Atelier Winter 2021

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Winter 2021



atelier WINTER 2021  VOL. 3 / NO. 1 PRESIDENT David Sprouls CHIEF OF STAFF David Owens-Hill EDITORIAL AND ART DIRECTOR Christopher Spinelli CONTRIBUTING WRITER Jennifer Dorr PRINTING JMT Communications Jeff Tucker, President ADDITIONAL NYSID STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS SUPPORT Laura Catlan Phyllis Greer Leslie Robinson Natalie Utuciyan

New York School of Interior Design 170 East 70 Street New York, NY 10021 Atelier is published twice a year by the Office of External Relations for the alumni and friends of the New York School of Interior Design. It is printed on recycled paper with vegetable inks.

Who knew 2020 was going to be this way? The challenges have been beyond imagination, but so has the progress we’ve made as a community. I’ve never been more grateful to our staff and faculty as I am at the end of this year of hurdles and milestones. After COVID-19 temporarily closed our campuses last spring, we had to be on the offensive and defensive at the same time—that is, meet immediate demands and plan for an uncertain future. As we pivoted to provide 100% online learning, we had to figure out if we could function in the fall and give every student the option to fulfill their course requirements safely—in person or virtually. Thanks to the dedication of our staff and faculty, we opened the campuses, delivering the most choice and flexibility to our students in the safest way possible. We outfitted socially distanced classrooms at 70th Street, installed many new webcams, and increased our internet bandwidth. The faculty underwent training in the best practices of virtual teaching and hybrid flexible learning. If you want to learn more about how these changes have set NYSID on a course to better serve its students, check out “Toward a HyFlex Model” (pg. 14). The hard work has paid off—fall enrollment was the strongest it’s been in years. My gratitude extends to you, our supporters, who came through when some of our students’ lives were upended by the economic impact of COVID-19. Students lost jobs and internships; some had to give up apartments and move in with family. The Board of Trustees approved $100,000 of scholarship money to help these students through an emergency aid fund, as well as a new diversity fund. When we reached out to members of our interior design community for more help to keep talented students on track to graduate, you answered the call. We now give 20% of our students financial assistance, but we know we must do more. The need is growing, and so must our fundraising. Long before 2020, it became a priority of this institution to address the lack of diversity in interior design and make our College and profession more inclusive. In 2018, NYSID had the privilege of hosting a panel with the Black Interior Designers Network, which included alumna Beth Diana Smith (“Principled, Passionate & Entrepreneurial,” pg. 12). Listening to a frank conversation between Black designers about the challenges they have faced in interior design was eye-opening for me, and it strengthened my resolve to seek guidance from people who have perspectives different from my own. Last summer, we formed the NYSID Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Commission, an independent body of faculty, students, alumni, staff, and trustees. Co-chaired by trustee Cheryl Durst, faculty member Leyden Lewis, and registrar Jennifer Melendez, this group is diverse in terms of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, and ethnicity. The commission’s task is to identify the ways in which NYSID must change in order to attract and better serve students who are underrepresented in interior design education. Having the difficult conversations, listening to people in the minority, and acting on their insights are the ways in which we will make this College, and this profession, more diverse, welcoming, and equitable. The pandemic has reaffirmed that interior design is about more than aesthetics. It’s about creating interiors that make people safe and comfortable. It’s about designing spaces that protect us in the most stressful times. We’re honored to feature three alumni who work in the healthcare interior design sector (“Design that Saves Lives,” pg. 4). The timing of this article could not be more relevant. Thank you for your support in this year of unforeseen challenges. My hope is that 2021 will be healthy, happy, and productive for you and yours.

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Design that Saves Lives

Principled, Passionate & Entrepreneurial

Three Alumni Discuss Healthcare Design


A Chat with Beth Diana Smith ’14 (AAS)


Toward a HyFlex Model

NYSID Prioritizes Choice and Flexibility

Ask Yourself What the World Needs

Laying the groundwork for a BFA thesis project




VISUAL THINKER / Design Deconstructed Architect and interior designer Leyden Lewis, owner of Leyden Lewis Design Studio, has taught professional practice and studio courses at NYSID since 2016. We’re thrilled that he was named to ELLE Decor’s A-List for the second time in 2020. He’s a founding member of the Black Artists & Designers Guild, and one of two architects designing BADG’s Obsidian Virtual Concept House. A child of Trinidadian immigrants, he attributes the “joy and celebration” inherent in his way of seeing to his heritage.

