Sunday, May 09th

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Linda Allen: Interior Designer Joins the Ranks of Black Female Inventors


When thinking about interior design, one may first consider coordinating colors and textures to create a certain mood or arranging furnishings to achieve a particular feeling. But for world-renowned interior designer Linda Allen, it’s all about the lighting.

“While performing as a professional skater in the Ice Capades, I became fascinated with theatrical lighting. I was awestruck by the magical experience that the lights created. I wanted to recreate that experience in residential environments,” reveals Allen.

Describing her designs as “dramatically illuminated interiors,” Allen’s natural approach in using dramatic lighting and a dash of classic mid-century panache to create her signature designs has earned her a wave of accolades and high-profile clients, which include American Golf Corporation, Walt Disney Imagineering and Magic Johnson Enterprises. But for the successful designer, getting where she is today wasn’t the easiest road.

Before becoming an internationally known interior designer, Allen spent years training and competing in hopes of earning a coveted spot on the U.S. Olympic team as a professional ice skater. With a voice tinged with nostalgia, she recalls the grueling hours and politics involved in working to achieve that goal; one that she never reached. Having no regrets, she notes that her ice skating career is what propelled her into interior design, and her tenure as an ice skater equipped her with two invaluable tools – determination and perseverance.

“As a skater and now as an interior designer, I’ve learned to deal with ups and downs on all levels,” explains Allen. “In the same day, you can have both a fabulous breakthrough and a door slammed in your face. ·The road of being a designer is 70 percent drive and 30 percent bringing your projects to fruition.”

Allen admits that while there may be many roads to becoming an interior designer, the key stepping stones in her upward climb were her academic education in environmental design and lightning, as well as her apprenticeships and experience working at several world-renowned interior design firms, including Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design.

“I could not have done without my education and the invaluable skills and network that I gained from it. That was my foot in the door.”

Allen’s corporate design work, notably for Tokyo Disney Seas and Disney’s California Adventure, reflected her ability to use lighting to create a unique and customized experience, as well as “tell a story.” But even with her early success in the corporate arena, Allen felt the biting urge to venture out on her own.

In 2002, Allen launched Linda Allen Designs, a design firm focusing on residential interiors and lighting. ·Designing under her own umbrella gave Allen license to begin acting on her creative sensibilities and innovative ideas. While many designers were thinking of ways to use light to accent a room, Allen decided to turn the paradigm on its head.

“I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to create beautiful light fixtures that could be used both indoors and outdoors, literally anywhere? No one was thinking about the decorative portable fixture, so I decided to design one.”

But Allen soon realized that the technology she would need to create her portable lamps didn’t exist. Determined to bring her idea to life, she invented the technology herself.

“What I was doing was a huge shift in the way we traditionally use lighting today,” shares the inventor. “Everyone was telling me that it couldn’t be done. You just have to find the people who believe in you and your ideas. Trust your instincts.”

Launching this past March to rave reviews, Allen’s stylish Live. Anywhere collection of wireless, waterproof lamps are now exclusively available at David Sutherland showrooms.

“It was truly a feat, but I knew it had to be done and could be done.· Hopefully, this will inspire others to follow through with their ideas.”

Allen’s revolutionary work with portable lighting garnered the attention of The Dream Light Project  an organization whose mission is to increase the availability of light to areas around the globe affected by insufficient sources of power. In partnership with the organization Allen designed The Dream Light, a lightweight solar-powered light fixture that can be mounted easily anywhere and withstand extreme temperatures. Most significantly, the light fixture is mobile. ·She hopes her invention will enable communities to socioeconomically expand in ways they may not have previously thought possible.

While Allen accepts the honor of being one of the few African American female inventors in known history, she prefers to keep her focus on her work and to do what she loves most – bettering the lives of others both inside and out.

“There are so many black women who I admire and who have been able to transcend race, gender, class and do what people thought they couldn’t do in order to be what they knew they could be,” explains Allen. “It has been a rigorous road and I could have stopped anywhere, but the best advice I ever received was, ‘Finish what you start.’”

With Allen’s rolling success, we can expect the designer to cross many more finish lines in her bright future.