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  • Writer's pictureBuild Forward


Updated: Feb 27

Join us for an in-depth interview with Annette Lewis, the project's lead designer, as we gain insight into the intricacies, challenges, and successes of designing for this particular commercial project.

Welcome back to our Betsy & Iya project blog series! If you need a refresher on how this project came about, and why it has a special place in our hearts, check out our previous blog in the series. Today, we have a Q&A with our lead designer, Annette Lewis, who had a crucial role in helping this project come together, and bringing Betsy & Iya's vision to life with all the specialized elements of a commercial space intended for their fine jewelry line (FIINA) considered.

A blonde woman with a ponytail standing at the opening of a fine jewelry store, surrounded by other guests and jewelry display cases.
Annette Lewis, Build Forward's Head of Design, at FIINA on opening night

Q: So, you (Annette) worked on the Betsy + Iya project for almost the entire duration, correct?

A: Yes, pretty much. They agreed to do the project in November and I joined the team in December, then Nathan (another Build Forward design team member) and I started working on it in January of last year together.

The project kicked off with inherited plans from past designers, providing a blank canvas for us to experiment and set sail creatively. With a tight budget in mind, we sought to

make a significant impact while ensuring financial feasibility. Funnily enough, when we met to propose our respective design plans for the project, they ended up being almost identical! It was clear that with the information we were given, our minds led us in the same direction solution-wise and creatively.

Q: Can you describe the approach to designing commercial spaces, particularly for a fine jewelry company, and how you balanced aesthetics with functional requirements unique to showcasing jewelry?

A: Lighting was a top priority, as emphasized by the Betsy + Iya team. Researching extensively, they aimed for warm, intimate lighting to complement the jewelry's allure and inclination towards 14k gold. Attention to detail, like lighting placement within the display cases, was crucial for showcasing the products accurately and enhancing the customer experience.

A jewelry display case showcasing fine gold jewelry, specifically rings.
View of one the many custom jewelry display cases on opening night

Q: How do you ensure that the space effectively highlights the products while also enhancing the customer experience layout-wise?

A: Collaboration with the retail manager highlighted the importance of security alongside customer flow. Strategic layout decisions, like utilizing partition walls to guide customers throughout the space and implementing visible displays with discreet and specialized security measures, helped us balance aesthetics with functionality in a way that satisfied everyone's needs.

A view of jewelry displays in a commercial space with custom lighting, and other decorative and functional design elements.
The jewelry displays at FIINA from afar. Image via @fiina_jewelry on Instagram.

Q: Would you say security was one of the biggest challenges design-wise?

A: Not in particular, I think the primary challenge was making the space feel special within the budget that we were working with. Lighting posed nerve-wracking moments, but meticulous planning and collaboration with suppliers and our excellent carpenters for specialized elements, such as the jewelry display cases and other custom shelving, ensured success.

Q: How long was the design process?

A: Roughly 6 months, with initial focus on floor plans and later stages dedicated to finishes, display cases, and lighting. Collaborative decision-making, such as Betsy + Iya's team's selection of lighting fixtures that happened to be exactly in line with what I had envisioned, contributed to the project's success.

It was truly the first project that I felt creatively aligned with me 100%. For other projects, I was able to express myself creatively and it was always for the client, but for the first time, the client had the same vision that I did which was really special. It’s truly my most proud moment of my entire career.

A view of a commercial space made for fine jewelry, with a table and chairs at the center, and a view of the stairs leading up to the second level mezzanine, illuminated by unique and warm lighting fixtures, and custom wall configurations.
Another angle of the FIINA showroom and their unique lighting fixtures. Image via @fiina_jewelry on Instagram.

Q: How was working with commercial clients different from working with homeowners?

A: Working with Betsy + Iya was unique due to their creative vision and clear direction. Collaboration with their specialized team and their strengths ensured alignment with brand identity, budget constraints, and customer needs, exemplifying the essence of design-build philosophy. We came with the approach of, “This is why we do design build. You give us a budget, and we are going to design something for that budget.” It truly highlights our process completely.

An outside view through the glass of a fine jewelry store with unique display cases, elaborate lighting, and guests buzzing indoors.
FIINA's unique and intriguing storefront on opening night

Build Forward's collaboration with Betsy & Iya on this project exemplifies the intricate balance between creativity, functionality, and client collaboration. Through meticulous planning, innovative solutions, and unwavering dedication, the team brought our client's vision to life, creating a space that not only showcases the beauty of FIINA, but also embodies the essence of the brand. Stay tuned for the next part of this series coming soon!

Inspired to embark on creating the unique space that your brand or business deserves? Reach out to us here or send us a message at to get started today.



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