Lewis designed this NYC apartment for a South African couple who uses the pied-à-terre as a vacation home. He says, “My clients live and breathe art, so everything in the space serves their huge and magnificent collection.” Lewis sought to create a “gallery for living” in which every line and color draws the eye to the art. The challenges were manifold. He says, “I had to create an architectural envelope that could both serve as a rotating platform for art, and be a backdrop that could stand up to the strength of the art.” The clients wanted to evoke the expansiveness of a SoHo loft, despite the fact that this apartment is compact. Lewis had the apartment stripped to the studs. Here’s how he reimagined it.


Lewis designed a large cube clad in back-painted glass panels to encompass the kitchen. The wall of the cube is detailed to allow for flexible rotation of the clients’ art collection. The late Columbian artist Ana Mercedes Hoyos was a friend of the clients, and her diptych watermelon painting is the foundation of the design, the only piece of art that does not rotate. The bronze fruit bowl and painting of women behind the couch are also by Hoyos.


The rustic, herringbone, reclaimed wood floor set against pristine white walls is a nod to the SoHo-esque inspiration.


Lewis layered a series of the same specified white in variations of lusters and sheens to elevate the space beyond a gallery. The walls are diamond-level white matte plaster; there’s pearl satin lacquer on the cabinetry, and the custom cube is polished white glass.


The photo on the far wall is by Thomas Ruff.


These Backenzahn stools can be used as seating, tables, or pedestals for art.




Interior as Installation




OVID-19 has made it clear that interior design is, at its core, about well-being. We sat down with three alumni in healthcare design, Elsie St. Léger ’10 (BFA), Peter Agnew ’15 (BFA)/’16 (MPSH), and Pál András Rutkai ’15 (MPSH), to discuss their careers in this rapidly evolving sector.

“What I’ve learned about healthcare design decisions made in the time of COVID-19 is to listen to the scientists, the people who are doing the research. We don’t have time to waste.” ELSIE ST. LÉGER ’10 (BFA)

Some of the alumni on these pages were set on becoming healthcare designers as undergraduates; others found their way into the healthcare sector by chance. All were wellprepared for their challenging and fulfilling careers. At NYSID, students are exposed to healthcare design through dedicated studio projects and a holistic way of teaching interior design that puts the health, happiness, and safety of end-users at the forefront of the discipline. The College also offers an interdisciplinary Master of Professional Studies in Healthcare Interior Design. Here’s the view from three very different jobs in healthcare design during this time of crisis and innovation.


ELSIE ST. LÉGER ’10 (BFA) Interior Designer and Assistant Project Manager NYU Langone Health

DESIGNING FROM WITHIN A HOSPITAL SYSTEM Preparing NYU Langone Health for the onslaught of COVID-19 patients that stretched the hospital beyond its limits last spring was not in Elsie St. Léger’s job description. She threw herself into the task anyway. The interior designer and assistant project manager is a member of the interiors department of NYU Langone Health’s Real Estate Development and Facilities division. The team of five manages about 13 million square feet of healthcare, research, education, and administration spaces, and St. Léger’s purview is the design of outpatient spaces that host a variety of services, including annual checkups, neurological treatments, and flu shots. “Many of us who work in the design departments of hospitals are trained interior designers or architects,” she says. “Here at NYULH, we work in collaboration with design firms. Our job is to be an informed client. Once the design firm completes their projects, we live with it and research how it works. We do post-occupancy evaluations every year.” The team creates long-term strategies for the design of healthcare spaces. Of course, this is a description of St. Léger’s job in normal times, and 2020 has been anything but normal. When thousands of patients began streaming into NYULH’s emergency departments with symptoms of COVID-19 last

