Design Stars Ascending: Rachael Haas

We interview Rachael Haas, an up-and-coming designer honored by the Colorado chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers as a Rising Star.

Hot Spot: Against a dramatic Studio Como backdrop hangs the Moaré pendant lamp by Santa & Cole. Rachael sits on the Romeo sofa next to the Giano marble-topped coffee table, both by Flexform. The rug is the Dibbets Rainbow by Minotti. Photograph by Paul Miller.

Tell us about you and your interest in design:

“I’m a Denver native and just relocated back here after living in Seattle for three years. I recently graduated from Heritage School of Interior Design and am beginning my career. I graduated from Gonzaga University in 2018 with a degree in biology and environmental studies but quickly realized that career path didn’t suit me; there is not a lot of room for creativity, so I was unable to use that side of me that I really was craving. I love that design requires both creativity and problem solving to create a functional and beautiful space. I’ve always used art as a form of expression, but I also think my background in environmental studies will impact my work moving forward. I am interested in getting my LEED certification and using sustainable materials in all my projects. It is incredibly important to do research about materials and products to make sure they’ve been created with the environment in mind.”

Tell us about your winning project:

“I entered a commercial design project, a retail store for the outdoor gear retailer Backcountry. I chose this company as my ‘client’ because I wanted to combine my love of interior design and being outside and active. There were many goals for this project, but the most important one was making sure the store was completely ADA compliant. I always want to create spaces that allow everyone to enter and enjoy the design. I wanted to create an outdoor gear retail shop that is unusual for that industry; often, they look the same and have little to no interior design incorporated. Most of the time, the stores are big warehouses completely full of rows of clothing and gear. I also designed the exterior to be more modern and attractive to bring in new customers. There were multiple obstacles to overcome: There were various floor levels within the store where I had to either create a ramp or even out. There were walls I couldn’t remove or add windows to because there was another retailer on the other side. Finally, I couldn’t remove the columns within the store for structural reasons. However, there were also many small, fun elements I included in this design, such as some fun wallpapers that bring interest and color to areas in the store. I also created a couple of decorative light fixtures within SketchUp that use actual merchandise from Backcountry.”

Why design?

“Looking back, I’ve always been interested in design whether I knew it or not. I was constantly rearranging my room, painting my walls (thanks mom and dad!), and ripping out pages in home magazines. After realizing my research biology career wasn’t for me, I thought about what I have always loved to do: interior design.”

Describe your approach to the work:

“I always think about how the client, or any person, would feel walking into the space. Specifically with this project, I wanted anyone who walked in—no matter if they were ‘outdoorsy’ or not—to feel welcomed. A lot of the approach includes the logistics of space planning and making sure every inch is thought through and will feel natural once it comes to life.”

What does the future hold for you?

“Thinking big, I’d love to have my own firm one day. Until then, I am joining a small firm to continue to learn from professionals in the field.”