out of their comfort zone and take inspiration from unique and different perspectives?

JW: Being mindful of ideas out of our comfort zone pushes us to be better at what we do, both personally and professionally. Stretching ourselves lends to be more open minded to different approaches that connect to ideas.

When we engage and experience new objectives, it pushes us to be more inclusive of ideas that are out of the box and stay fresh with creativity, which can ultimately be more rewarding. I teach a class in the Interior Design Department at San Diego State University. This trip was extremely rewarding for professional development that will add to new levels of promoting student ideas.

Warren is president of TW2 Marketing, which provides public relations services to CREW San Diego.

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