It’s time for another Lunching with Luminaries interview – boomerang edition! Today, we’re chatting with Haley Darst, Senior Associate, and Stacie Dinwiddy, Associate Director, who have both found themselves returning to HLB after taking different directions in their career. These women each have unique perspectives that showcase the variety of talented minds at HLB. 

What sparks creativity for you? 

Stacie: So, there’s little that doesn’t, to be honest. Whether it’s a rendering or collection of Pinterest inspirations shared on the screen or the opportunity to visit site and see an art collection in person, my mind takes off very quickly. I also have my daughters’ monthly school assignments that allow us to explore creativity at home. Just last night I was repurposing an Easter basket into a floral Easter bonnet for my two-year old’s Easter parade. I must add I also get a creative spark from organizing and reducing clutter – there’s nothing a set of coordinating bins or baskets can’t make look better!

Haley: I would say that visiting new spots and traveling in general gets me thinking and collecting new ideas for future projects. Honestly, going to new places is a win-win for me because I’m truly a foodie at heart, so when I go to a new restaurant or chic coffee shop, I have the opportunity to combine my loves for travel and food. I also love the opportunity to reflect about a space when I walk in – taking in what things I notice as soon as I sit down and how the space is making me feel in that moment. I’m that designer who is constantly peeking around corners and niches to try and understand how other designers detail things. I keep a log of experiences in the back of my mind to use for later!

What does your average day look like?

Stacie: I have a few different versions of my day – typically, per week, I have three days in the city, a day working at home, and then a weekend. The ones that require the most planning and have the most going on are the days in the city. For those days, our alarms go off around 5-5:30 AM. The kids are asleep until 6, or 6:30 if we’re lucky. I’m downstairs ready to go between 6:30 and 7:00 – I do one last homework check and help with some hairstyles then I’m off to the train. An hour ride into the city gives me a head start on email and Teams chats. I reload with coffee at the studio, where I work with teams in New York and Denver, managing projects across the states. I’m back on the train between 4:00 and 5:00 PM, wrapping up one job and beginning another as I’m back to my family for dinners, sports, and homework until baths, books, and bedtime by 9:00PM!

Haley: I like to get to the gym at least three days during the work week – I find heavy lifting and really pushing myself physically helps me to recenter and keep me focused throughout the rest of my day. I go home, take my dogs on a quick loop, and, of course, coffee is at the top of my list, too. I like to settle down with classical music as I’m getting ready for my workday. Like lifting, it helps keep me focused. I’m a big list-maker, so I will plan out my day – I’ll make note of what I need and want to get done that day and determine which items can be prioritized another day or week, leaving a bit of leeway in my schedule. This way, if things pop up

unexpectedly, I’m easily able to shift my focus. No two workdays are the same, so I’m always balancing between multiple projects and various stages of design. As a completely remote worker, I also find I’m in a lot of virtual meetings, so I try to build in a quick break every afternoon to step away from my computer and take my dogs on another quick walk so that I can come back to work recharged and recentered to finish the day.

If you could describe lighting design in 3 words, which words would you use? 

Stacie: ethereal, intimate, sparkle

Haley: experiential, emotional, transformative

What’s your favorite way to stay plugged into the design community (outside of the office)? 

Stacie: Within the lighting community, I love going to the Lumen Awards. It’s kind of like an annual reunion within the lighting community and a great opportunity to catch up with everyone at once and stay up to date on what’s happening people and projects. To mirror what Haley said earlier, I also like to experience new cities and catch local art shows, performances, or lectures to stay tapped into the design industry. I also still love magazines as a source of inspiration – there’s nothing like a printed publication to flip through!

Haley: I’ve been a member of CREW Charlotte for just over a year now and I love staying involved there. I’m on a committee which has been a great way to get to know other women and men in Charlotte who are interested in commercial real estate. There are plenty of luncheons and volunteer opportunities so I try to fit these into my schedule when I have availability. I also recently helped create the WILD Chapter here in Charlotte. We just had our inaugural event last month and we are currently brainstorming more events for the year and ways we can team up with other local design organizations. It’s been really rewarding staying involved and getting the insight into the local community we have here.

