Cecilia Arroyo has the talent and the resume to work just about anywhere she wants.
The Washington State University-trained interior designer has had a hand in some high-profile projects — the 1 million-square-foot Loma Linda University Medical Center in California, the 240,000-square-foot birthing wing of a new addition to Bellevue’s Overlake Medical Center — and has demonstrated an ability to marry form and function in ways that appeal to both her clients and their users.
She has worked all over the country and has been a standout since her first stint with BOR, a post-master’s internship back in 2012. Sheri Brockway, a founding partner in the firm, knew Arroyo had a future in the business and hoped to one day rehire her.
“She always gave me great advice,” Arroyo said. “She was like, ‘Spread your wings, and come back whenever you’re ready to land.’”
So that’s what the Davis High School graduate did, working first for JPC Architects of Bellevue. Then, after a brief stint with Ankrom Moisan Architects, she moved to the Seattle office of NBBJ, the global architecture firm behind such projects as the Rainier Tower, the UCLA Pauley Pavilion renovation and scores of other high-profile public and private facilities.
It’s a big firm, in other words — the kind of place any interior designer would strive to work for — but Arroyo knew she didn’t want to end her career there. She and her husband, Sunnyside native Ali Velasco, had always planned to come back to the Yakima Valley to be close to their families and start one of their own. Arroyo, whose parents were migrant workers and who attended WSU with the help of the College Assistance Migrant Program, also figured she could do important work here.
“My goal was always to come back to the Valley and change some things here through design,” she said.
She and Velasco moved back in 2018 and already Arroyo has put her stamp on several projects important to the community, designing interiors for the Yakima Valley College west campus expansion, a Perry Tech remodel and the new preschool building at La Casa Hogar. That Casa Hogar project, in particular, was close to her heart because the Yakima nonprofit serves so many migrant workers and their children. It wasn’t a million square feet, and it probably isn’t going to be featured in Architectural Digest, but knowing she created a safe, functional and warm environment on a limited budget for a place she cares about was nevertheless a career highlight.
“It was an opportunity to work with a client with whom I had a cultural connection on a different level,” Arroyo said. She plans to stay in Yakima, too. She’s happy working with her mentor, Brockway, and she’s got plenty of work to do.
“I do see myself here,” Arroyo said. “I’m the only interior designer at the firm, so I’m very busy. I touch all of the projects.”