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Meet the Curbed Young Guns Semifinalists: Allison C. Cooke

Curbed Young Guns, now in its first year, aims to identify promising up-and-coming talent (35 and under) in the fields of architecture, interior design, and urban development. For the next few weeks, Curbed National will run individual stories on each semifinalist; the inaugural class of Young Guns will be announced in mid August. In the mean time, though, here's a look at a semifinalist based in DC:

Indiana native Allison C. Cooke didn't necessarily plan to move to Washington DC after graduating, but her husband, whom she met as a college student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, was from the area, so it seemed like a natural fit for them to move back. Her first job out of school was at a large international firm, where she did corporate interiors and government work, but yearning for a smaller office—"where I could have more input and affect change a little bit more"—she joined the DC-based design firm CORE at the tail end of 2007.

Now Cooke, 34, is now CORE's director of hospitality design, a role that catapults her from marketing brainstorms and client meetings to concepting sessions with her team and "sitting down to just sketch and draw myself." "A lot of what I'm doing now is finding myself mentoring some of the even younger staff and bringing them up, and that's really gratifying," Cooke says, mentioning CORE's "very egalitarian, collaborative atmosphere."

With nearly a dozen projects under her belt so far, Cooke has already made quite an impact on the city's restaurant scene. "Allison has designed a number of high-profile projects in DC, and her spaces are all very unique and different from each other," says Eater DC editor Missy Frederick. "I'm always interested to hear the backstory on how she approaches a particular project—she clearly does her research and looks for historical inspiration; for example, how Del Campo's design relates to the estancia homes of South America. Restaurants like Minibar/Barmini, with its cactus couch and gold accents, as well as older places like Founding Farmers, are talked about as much for their interiors as they are for their cuisine, and that's a testament to the impact of Allison's work."

Head to Curbed National for Cooke's thoughts about green restaurant design, hunting down just the right fox-themed wall decor, and more. >>