We recently had the chance to catch up with Contract magazine‘s associate editor, Mallory Szczepanski in New York. A recent transplant to both NYC and the design and architecture industry, Mallory’s seeing our world with fresh eyes and her enthusiasm shows in her work. Read on to learn about what’s exciting her in the contract space, what trends she’s seeing grow and change, and why she wants a fully-mirrored wall in her home.


AMMC: Tell us a bit about your background.
Mallory: I have been the associate editor for Contract magazine since September 2014. As the associate editor, I help write and edit articles and products for Contract. I also assist with the weekly and monthly e-newsletters, social media accounts, website management, and annual events.

Before Contract, I was the digital production editor for both Restaurant Business magazine and FoodService Director magazine in Chicago. I have worked with trade publications for about four years now and also have an extensive digital background, including website relaunches, social media and website management, and digital newsletter management. I graduated from Columbia College Chicago in 2011 and hold a Bachelor’s degree in journalism, with a focus in magazines.

AMMC: Are there any new contract spaces or products you’ve seen recently that really stand out?
Mallory: In February, we covered Jar RGB in our product newsletter and I really loved that lighting product. The light fixture features three or seven hanging glass jars that remind me of wine bottles. It also combines colorful blown glass with RGB color mixing.

I was really blown away by the El Guadual Early Childhood Development Center project in our March issue. I love that the architects took the community, children, and Colombia weather into consideration as they created this child development center. The center serves 300 children, offers resources for pregnant women, and acts as a community cultural space.

Jar FGB from Lasvit.

Jar FGB from Lasvit.

 AMMC: Contract design, like residential and hospitality design, is always changing and evolving. What are some of the big trends you’re seeing in contract spaces these days?
Mallory: I am constantly seeing more sit/stand options for office environments. Before, I was just seeing options for desks, but now meeting rooms and lounges are being added to that list. As someone who is very active, I appreciate the creative sit/stand options for working in an office. I also love open environment concepts. I know that open spaces aren’t necessarily new, but the new takes on the popular trend are exciting to me. I am also seeing more nature-inspired projects that feature plants, natural light and creative outdoor spaces.

 AMMC: Are there any previously-big design trends in the contract space that you think are slowing down, or that you wish would go away?
Mallory: A lot of spaces include some sort of bleacher stair, and while I get the idea of having the stair for a seating or meeting area, it just seems like it’s not an eye-catching feature anymore. I would like to see designers play more with seating and meeting spaces instead of defaulting back to the stair.

 AMMC: What is one element of interior design that you think can truly change the feel of a space?
Mallory: When I lived in Chicago, I had a very naturally lit apartment with a ton of windows. I never realized how much I appreciated that natural lighting until I moved to my studio apartment in New York with three small windows, one of which faces a brick wall. Natural lighting can open up a space, make it feel more homey and change your personal mood as well as the mood of the space. I also love pops of color and accent brick walls, both of which I have in my apartment now.

 AMMC: What is your personal favorite design piece/designer? Is there a dream product you would like to have in your own home?
Mallory: I don’t think that there is one piece that I would absolutely have to have, but I would love to have one wall in my apartment all mirror. I have been dancing since age three and I would love to have a space in my home for me to dance. Of course my studio apartment isn’t suitable for this right now, but someday it will happen! For my office, however, I would love a treadmill desk. I am so active that it’s hard to sit still at my desk throughout the workday.

A shot of the outdoor theater at El Guadual Early Childhood Development Center.

A shot of the outdoor theater at El Guadual Early Childhood Development Center.

 AMMC: As an editor, how do you ensure that you are communicating unique, exciting, new material to your readers? Especially in an age when communication is disseminated so quickly and widely online.
Mallory: As an editor, all eyes are always on you! You become the source that readers have to trust, and coming up with new, exciting material isn’t always as easy as it looks. Sure, there are a lot of trends and popular projects happening daily, but it’s not always something that Contract readers will enjoy. Since Contract is a strictly commercial design magazine, we have to make sure that what we select to feature is appropriate for our audience. I try to be as active as I can in both the design industry and social media so that I can connect with people in person and on the web. Contract also listens to feedback from its readers and takes into consideration what they would like to see more of.

 AMMC: Is there anything new and exciting coming up for Contract magazine that you can tell us about?
Mallory: We just recently launched the newly designed Contractdesign.com! I am so excited about this because I had a big hand in the process and I think it looks great.

Our products section is way easier to navigate and it’s broken down into specific sections and subsections. For example, the seating category can be sorted by task, lounge, chairs and stools, and benches.

The website features an updated news section that allows users to search by projects, competitions and awards, people, and events. The practice section of the site includes monthly healthcare articles by Perkins+Will, as well as business practice, design practice, healthcare design, and public interest design articles.

Contractdesign.com also has a new competitions page where readers can learn about our annual competitions and how to enter. Sponsored by Tandus Centiva, Contract’s Inspirations Awards is currently accepting entries! Designers can now enter commercial projects designed for a good cause. The deadline is April 17, 2015 and you can enter here.