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spring, St. Léger and the interiors team, which consists of two other project managers and one intern (who happens to be recent NYSID BFA graduate Monica Seroiczkowski ’20), were tasked with adapting the hospital for the unprecedented health crisis and the impact of a disease medical researchers were only beginning to understand. All of St. Léger’s outpatient projects were put on hold, and the team began working from home and communicating via FaceTime and WebEx. NYULH had completed construction on the stateof-the-art Kimmel Pavilion in 2018, so the older building on the Manhattan campus, Tisch Hospital, had several empty floors slated for renovation that the team was responsible for transforming at lightning speed. They also had to erect and outfit tents for coronavirus testing and critical care. “The trades would come in on a Friday,” says St. Léger, “and have to get the project finished by Monday. It was non-stop.” St. Léger’s boss, Jennifer Eno, NYULH’s director of interiors, is the hospital system’s lead on all interiors, including inpatient, so St. Léger had to make herself useful within a team that was working 12-hour days under tremendous pressure. While studying at NYSID, St. Léger worked as an intern for Jamie Drake, co-owner of Drake / Anderson, then joined the Saladino Group in 2007 as a junior designer, where she was responsible for the materials library and cultivating relationships with vendors. Both jobs were incredible learning experiences, and ever since, she has been especially skilled at sourcing. “Everyone on the NYULH team has a strength,” she says, “so we balance each other out. I had the market contacts, so during the crisis, that became my thing. I helped negotiate with vendors and got things we might normally get in three months, in ten days.” •

During the Pandemic and Beyond



LISTENING & COLLABORATING The pandemic made collaboration and communication of utmost importance. “We identified which rooms would be turned into COVID-19 patient rooms,” says St. Léger. “We turned doubles into singles and did away with the guest chairs. We had to retrofit rooms into negative-pressure rooms so contaminated air from the sick spaces didn’t flow into the corridors, and we had to work very closely with both clinical engineering and nursing,” she says. “We added HEPA filtration systems to rooms that hadn’t been used for a year…We even turned a bike-storage room into a COVID testing site.” The team had to take in information from many sources and apply it to design decisions at breakneck speed. Says St. Léger: “What I’ve learned about all healthcare design decisions made in the time of COVID-19 is to listen to the scientists, the people who are doing the research. We don’t have time to waste.” St. Léger was involved in the design strategy for NYULH’s state-of-the-art Kimmel Pavilion. She has helped design many more beautiful spaces than those she created during the height of the first wave of the pandemic, but this critical design response is the work she is the most proud of. She says, “NYULH lost many staff members—not just doctors, but also nurses, clerks, technicians, and physicians assistants and others. Many of these individuals volunteered to work in the COVID units. The experience gave us all PTSD, and I wasn’t even on-site giving the care. This has only increased my focus on using design to improve the lives of the people who work in hospitals.”



DESIGNING FOR THE CAREGIVERS St. Léger says the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified a movement in healthcare design toward approaching hospitals and clinics as workplaces with valuable employees. Break rooms and amenities for employees who need a refuge from emotionally taxing work are becoming more commonplace in hospitals. St. Léger says this makes good business sense because it helps the hospital retain talent and keep employees healthy and functioning. As she oversees the design of a healthcare space, she’s focused on the comfort and well-being of its employees. For example, she says, “Doctors have desks, but they don’t really have desk jobs. They have to get up all day to see patients, so we have to make sure our doctors are not going to hit their knees on the under-counter storage.” A small detail like this can drastically impact user experience. St. Léger says the COVID-19 pandemic has also accelerated a movement toward the construction of preventative-care spaces, such as ambulatory care centers, in healthcare design. Testing, whether for SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, or breast cancer, not only saves lives—it’s also a growing profit center for hospitals. FINDING HER WAY TO HEALTHCARE DESIGN St. Léger never dreamed of working in the healthcare sector of interior design, but she loves her career. She is a child of immigrants, and didn’t have models of interior designers in her life when she was growing up. She recalls: “I always had an interest in design, especially architectural history. I just wasn’t aware of careers in design.” After college, she worked


