Rhea Vaflor is Associate Principal and Director of Lifestyle at Hickok Cole, a forward-looking architecture and design firm based in Washington, DC. She is also an AIA Award-winning Licensed Interior Designer and LEED Accredited Professional with an MFA in Interior Design and an MA in International Development from George Washington University. Originally from the Philadelphia area, Rhea first moved to Washington, DC to pursue a career in international business development. Although this career path gave her the opportunity to travel extensively internationally and the job was fulfilling, she realized that her real love was design. Rhea takes inspiration from her travels as well as the worlds of dance, graphic design, cinema and fashion. And she passionately believes that the designer has a tremendous responsibility in creating a built environment that respects the health of our planet, positively impacts our interactions, and influences the future direction of our communities.
Today Rhea comes to us for Friday Five!
I like 10-15 minutes of meditation before diving into my day. I plug in my AirPods and lie flat on my back with my weighted blanket and cat nearby. I am a very energetic person so it helps me to spend this time with my thoughts. The type of meditation I do changes, but it is generally guided. I have a YouTube playlist called “The Work” with a curated list of around 100 meditation videos ranging from chakra balancing to positivity. I also experimented with the Wim Hof breathing technique for a while. It really impressed me because it’s so simple and yet so powerful.
I practice with crystals weekly. I set up three different matrices – one in my bedroom, one in my living room, and one near my work area – and changed them according to my weekly intentions and the goals I set. I have now set up one that deals with cultural identity, for example. I’m a very kinaesthetic person so moving my hands around so that I don’t just type as I find is like another form of meditation. The whole process is very therapeutic: you purify the crystals and the surrounding space and then state your intention. The three I’ve worked with the most are Obsidian for strength, Selenite for clearing (especially for stress), and Ocean Jasper for transformation.
3. Anime + science fiction
So much of my inspiration comes from these subcultural niches. There is so much innovation and creativity in anime and science fiction – especially in YA (Young Adult) novels. Some of my favorites are cowboy bebop and everything from Studio Ghibli, they are so beautiful and I love that the protagonist is usually a young woman who finds her strength. I’m drawn to the escapism aspect and the imagination in general, which I think translates well into design because I’m essentially building a world every day. One common thread I draw in anime is dystopia, not because I’m pessimistic, but because I see them as warning stories. They make me aware of my choices and that inspires me to live my best day every day.
4. Graphic design
I find graphic design a lot less formal than interior design. I like to look at what consumer companies are doing for inspiration. I like looking at products and packaging because they can convey a message even on such a small scale. They are usually also time and / or location specific – similar to a cultural snapshot. One of my favorite agencies where I can get inspiration is Sagmeister & Walsh. I admire their artwork and the strong female voice behind them. Her team also deals with creativity in a unique way. I also think it’s great that Jessica Walsh started her own creative agency & Walsh. They embrace rejuvenation and tranquility, something I think we could all use more nowadays, and take a short break to travel and gain new perspectives. I’ve tried to incorporate this way of thinking into my work style: I take small breaks in which I leaf through design or art books and see where my thoughts are going.
5. Self Care: Rihanna + Fenty Beauty
Rihanna is a polymath – so talented in music, fashion, beauty, social justice advocate, designer, etc. As a Brown person, Fenty Beauty was one of the first beauty brands to speak to me. The packaging is beautiful and modern, the color palettes suit all skin tones and the brand has a worldview. I love going to Sephora (before) to try different lipsticks and shades, but currently I can’t live in the shadow of Fenty Glow without my gloss balm. I see beauty as self-care and it can really change your confidence, which I learned from watching drag queen makeup tutorials on YouTube. Rhea Litré is my soul sister – she can contour the shit out of anything.