IIDA Great Plains Chapter

Member of the Month 2019


Kelly Nelson, IIDA
VP of Members



Education: Bachelor of Arts, Interior Design - University of Northern Iowa, December 2006

Employer: Neumann Monson Architects, Iowa City, IA

Years in Design: 13

Years in IIDA: 13

IIDA Great Plains Chapter City Center: Eastern Iowa

What might we find on your desk right now? The latest book on disc I am listening to from the public library, a Marimekko mug holding: my writing / sketching / drawings tools + a Hay tray holding: my calendar, lip gloss / lipstick / lip balm, note pads, misc. business cards [both items from my recent trip to Copenhagen], a calculator, mug of hot water, tape measure and my cell phone, and most importantly, a family photo of my husband, Josh, and daughters, Eloise (8) and Beatrice (4).     

What’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on and why? The Tuesday Agency, a small 2000 SF office space in downtown Iowa City, that is currently under construction.  This was a project that has been all mine from the get-go: I brought in the client based on a referral from a previous client, negotiated the fee, got the contract signed, did all the design work from top to bottom, all the required details for construction documents and permitting, coordinated with my consultants, and I am currently managing construction . . . but the absolute best part: the client trusts me.  Completely.  And bonus: They are willing to spend the money on design services and quality materials to get a space that is going to be stunning!    

What book is on your nightstand? I have several books on my nightstand: Dare to Lead by: Brene Brown, A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction by: Christopher Alexander, and The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters by: Priya Parker.

Do you have any rules or philosophies that steer you in design and/or career? Simplicity. Balance. Timelessness. And buy the best quality you can afford.

What words of advice do you have for passionate interior designers early in their career? Be curious . . . about everything. Listen, learn, observe, ask questions . . . lots and lots of questions, study people and how they use spaces [or don’t]. Listen and learn the language / terminology we use in design. Observe more. Be passionate and show you are passionate and willing to learn – from those around you, your colleagues, your friends / family, those in related fields [engineering / architecture / graphic design / environmental design / product design / contractors / fabricators] and most especially from your clients’ about their business. Travel. Go somewhere new at least once a year. It doesn’t have to be far, but it can open your mind to a new way to seeing the world that can be enlightening.

When needing a break from it all what helps you escape? My girls. I can always count on them for a smile and bear hug! They bring everlasting joy to my life. Going for a walk and staring at nature and houses. Taking a long, deep breath! Sometimes that’s all you need.