as a writer and copy editor. She started taking classes at NYSID, one at a time, in 2004 because she was more than a design fan or just an avid reader of Architectural Digest and Interior Design. She wanted to attend a school with plenty of other career changers. She started with a color class and kept going, obtaining the AAS in 2008. She then took the plunge and went full-time for the BFA. At NYSID, she dreamed of working on the design of schools, because she cares deeply about creating educational equity for children of color, but she graduated in 2010, smack in the middle of a recession. Finding a job was difficult. St. Léger pushed herself to network, even though she describes herself as a quiet person. She had joined the IIDA (The Commercial Interior Design Association) and ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) as a student and continued to attend panels and networking events while working a sales job she disliked. “At every event, I made myself raise my hand and ask a question.” One of the people she connected with through this strategy was NYSID alumna Jennifer Graham, currently an associate principal at Perkins & Will, who in 2009 co-founded LMNOP, a professional development organization for the A&D community. Graham became a mentor and friend to St. Léger and, in 2012, encouraged her to apply for an interiors coordinator job she’d heard about at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. St. Léger says, “I thought I wanted to do education design, because I wanted to help Black boys and girls find the means to get ahead in the world. I found a job in healthcare design and thought, ‘Well, it’s adjacent to education design in that it’s not designing for the 1%. It’s designing for everyone.’ It turns out that I love the community aspect of healthcare design. I tell young designers: ‘Stay open, stay curious, because you never know where you’re going to land’.” MENTORING OTHERS St. Léger says, “It’s important to give back to an industry that has given me so much.” She is both a board member and the president-elect of the New York Chapter of the IIDA. Her intern, recent graduate Monica Seroiczkowski ’20 (BFA), says, “Elsie is just amazing. When she found out I was close to graduating, she automatically treated me as part of her design family.” DIVERSE REPRESENTATION MATTERS St. Léger is passionate about opening doors for other designers of color and creating more diversity in the design industry. “The other thing that has come to the forefront in this pandemic is the inequality in our society,” she says. “There are not enough varied voices in the industry, and I am very aware of being one of the few black designers in the healthcare sector. Our sector needs more Black voices, more women, more Asians, and more Latinx people at the table. When you have diverse voices, you create a stronger product, help nurture better patient experiences and outcomes, and you have a happier workforce… Representation matters.”

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PETER AGNEW ’15 (BFA)/’16 (MPSH) Associate Interior Designer Perkins Eastman

WORKING IN A HEALTHCARE DESIGN STUDIO When we caught up with NYSID alumnus Peter Agnew ’15 (BFA)/’16 (MPSH), his team at Perkins Eastman was just days away from the opening of the first of three “Post-COVID Centers of Excellence” for New York City Health + Hospitals, the public healthcare system of New York City. This particular center is located in the Bronx, in an underserved and minority community, where frontline workers and their families have suffered in extremely high numbers from COVID-19. Agnew is used to working on “big healthcare projects for big firms” that take many years to complete, but COVID-19 and this project in particular have drastically changed timelines for his team. Agnew’s studio must design for the new realities and codes that come with COVID-19, but also create spaces flexible enough to be changed when coronavirus protocols are no longer necessary. “This is the most fast-tracked project I have ever worked on,” says Agnew. “It’s been challenging. It was essentially design-build and the entire scope of work, from space planning, to user sign-off, medical equipment planning, and the selection of interior finishes and fittings all had to occur with a seriously compressed project delivery date.” In addition to designing six feet of distance between waiting room areas, workspaces and nurse stations, Agnew and his coworkers must select materials and finishes that can stand up to rigorous cleaning regimes while still delivering comfort and aesthetics. He says, “The challenge of healthcare design is to deliver on the functionality while still providing comfort and beauty for the patients, family, and staff. After all, staff work in these spaces for many hours a day.” Agnew finds this pace stressful yet satisfying because the interiors he’s creating for New York City Health + Hospitals will directly impact hard-hit communities during a critical time, providing opportunities for vital services like OB-GYN, dental, imaging, and mental health counseling. His challenge is to make healthcare spaces beautiful, welcoming, functional, cost-efficient and safe, and he loves that his work enables him to use his talents to help people less fortunate than him. The projects he is most proud of are those projects in which he has had a hand in delivering beautiful, contemporary, comfortable spaces to hospital systems that have dealt with aged infrastructure and interiors for many years. He says, “Being able to bring joy to patients, as well as staff, is a great feeling.” He helped Mount Sinai West create a welcoming, open-plan neonatal intensive care unit, designed to solve the problem of isolation among the mothers of babies in intensive care. While at CannonDesign, he also worked on a redesign of the Women’s and Children’s Pavilion at St. Joseph’s Health in •





