Perspectives 02.25.2021

Conversations with Colleagues: Michelle Rothman

Michelle is a Interior Designer at our Boston studio

This February, in honor of Black History Month, our Conversations with Colleagues series features staff perspectives on Black design.

"My mother and me."
Q: What drew you to the design profession, and what’s keeping you here?

A: As a child I had a love for design. Growing up, I was inspired by my mother’s love of interior design, although at the time I didn’t have a name for it. I remember coming home from school to find our home completely reorganized, and every season it seemed as though we had a new look. I just assumed that’s how everyone lived. Today, I get to give my clients the joy of a well-designed space, just as I had as a child. 

Q: What role does diversity, inclusion, and engagement play in the design profession at large?

A: We all have our cultural influences which play a role in how we see the world around us and how we design. Having a diverse background allows designers to bring a unique approach and style to their work that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. Without diversity in the workplace, I believe we would have “cookie cutter” spaces lacking uniqueness and creativity. 

At the Boston NOMA firm crawl.
The interiors material palette for Hubspot at Howard University, an HBCU.
Q: Describe a design project you’re working on right now, whether professional or personal, that you’re especially proud of—and why.

A: I’m very proud of our work for Hubspot. We worked on an extension of their corporate headquarters in Cambridge MA. Things went so well that wsoon renovated a second space across the street from the first project. Our third project for Hubspot was an office renovation in Portsmouth, NH. When an opportunity came to do a new Digital Practice Center at Howard University, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU). Hubspot immediately hired Perkins&Will for the project, and I’m so happy for the trust they have in my Perkins&Will team, and above all the positive impact it’s making at an HBCU like Howard University. I hope that these series of projects and experiences will lead to more positive things in the future. 

Q: As a leader in the design industry, what steps do you take to expand professional design opportunities to members of the Black community?

A: When it came time to choose my career, I did not see anyone or know anyone who looked like me in the profession. It would have been inspiring to know other interior design professionals of color who did what I aspired to do. Therefore, it’s important for me to inspire and motivate young designers of color, and hopefully help them see what this profession has to offer. Over the years, I’m seeing more and more people of color entering the design community, and that makes me very optimistic for the future.  

Presenting at the Brentwood Union Free School District career fair in New York.
Q: In what ways do you think our firm stands apart from other firms as far as diversity, inclusion, and engagement go—and how has our firm enabled you to thrive as a professional?

A: What I noticed most when I interviewed at Perkins&Will was the number of women in the firm, and this strongly influenced my decision to accept my offer here. Perkins&Will has a reputation for being a well-balanced place, not only in the sense of diversity but work-life balance and social purpose. I think that because of this, our designs are consistently recognized as being of the highest quality on the market. I hope to continue to inspire younger designers to enter this incredible and continually growing profession.