13 Extraordinary Women in Design and Architecture You Need to Know

Celebrate International Women’s Day with the work of 13 inspiring designers whose contributions to architecture, interior design, industrial design, and beyond are changing the game.
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March may be Women’s History Month in the United States, but the work of women in all fields of design surrounds us every day of the year. From textile design to landscape architecture, ceramics to interior design, we’ve highlighted the work of 13 diverse women in the U.S. and asked them to provide insight into what motivates their work, how they established their design studios, and their role as females in the design world. Read on to learn about how they approach their projects, maintain a work/life balance, seek out and become mentors, and more.

Marie Burgos of Marie Burgos Design

Marie Burgos Design, an interior design and furnishings company started by Marie Burgos, employs concepts of balance and Feng Shui in all projects, regardless of scale.

Raised in Paris to a family of Caribbean origin from the island of Martinque, Marie Burgos established her interior design offices and furniture lines, Marie Burgos Design, in Los Angeles and New York. Drawing inspiration from the great art, architecture, and interiors that she was exposed to from an early age—as well as the native foods, family life, traditions, and beaches of Martinque—Burgos has created furniture and lighting collections jointly with her husband.

Harmony and balance are explored in Marie Burgos's designs, as seen in the contrast between the soft, plush fabric and hard, shiny frame of this chair; its bold, burnt orange tone is reminiscent of beach sunsets, in part inspired by her family's roots in the Caribbean.

Burgos sees her role as a designer as someone who creates spaces that are nurturing and personal, and her role as an employer to showcase the business and create a productive work environment that fosters a sense of wellbeing for each employee. A strong believer in balance and harmony in design as well as her personal life, Burgos says that she has become a "seasoned, productive multi-tasker" as a designer, wife, and mother of two young children. 

In her interior design work, Marie Burgos seeks to pair straight lines with curves, and hard surfaces, such as wood or glass, with plush ones such as rugs and upholstery. These factors need to be complemented by a great lighting scheme for optimum effect. 

The unconditional love, perspective, and balance that she has learned and achieved, along with new levels of patience and prioritizing, brings her "a high degree of positive energy that I am able to use in my working relationships as well as my family life." Burgos also seeks to be a role model for her daughter and for her staff, hiring and encouraging other women.

Casey Keasler of Casework

After working for years under other firms, interior designer Casey Keasler broke out on her own in 2015 and founded Casework.

Founded in 2015 and based in Portland, Oregon, Casework is a design studio started by interior designer Casey Keasler focused on interiors and how they are experienced. As the founder and creative director of the firm, Keasler seeks to promote creativity, collaboration, and curiosity; her projects range from residential to commercial designs. Keasler calls her clients her biggest source of inspiration, learning what makes them tick and what their vision is so that she can translate that into a personal, thoughtfully designed environment. 

One of Casework’s projects in Portland, Oregon, was the interior fit-out of an 18,000-square-foot office space for Work & Co.

Before starting her own firm, she was told by a mentor that she didn’t need to know everything, but had to learn how to ask the right questions to achieve the results she wanted. To that end, she spent a lot of time listening, learning, and growing until she was ready to start her own business. Now that she has successfully done so, she is motivated to carve out a "creative, supportive space for women in this world."  

The renovation of a 1925 residence for a growing family included the demolition of a powder room and the design of a new half bathroom on the ground floor of the Colonial Revival home.

Established in 2010, Ellen Van Dusen’s textile and clothing company, Dusen Dusen, is focused on creating bold, colorful prints. Van Dusen currently is based in Brooklyn, and expanded her collection in 2015 with Dusen Dusen Home, a textile and home goods line that includes bedding, throws, pillows, and towels. 

Much of Ellen Van Dusen’s work is inspired by art, contrast, color, and movement, which is particularly evident in the playful color combinations she develops; this green and orange combination, for example, is suggestive of a watermelon.

Van Dusen’s work, and in particular her clothing, is known for versatile, wearable silhouettes made with her eye-catching prints. She is regularly inspired by fine art, commercial and naïve design, and the brain’s reaction to color and contrast. Currently, she is inspired by oversized versions of ordinary objects, Madeline Arakawa and Madeline Gins, tropical birds, and board games. 

Making pieces for dogs is particularly delightful for Van Dusen—she loves the photos that people send her afterwards of the dogs using or wearing the items!