Paterson, New Jersey, a small hospital that serves a diverse, working-class community. HIS PATH TO HEALTHCARE DESIGN Agnew earned his BFA at NYSID. He loved the small class size and the fact that his professors were all practicing designers. He says, “I still hear my drafting instructor, Ann Barton, whispering in my ear as I work.” At NYSID, Agnew was exposed to multiple healthcare projects through his studio courses. “I took an instant liking to healthcare design,” he says. “There’s the altruistic side of it, creating the spaces that help sick people heal. There’s also the challenging aspect of healthcare design. It’s not just designing to make something pretty; it’s space planning to meet the needs of the staff, patients, and families. I’ve always loved the programming part of the work.” Agnew was so taken with his undergraduate exposure to healthcare design that after he graduated in 2015, he went right into the Master of Professional Studies in Healthcare Interior Design (MPSH) at NYSID. He says, “This has been a really useful qualification in my career. Potential employers were impressed by the specificity of my training and portfolio coming out of this program.” He landed his first job in the healthcare studio at CannonDesign directly out of the MPSH program. He says, “There’s a really good career path when you choose healthcare design, whether there’s a recession or not.” INSIDE A HEALTHCARE STUDIO AT A LARGE FIRM Agnew works in Studio 6, the healthcare design studio at Perkins Eastman. The firm employs about 450 people, and Studio 6 has about 60 employees, including interior designers, architects, medical planners, and principals. Agnew usually works on several projects at once. “I do a lot of conceptual work in preparation for client presentations, that is, translating knowledge about the user group into drawings and elevations (conceptual three-dimensional drawings that convey a design idea),” he says. “Documentation is a big part of what we do: we need to be able to communicate to contractors about things as tiny as a millwork detail showing the design intent of a nurse station or reception desk. Selection of furniture and finishes is only a small part of what we do as interior designers.” Agnew believes his sector of interior design is gradually becoming more focused on sustainability and healthier building materials, and he says this is a priority at Perkins Eastman. “Why not select bio-based sheet or tile flooring or a carpet tile with a negative-carbon backing for a healthcare environment?” he wonders. “It’s becoming easier to specify healthier materials, especially with tools like the Mindful Materials Database. It’s our responsibility as healthcare designers to make decisions about the long-term health of the patients and providers who will be using the interiors we create for the next 10 to 20 years.”

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PÁL ANDRÁS RUTKAI ’15 (MPSH) Founder and Principal of Healing Spaces, a healthcare design consultancy

TRANSFORMING HUNGARY’S HEALTHCARE INFRASTRUCTURE Pál András Rutkai ’15 (MPSH) lives and works in Budapest, Hungary. Within his nation’s universal healthcare system, overcrowded and out-of-date facilities are common. Rutkai’s mission is to help change that. His parents and grandparents are doctors, but as a young man, Rutkai never expected to find himself in any aspect of the medical profession. Interior design and architecture were his passions, and he received his Master of Science in Architecture at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics in 2011. “When I started interning, I went to a large local firm and ended up in a studio that focused on hospitals,” he remembers. “At first, I was overwhelmed by the sheer scale and complexity of healthcare projects, but later I got drawn to the way of thinking required to tackle these challenges. I realized how much influence the spaces that we design can have on health outcomes. It turned my job into a calling.” Rutkai worked at architecture firms in Hungary for several years, and also in the U.K.—for the prestigious Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios—before he came to understand that the most fulfilling part of his work was the healthcare projects. •



