Friday Five With Rhea Vaflor of Hickok Cole

Rhea Vaflor is Associate Principal and Director of Lifestyle at Hickok Cole, a forward-focused architecture and design firm based in Washington, DC. She’s also an AIA award-winning licensed interior designer and LEED accredited professional with an MFA in Interior Design and MA in International Development from George Washington University. Originally from the Philadelphia area, Rhea initially moved to Washington, DC to pursue a career in international economic development. Though that career path gave her the opportunity to extensively travel internationally and the work was fulfilling, she realized that her true love lay in design. Rhea draws inspiration from her travels as well as the worlds of dance, graphic design, cinema and fashion. And she passionately believes that the designer has an enormous responsibility in creating a built environment that respects the health of our planet, positively affects how we interact and informs the future direction of our communities.

Today Rhea joins us for Friday Five!

1. Meditation
I like to have 10-15 minutes of meditation before plunging into my day. I pop in my AirPods and lie flat on my back with my weighted blanket and my cat nearby. I’m a very energetic person, so having this time with my thoughts helps center me. The type of meditation I do changes, but it’s generally guided. I have a YouTube playlist called ‘The Work’ with a curated list of roughly 100 meditation videos from chakra balancing to procuring positivity. I’ve also been experimenting with the Wim Hof breathing technique for a while. It really resonated with me because of how simple yet powerful it is.

2. Crystals
I have a weekly practice of working with crystals. I set up three different matrices – one in my bedroom, one in my living room and one near my work area – and change them according to my weekly intentions and the goals I set. I have one set up now, for example, that’s about cultural identity. I’m a very kinesthetic person, so moving my hands in a way that isn’t just typing I find is like another form of meditation. The whole process is very therapeutic: you clean the crystals and the surrounding space and then you state your intention. The three I’ve been working with the most are obsidian for strength, selenite for clearing (especially for stress) and ocean jasper for transformation.

Princess Monokoe graphic

Image courtesy Studio Ghibli via HBO Max

3. Anime + Science Fiction
So much of my inspiration comes from these subcultural niches. There’s so much innovation and creativity in anime and science fiction – especially in YA (young adult) novels. Some of my favorites are Cowboy Bebop and anything by Studio Ghibli, they’re so beautiful and I love that the protagonist is usually a young woman finding her strength. I’m drawn to the escapism aspect, and fantasy in general, which I think translates well in design because I’m essentially world-building every day. A common thread I’m attracted to in anime is dystopia, not because I’m pessimistic but because I think of them as cautionary tales. They make me more aware of my choices and that inspires me to live my best day, every day.

models on rainbow background

Photo courtesy &Walsh via Adobe Creative Cloud

4. Graphic Design
I find graphic design to be a lot less formal than interior design work. I like to look at what consumer firms are doing for inspiration. I like looking at products and packaging because of how effective they can be in delivering a message, even on such a small scale. They’re typically more specific to time and/or place too – kind of like a cultural snapshot. One of my favorite agencies to check in with for inspiration is Sagmeister & Walsh. I admire their art work and the strong female voice behind it. Their team approaches creativity in such a unique way too. I also love that Jessica Walsh started her own creative agency &Walsh. They embrace rejuvenation and rest, something I think we could all use more of these days, and go on mini hiatuses to travel and gain new perspective. I’ve been trying to incorporate that mindset into my work style: I take mini restorative breaks where I’ll flip through design or art books and see where my mind goes.


Image courtesy of Fenty Beauty

5. Self Care: Rihanna + Fenty Beauty
Rihanna is a polymath – so talented at music, fashion, beauty, social justice advocate, designer, etc. As a Brown person, Fenty Beauty was one of the first beauty brands that spoke to me. The packaging is beautiful and modern, the color palettes are complimentary to all skin tones and the brand has a world view. I (used to) love going into Sephora to test different lipsticks and shades, but currently I can’t live without my Gloss Balm in the shade of Fenty Glow. I think of beauty as self-care and it really can transform your self-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.

Kelly Beall is senior editor at Design Milk. The Pittsburgh-based graphic designer and writer has had a deep love of art and design for as long as she can remember, and enjoys sharing her finds with others. When undistracted by great art and design, she can be found making a mess in the kitchen, consuming as much information as possible, or on the couch with her three pets. Find her @designcrush on social.