Alix Rios has returned to lead GFF Interiors. We had a few things to ask her.
You’ve just spent some time at another firm. What was the biggest thing you took away from your time there?
Third time’s the charm they say! This is my third stint at GFF due to life callings that have taken me elsewhere, but there really is no place like home. GFF has always been my family, and I have met many of my life-long friends here over the years. Leaving GFF was never an easy decision, but during those years away, my career was challenged with new project types ranging from the nitty gritty details of automotive retail up to a new multi-building ground-up corporate campus for a top Fortune 500 Company utilizing mass timber construction. I quickly learned how valuable TSA Precheck is, the amazing benefits of timber construction, and the impact design truly can have at a global scale. I’ve been inspired working with other designers with such a drive to better our planet and better the lives of one another through design, that my entrepreneurial spirit continued to rise up, and thus the opportunity to become GFF’s newest Studio Director was a no-brainer.
You came back to GFF to lead the Interiors Studio. What do you enjoy the most about the group?
Every person in the Interiors Studio has played a part in my journey becoming the Designer and Leader I am today. This truly is a group of individuals that continually lifts each other up, and does so with professionalism and unparalleled work ethic.
COVID-19 hit right as you were stepping into your new role. What has that been like?
I may have stepped into a new role with my return to GFF Interiors, but I was lucky to return to mostly the same great team. This team has been so supportive and flexible as we not only transitioned leadership, but transitioned to a fully remote workforce just weeks after my return. This transition has definitely not gone as I imagined, but it truly has brought us together quickly to solve new problems, become thought leaders during a time of rapid change, and been the catalyst for us to think hard about the new era of GFF Interiors and the potential we have to rise up with new purpose and clarity.
Your husband has probably gotten a more personal window into the ins and outs of your job while we work from home. What do you think he’s learned about you?
When it comes to our careers, my husband and I have always approached them very differently. He is a heads down, work hard, and sign off at 5:00 kind of guy, and admittedly, I am not. Because of COVID-19, I’m not rushing off each evening to check out a new project tour, attend committee meetings, or stay late at the office to help interns with their summer project. As much as I miss these things, it has allowed me to take a deep breath, step back, and find that balance once again, and my husband and I have enjoyed the extra time together surprisingly not talking about work. He may actually know less about what I do now, because I don’t come home at the end of the day and gab on and on about what happened while we were apart.
Where do you want to take the studio moving forward?
Design is a team sport, and my personal goal as Studio Director is to foster a positive environment for our team to encourage and grow each other, because if we grow each other, our capabilities will be boundless. I want the next era of GFF Interiors to be a strong group of industry leaders challenging design from concept to impact, and understanding the responsibility we have to provide a space that serves our clients, the community, and our environment.
You joined GFF originally in 2011. What about Dallas really strikes you as different during that time period?
I will be honest that I was hesitant to return to Dallas because I am a born and raised Dallasite, and was hungry to experience a new city, but if you remember 2011, the economy was still recovering from a major recession, and Texas was one of the few states with job opportunities. I decided a Dallas job was better than no job, and it turned out Dallas was evolving so quickly that it allowed me to be a part of projects that shaped it’s future, and nearly 10 years later, WOW!, what a difference. Uptown has become the live/work model, downtown continues to be revitalized via the Arts District, Victory Park, and of course Klyde Warren Park, and other neighborhoods have allowed diversity and small businesses to thrive. We still have a long way to go to connect our neighborhoods, but staying in Dallas is not a decision I regret.
What is your favorite spot in Dallas for tacos and a beer?
Being a University of Texas graduate, I have a soft spot for Torchy’s Tacos, but Tacos and Beer are food groups in my household, so I won’t deny the unlimited taco brunch at Cinco Taco, or cheap dinner dates to La Ventana’s patio. Rusty Taco, I’m sorry, but you don’t make the list. Velvet Taco, that Chicken Tikka taco has added pounds to my waist with no regrets. As for beer….that’s easy for me. 3 Nations Brewery has my heart.
We know that you’re a fan of chick flicks. Rank your top five in the genre.
That is definitely no secret. My favorites are not necessarily in any order, but top five stand-outs 1) Just Like Heaven 2) While you were Sleeping 3) Big Sick 4) Step Up 5) Mama Mia! Here We Go Again (It’s ok…you can judge).
What project or place that you’ve visited recently really moved you?
Travel is my release, and I travel for good food, good company, and a glass of wine. For those reasons, Rome has by far been my favorite place to visit. My husband and I felt at home walking from one family owned eatery to the next, site seeing on ancient ruins, and sipping wine with new friends made after surviving an afternoon downpour while learning to make pasta from a suburban Roman family.
What about being a Studio Director really plays to your strengths as a designer?
Ironically, many of my life-long friends I met at the University of Texas, but not just in the School of Architecture, but the School of Business. The way we each approach a problem or task is wildly different, and because of their influence in my life, becoming Studio Director didn’t feel so far-fetched. I’ve learned through watching them that there is not always an answer, but always a journey. While managing a portfolio of project budgets and schedules has given me a deeper understanding of what makes the gears turn for a project and our business, the ability to appreciate the process and to pivot as needed is invaluable as a designer.
GFF Interiors, although engaged in a wide variety of building types, is especially passionate about the design of the modern workplace. We are knowledgeable of industry trends, innovative and efficient in the layout of spaces and clever in capturing the spirit of a client’s corporate culture.