He says, “It’s a nurse who holds someone’s hand in a tough situation; it’s a family member by the patient’s side in a crucial moment. But it’s the healthcare designers who create spaces that allow for these interactions.” A BRIDGE BETWEEN CULTURES Rutkai felt that he needed exposure to the innovations of healthcare systems in the West to stay ahead of the curve and optimize his impact on his projects in Central Europe. He applied for a Fulbright grant to study in the Master of Professional Studies in Healthcare Interior Design at NYSID, and he got it. “The local healthcare infrastructure is in great need of refurbishment and this need was recognized at the Hungarian Fulbright Commission,” says Rutkai. NYSID offered Rutkai entry into the world of U.S. healthcare design in many ways. “Our teachers were working for leading firms or prestigious healthcare institutions and they could share with us the most up-to-date knowledge. Through the school’s vast network, we could visit state-ofthe-art facilities and go to trade shows throughout New York City. The student team was a unique experience as well,” he says. “Our diverse backgrounds, not only in architecture or interior design, but also in healthcare administration or social work, meant that the team had to find a way to work together, just like in a real project-development environment.” Rutkai won NYSID’s Chairman’s Award upon his graduation from the MPSH program, and used the award to finance a research trip to 17 hospitals in 11 states.


BRINGING INNOVATION HOME Typically, budgets are strict and spaces tight in the design of Hungarian hospitals. Many Hungarian healthcare professionals who go abroad, stay abroad, but Rutkai’s purpose was to bring design innovation back to the healthcare infrastructure of his country, and to help hard-working doctors like his parents save lives. He worked for Zoboki Design and Architecture, and ÁEEK, the Hungarian National Healthcare Services Center, before striking out in 2018 to start his own healthcare design consultancy. WHAT A HEALTHCARE DESIGN CONSULTANCY DOES As an independent healthcare design consultant, Rutkai is hired either by architectural design firms or hospitals. He says, “I usually find myself between the hospital leadership, the hospital’s steering committee, and the hospital’s doctors, and on the other side there is the designer and the medical planner. I’m a bridge. I shape the conversation. I bring in innovation. I educate about the newest achievements in healthcare design and I help the design firm get the buyin from hospital leaders.” Oftentimes, Western European architecture firms working on huge hospital projects hire him to provide knowledge of the way the Hungarian medical system works, and to create solutions that bridge cultures. Local firms that want to follow U.S. standards go to Rutkai for his international perspective. Evidence-based design is at the heart of everything Rutkai proposes, and this is a focus that was instilled in him at


NYSID. He draws on research to make his clients understand how innovations can increase efficiencies, improve outcomes for patients, and make caregivers more productive. He says, “I was working on the operating theaters of a hospital. As it was built originally, each room had its own preparation area and washing station. This wasted space, and it was difficult and time consuming for the nurses, because they had to do preparations in separate rooms. We used research to convince the client to go with a centralized area for preparation and sanitation that connected to all of the operating theaters.” His design allowed the hospital to build larger operating rooms and to use fewer nurses. He says, “A building designed in an efficient way has the ability to save more lives with fewer resources.” In the less than two years since Rutkai started his own company, Healing Spaces has won major awards and attention. His small, start-up firm won second place in an international competition to design the South Buda Center, a 2.2 million square feet facility with 1,200 beds that will be the backbone of a new hospital infrastructure in his nation’s capital. Healing Spaces did not ultimately win the bid, but news of the success put the company on the map. Rutkai is now collaborating with the Hungarian firm Zoboki Design and Architecture, and the Austrian firm, Architects Collective, on a major project because their entry won first place in the South Pest Hospital international design competition. Healing Spaces is helping these two firms design what will become the largest hospital in Budapest. A FIELD THAT’S CHANGING OVERNIGHT “Flexibility and accounting for change has always been a cornerstone of healthcare design,” says Rutkai, “COVID-19 is pushing us to new extremes in this, requiring us to imagine spaces that can adapt quickly and in a cost-efficient way.”