Carly Nance and Rachel Bentley, founders of home decor brand The Citizenry, met in college and had backgrounds in global marketing strategy, brand planning, and strategy consulting.

Founded in 2014, Carly Nance and Rachel Bentley started The Citizenry as a socially conscious home decor brand that partners with master artisans around the world to create modern, globally inspired designs. From leather butterfly chairs handcrafted in Argentina to blankets woven in the mountains of Peru, The Citizenry brings the world’s best craftsmanship directly to consumers online. 

Carly Nance and Rachel Bentley founded The Citizenry in 2014 as a socially conscious home decor brand that partners with master artisans around the world to create modern, globally inspired designs. From leather butterfly chairs handcrafted in Argentina to blankets woven in the mountains of Peru, The Citizenry brings the world's best craftsmanship directly to consumers online. 

With new collections (and artisan partners) added every year, the two work with their product design director, Haley Seidel, and are inspired by "different cultures, crafts, and raw materials; each one is a unique input to our design process." In a female-run company, Carly says that "empathy and insight run deep in our culture," and Rachel considers the ability to support talented craftswomen around the world as one of the most rewarding aspects of her role in bridging across cultures.

Alda Ly started her own architectural practice after working at several different firms in New York City and was soon completing projects for start ups and co-working spaces on the East Coast.

Born in New Zealand and raised in L.A., Alda Ly started her own architectural practice, Alda Ly Architecture & Design, in 2017 after working at Rafael Viñoly Architects, 212box, HWKN, and Leong Leong. She also cofounded Designers Assembly, an organization that supports young architects who aspire to ethical, creatively fulfilling entrepreneurship. ALA’s first major projects were for the East Coast and California locations of The Wing, a co-working space and community for women. 

For Parsley Health’s new flagship center in New York, Alda Ly Architecture (ALA)
deployed the principles of biophilic design in an urban medical office.

Ly’s other clients include functional medicine provider Parsley Health, the retail platform Bulletin, and social-action technology firm Blue State Digital—to each of her projects, she brings a minimalist yet playful design sensibility. She takes occupants’ wellbeing very seriously, incorporating biophilic design principles into her spaces and emphasizing a hands-on, collaborative approach with her clients. 

Alda Ly Architecture has designed locations of the women-centered co-working space/lounge, The Wing, including its locations in DUMBO (Brooklyn), Flatiron (Manhattan), Soho (Manhattan), San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. 

Architect Gennifer Muñoz started her own firm, GEN M ARCHITECTURE, in 2018 after more than 10 years of working on residential, commercial, and developer-driven projects.

Gennifer "Gen" Muñoz is a licensed architect and opened her practice, GEN M ARCHITECTURE, in January 2018. Her Sacramento, California–based firm specializes in contemporary residential, multifamily, and mixed-use projects. 

In a residence recently completed by GEN M ARCHITECTURE, the direction of the roof slope helps distinguish different parts and rooms of the home.

Gen’s undergraduate studies at The University of Virginia and graduate work at UC Berkeley has inspired her firm’s design approach, which is rooted in hands-on drawing, model making, and architectural theory. Her team of former students reflects her desire to uplift and empower women in architecture through teaching, mentorship, and work in the community.  

Gen's design approach begins with drawing, sketching, and architectural models; here, a sketch of the site for a new project in Hawaii is explored through freehand sketching.

Shop Women-Led Design
The Citizenry Mercado Storage Cube
A compact storage bin for corralling your kitchen, bath, or entryway clutter.
Helen Levi Ceramics Sunrise Dinner Plates (Set of 4)
You are my sunrise plates.  From Brooklyn ceramicist Helen Levi, these dinner plates are prettier than a dawn horizon. They stack up for everyday meals and bring in a little color to elegant tables too.

Judy Kameon founded Elysian Landscapes after a five-year long passion project that began with the purchase of an empty lot next to her home in 1991.

For Judy Kameon of Elysian Landscapes, what started as the purchase of an empty lot next to her small bungalow in 1991 turned into a career in landscape architecture and design over the course of the following five years. Kameon’s initial focus on residential design/build work quickly blossomed into significant commercial commissions, including highly creative landscapes for the Parker in Palm Springs, Balenciaga, and Isabel Marant. 