What is a place (built/natural environment) that inspires you? 

Stacie: Of all the adventures in my life, London has my heart and continues to inspire me. I lived there for a couple of years before returning to the States and, for me, it’s a beautiful blend of old and new. The streets are rich with culture, heritage, and history. I learned a lot through my work there about the use of color temperature in lighting and how different American standards for acceptable light levels can be compared to those in Europe and the UK. Today, I’m lucky enough to have family there for even more reason to continue visiting!

Haley: I’m most inspired by nature and the outdoors. I’m always trying to find new trails and parks to take my dogs to – we’re big fans of the Sugar Creek Greenway and the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. There’s also a white-water center near us which has a lot of trails and activities to do. My favorite place, though, is where my parents live on the coast – it’s a quaint little beach town and their neighborhood is along the Calabash River. Only residents are allowed to go to this particular piece of the trail that overlooks the water and it’s the most wonderful view. Being there is a full sensory experience, it’s so serene and there’s amazing wildlife, tall grasses, and flora. You can smell the ocean water, feel the textures of the plants, and hear the sounds of the birds and waves. When we’re there, we spend 90 percent of our time outdoors!

What’s the best-kept secret in your city? 

Stacie: This one is a bit tricky because I live in New Jersey but work in New York. So, in New York, you’ll find the best slice at Supreme Pizza near 8th and 31st. However, in my actual town, we discovered that there are a number of trails that you can get lost in and really feel in tune with nature. It’s great because we love getting the kids out of the house and connecting as a family or even individuals. When the weather allows, my husband and I like to get out for walks and take historic trails. They seem to connect you and weave you through towns throughout the state without even realizing it.

Haley: In Charlotte, there’s a cute place called Rosie’s Coffee and Wine Garden. I’m not sure if it’s much of a secret anymore, but it’s one of my favorite spots in Charlotte. It’s nestled in a fairly busy area but is the quaintest coffee and wine shop with meandering pathways and lush gardens where you can sit with friends and socialize over a glass of Chardonnay or Prosecco, or a latte if that’s what you’d rather that day. They host a market with local vendors and live music once a month – it can be such a fun way to wind down your work week.

Special question for the boomerangs: what qualities are important to you in your workplace and how did they steer your decision to return to HLB? 

Stacie: The qualities that are most important to me fluctuate, like with everything in life, we change and our needs and wants change as well. Across the board, though, are flexibility and ambiance. I love coming into an office that sparks innovation and brings out the fun side of design. In our industry, it’s all about the sharing of ideas and being able to turn around and ask someone how they would approach a detail or design challenge. Great companies are appreciative of what the team brings to the industry and promote a culture of learning and development. When I made the decision to return to HLB, I had the benefit of coming off a brief hiatus to recharge and reevaluate where I was both in my career and my life. I returned to HLB because of the development the firm had seen in the decade since I left and because of the opportunity to work with Gregg in growing our residential studio. The invitation to join a great team and a great firm was an exciting choice for me.

Haley: In the workplace, I really value communication – it’s critical for my success and an important element for the entire team and our clients. Since I’m remote, I work with teammates across multiple time zones and rely on my teammates to be very concise and forthcoming on any project needs or coordination items as they appear. The opportunity to grow into a leadership role steered my return to HLB – it was really important for me to have the opportunity to motivate and delegate to designers and coach team members. It also meant I could get out of my comfort zone and push myself, especially as I do business development in a new city, which has been a phenomenal leadership exercise.

One last question – what’s for lunch?  

Stacie: We enjoy meal planning and are sure to make large enough dinners so that there are leftovers. On the menu today is leftovers of a version of an Italian wedding soup with handmade turkey and chicken meatballs and vegetables.

Haley: So, I am a big meal prep person, too, especially when my partner is traveling for work and he’s not making me food himself! Today, I’m eating ground turkey with asparagus, quinoa, and a spicy peanut sauce – inspired by Thai flavors!