Born in New Hampshire, Elizabeth Samsa grew up in Duluth, the city she still makes her home today. She has been actively pursuing and molding her passion for design for as long as she can remember. It was while attending East High School that she discovered her love for interiors.
“The interior design program at STC (Secondary Technical Center) provided the opportunity to learn more about the profession and I quickly knew this was what I wanted to do. It has been a passion for me ever since. I had a wonderful mentor who encouraged me to pursue design as a career.” Through the program, she competed at state and national levels in interior design.
Following high school, Elizabeth went to the Art Institute of Chicago and Harrington College of Design, earning her BFA in interior design. While attending college, she came back to Duluth during the summers, working internships at several local design firms.
After college, she worked for a large firm in downtown Chicago for several years. However, with her family living in Duluth, it was a natural draw for her to return to the region she calls home.
Moving back to Duluth, Elizabeth took a job with SJA Architects as an interior designer, working with them since 2007. When TKDA acquired the firm last year, she stayed on. TKDA is an employee-owned, full-service architecture and engineering firm with multiple branch locations, including downtown St. Paul where she spends some time working as well.
“Every day is different for me, which is an aspect about the profession that I really love.” “I enjoy the collaborative process and working with clients to understand their goals. Making an end result cohesive, while bringing together the different visions of many people, is challenging but very rewarding,” she explains.
Completing the interior design for the new Duluth International Airport was a significant project for Elizabeth. TKDA teamed with the project architect RS+H to create an interior for the new terminal that embraced the natural character of the Twin Ports. “We wanted the space to be warm, inviting, and regionally appropriate.”
The positive response from the general public and people involved directly on the project has been overwhelming. “It is humbling to do what you love and have people enjoy it. Considering the time you put into a project and what a huge part of your life it becomes, for people to appreciate the result is very gratifying.”
Elizabeth was also the lead interior designer on the Zeitgeist Arts building downtown that now houses Teatro Zuccone, Zinema, and Zeitgeist Arts Cafe. She enjoyed the collaborative process of working with the A.H. Zeppa Foundation on an older downtown building to create a venue that celebrates the visual and culinary arts.
Her next big project at TKDA is working on the historic Norshor Theater. Working with Westlake Reed Leskosky, a firm that specializes in theater work and the Duluth Playhouse, Elizabeth is finding the project complex but fascinating. “It is an interesting mix of salvaging the historic Art Deco design and integrating modern theatrical technology and amenities,” she notes. “The rehabilitation project requires bringing the building up to code, making it accessible, and bringing it back to life.” The anticipated project completion date has not yet been released.
Elizabeth was married this past October to Ryan Samsa, an architect who works for CF Design in Duluth. The firm focuses primarily on high-end custom residential work in the region.
“We are both very invested in our work and that extends into what we do outside of work. We enjoy going to art exhibits, the theater, exploring buildings, and enjoying the design work of others. It is great to be married to someone who understands and is passionate about design,” Elizabeth says.
The couple enjoys living and working in downtown Duluth. “We are big advocates of urban living. It’s great to be able to walk to work and be so close to the restaurants, theaters, and other public amenities. We are both very interested in sustainable living practices,” she says.
Elizabeth is unsure about what the future will hold but knows that designing interiors will be an integral part of her life. “I want to continue to design and explore all kinds of project types. Design is necessary for all and can have a profound impact on the community. I’m grateful to be part of design teams and the process that contributes to the end result.”