Elysian Landscapes designed the graphic landscape for French fashion house Balenciaga, creating sculptural forms in sharp contrast to the black lava hardscape and green leafy foliage that envelops the building.

Since then, Elysian Landscapes has created hundreds of private and public gardens across Los Angeles and beyond. Kameon puts her vast knowledge of plants from around the world to use, designing responsible landscapes that are as unique as they are sustainable. Kameon says that above all, her team "thrives on creating outdoor environments that are deeply personal and celebrate the relationship between planetary health, artistic expression, and the ephemerality of the natural world."

The vast grounds of the Parker Palm Springs, an estate-like hotel, includes a series of spaces for gatherings of all sizes, linked by meandering paths carved through lush plantings, creating an unexpected experience of playful discovery.

Helen Levi is a Brooklyn–based potter working primarily with stoneware, creating functional ceramics meant to be used every day. 

Helen Levi is a Brooklyn–based potter working primarily with stoneware, creating functional ceramics meant to be used every day. While the pieces might be created for daily use, they are distinct, elegant, and bold; Levi’s use of different clay bodies for her cups, bowls, planters, and mugs results in beautifully marbled pieces that have the mark of being handmade.

Working out of her studio space in Brooklyn, potter Helen Levi makes handcrafted pieces that have her hallmark marbling of different clay bodies.

After working as a photographer in New York City, Levi had been practicing ceramics for years before she began to do it full-time. Her work is inspired by organic forms found in nature, and her color palettes are typically bold, bright, and full of life.

A dipping technique is used to glaze this set of dishware by potter Helen Levi.

Studio Cooke John was established by architect Nina Cooke John after working on a range of cultural, institutional, masterplan, and residential projects.

Studio Cooke John is a New York–based design studio with a strong focus on high-impact, residential architecture, as well as design for international cultural institutions. After working across the country on major cultural and institutional projects, Cooke John formed Frame Design Lab in 2012, which became the predecessor for her current firm.

Cooke John's focus on residential design allows her to consider design at a range of scales, from the individual home to the broader context. This kitchen renovation in Chelsea was completed with Anne-Marie Singer.

Born in Jamaica, Nina has always been inspired by the creativity she witnessed in her homeland, and sees her multi-faceted design practice as one that explores modern living "from the intimate scale of the home to that of the street." She credits her ability to multi-task to her role as a practitioner, parent, and educator; she believes that "each part of what I do informs the other and all skills learned are transferrable." From PTA meetings to sitting on the boards of local community institutions, Cooke John says that her journey as a working parent "has served to make me a more innovative, adaptable and grounded architect."

This conceptual installation proposal by Studio Cooke John seeks to empower women to walk fearlessly at night using a combination of light towers and sidewalk light strips and a real-time crowd-sourcing app designed to promote communication between women as they walk the streets at night. 

The three founders of Egg Collective—Stephanie Beamer, Crystal Ellis, and Hillary Petrie—had backgrounds in art, architecture, and woodworking before they started their company in 2011.

Egg Collective is a New York–based design company established in 2011 by Stephanie Beamer, Crystal Ellis, and Hillary Petrie. Conceived of as a creative partnership synthesizing its founders’ backgrounds in art, architecture, and woodworking, the company was founded on the concept that "materials are sacred and are imbued with infinite potential." As a result, each item in Egg Collective’s collection is handmade from natural materials that are intended to stand the test of time. 

Egg Collective's Isla coffee table with their Howard sofa highlight the company’s design aesthetic that marries high-quality materials and craftsmanship with bold, striking forms.

At the company’s core, community, quality, and stewardship of the natural world are of the utmost importance, from the design stages to the production processes. Their work is made in Egg Collective’s own wood shop in collaboration with local, small-scale fabricators, completing works in wood, leather, metal, glass, and stone. The company is also committed to representing a small selection of emerging and mid-career contemporary artists and designers with the hopes of fostering a dialogue across the applied and fine arts.

The Kenny dining table by Egg Collective comes in a range of wood species and is available custom with either a live-edge top or a finished, rectangular top.

Artist and designer Nina Cho is inspired by concepts rooted in traditional Korean art but with a modern, minimalist aesthetic.

Born in the United States and raised in South Korea, artist and designer Nina Cho studied woodworking and furniture design in Korea before attending Cranbrook Academy of Art and ultimately established her studio in Detroit, Michigan. In Korea, the Hongik University encouraged her to tell my own story and design pieces inspired by her own identity, while her time at Cranbrook allowed her to continue to develop her own distinct process and approach.

Cho's background in furniture design is evident in her pieces, which explores reductive forms to the point where they strike a balance between furniture and artwork. Her Cantilever Table started with the planar material of sheet metal and developed ideas about folding and bending to create a simple but dynamic, three-dimensional form.

Cho credits her background that led her to a reductive aesthetic, where she "merges Eastern philosophy with experimental forms" by exploring voids and the concept of emptiness—an idea that is part of a traditional Korean aesthetic. In Korean paintings, she points out, the unpainted portion is just as important as the painted part, "respecting the emptiness as much as the object." Cho explores this duality with her work, which balances positive and negative space as a way to look at form.

Cho's series of glass vessels, called Layering Transparency, considers overlapping parts of positive and negative space in different colors and tones. "The sculptural forms invite people to interact with the objects in an inventive and personal way," she says.

"By eliminating the extraneous, I aim to simplify not only form, but the fabrication process as well. I use various materials and study how they relate to my philosophy," says Cho.

Laura Preston of Vacilando Quilting Co.

Laura Preston of Vacilando Quilting makes modern quilts inspired by travel out of her 34-foot Airstream trailer that she and her husband have been working, living, and traveling in since 2013.

Vacilando Quilting Co. is a textile and design studio created and run by Laura Preston out of her 34-foot Airstream trailer. While Preston’s quilts and textiles are created out of traditional methods, her designs are anything but. Preston looks to travel, landscapes, and connections with place as inspiration for her fresh, graphic, and bold designs with solid-colored fabrics and large-scale piecing.

Through her company Vacilando Quilting Co., Laura Preston designs quilts, pillows, and canvas goods that employ traditional quilting methods with modern graphics.

Preston finds that "living on  the road and having a different backyard every week is a constant source of inspiration for my work—I get to see the world with fresh eyes and expand my perspective." And while the quilting and textile industry is largely composed of women, she finds that it can be a struggle to have others see quilting as art and design, in part because quilting has long been considered "women's work" and was viewed as a hobby for grandmas. However, she sees the possibility of change, noting that "people have certain preconceptions of what a quilter looks like and what a quilt looks like, but it's exciting to see those ideas being challenged in the world of modern quilting."

Preston's textile and quilt designs are inspired by her travels—she and her husband have been living and working out of their mobile Airstream since 2013—and her connections with the landscape and sense of place of where they're currently located.

As the founder of Determined by Design, Kia Weatherspoon brings with her not only over 10 years of experience in the interior design field for a range of clients, but also her time serving in the U.S. Air Force—making her a well-rounded leader and one who is committed to providing high-quality services in an equitable design practice.

Determined by Design is a minority- and veteran-owned boutique interior design firm founded by Kia Weatherspoon and based out of the vibrant Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, D.C. With a focus on multi-family, affordable and supportive housing properties; boutique hotels; and small businesses in economically challenged and emerging communities, the company is committed to serving those who are the most in need and making interior design a standard for all.

Weatherspoon's experience in hospitality and residential spaces translates to her current work, where she completes projects for multi-family residences.

Determined by Design was founded after Weatherspoon’s decade of experience designing spaces for hospitality, multi-family, and high-end residential clients. Prior to that, she served in the U.S. Air Force shortly after 9/11, during which time she was deployed to the Middle East and found herself living in a bare space shared by 15 other women. In those quarters, Weatherspoon discovered the power of design as a means of creating space and comfort, and continues to channel this positive, forward-looking, go-getter attitude in her projects and business.

The Archer Park Apartments is one of Determined By Design's many multi-family projects; founder Kia Weatherspoon seeks not only to create well-designed spaces for her clients, but also to advocate for them through her work, getting to the heart of what they most deeply need.

For Weatherspoon, to be a woman, specifically a woman of color, in interior design can often feel isolating, and she notes that her craft "isn’t often utilized in communities, housing and businesses of color." However, she has personally experienced the power of design and how it can change lives, and is motivated to "change that narrative...and make exceptional design accessible to people who need it the most."

Related Reading: 10 Dwell Projects That Were Proudly Designed by Women


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