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He adds, “Clients are asking for architectural and interior design solutions that help to decrease patient and caregiver exposure.” COVID-19 has been traumatic for hospital workers. Healthcare designers are considering how the built environment can support the mental health of care providers. Rutkai explains, “Providing breakout spaces and places of respite for healthcare workers got value engineered out of most projects in the past. Extraordinary work and emotional load during the pandemic accelerated burnout problems among staff and there is a greater focus now on preventing this.” EVERY DECISION MATTERS Rutkai feels tremendous pressure to help clients make the right design decisions, because he knows the hospitals he creates will be places that will serve communities for decades. Understanding the ways his work impacts health outcomes drives him. He says, “Design has a profound impact on the mindset of patients and caregivers, which results in better outcomes. But sometimes design is even more directly involved in saving lives. There are cases in which literally every second counts. Designing functional links, like connecting a heliport to the right part of an emergency room, can save time through design, which means design can also save lives.” •

“Flexibility and accounting for change has always been a cornerstone of healthcare design. COVID-19 is pushing us to new extremes in this, requiring us to imagine spaces that can adapt quickly and in a cost-efficient way.” PÁL ANDRÁS RUTKAI ’15 (MPSH)




A Chat with Alumna Beth Diana Smith

“I was absolutely tired of working for someone else after so many hours in corporate, and so many weeks spent traveling and not being home. I decided to put all the energy and time I was putting toward someone else toward myself instead.”



hen we caught up with Beth Diana Smith ’14 (AAS), she was managing her booming small business through the COVID-19 pandemic, and still finding time to volunteer on the New York School of Interior Design’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Commission. Before she sought out her Associate of Applied Science degree at NYSID, Smith received her MBA from Seton Hall University and worked in corporate finance for more than a decade. She started attending NYSID on nights and weekends in 2011. She left corporate finance for good and enrolled full-time in 2014 for just one semester to finish her degree. She muses, “Design was a bug that bit me around the age of 30, and I couldn’t shoo it away!” Even before she graduated, she founded Beth Diana Smith Interior Design, and used her business acumen and particular brand of joyful maximalism to attract a wide array of clients. She’s a member of House Beautiful’s Advisory Board and of the Black Artists + Designers Guild (BADG). In 2017, she was named one of the Black Interior Designers Network’s Top 10 Emerging Designers. She’s been active in the NYSID community, advising the school’s leadership through the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Commission and mentoring students in last summer’s Nantucket by Design. In this interview, she shares her story and her convictions. Why did you become an interior designer? The reason I obsess over interiors and want them to be perfect is that when I was in college, my mom got very sick and had to go live with my brother. So, I bounced around from place to place while I was in college. Not having a home for those years made me realize how important home is to me. A home is supposed to be your refuge, your oasis—a place to laugh, be happy, and find peace—and I’m painfully aware too many people don’t have that. Yet you still had the guts to quit your corporate job, and start your own firm before your graduation from NYSID. Why? I was absolutely tired of working for someone else after so many hours in corporate, and so many weeks spent traveling and not being home. I decided to put all the energy and time I was putting toward someone else toward myself instead. I was empowered on the business side of design because I had a corporate background. Everything happens for a reason. I don’t regret my finance background because the knowledge has helped my business, and I’m pretty happy with how things turned out.

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You mentioned you’re very busy, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. How are you conducting business in the “new normal”? When the lockdown started, we went entirely virtual. Now we are back on installations and in-home consultations in the tri-state area. Everyone works with masks and gloves, at a distance, and there is never a reason to be inside the client’s house without a mask. I make sure the installers, electricians, and artisans are staggered even if it takes longer. It’s not debatable. I want to protect my subcontractors in the same way I protect my clients. You were way ahead of the curve in e-design. Has that helped you during the COVID-19 pandemic? Before this, only 5% of my business was e-design and not much has changed. E-design is about different deliverables at a lower price. With e-design, I don’t execute the design or meet in person, but I provide the plans, specs, and shopping list. It’s popular with young people, and I thought it was smart to do because today’s e-design client might be tomorrow’s million-dollar client. Yet even during COVID, most of the clients who hire me opt for full service. Are you feeling the impact of activism within the design community by groups such as the Black Artists + Designers Guild (BADG)? Are doors that have been closed to Black designers beginning to open? Now that we are going through this new civil rights movement, many companies feel like they have to address the lack of diversity because if they don’t they are going to lose business. Companies don’t want to get called out. The change is being driven by consumers who demand more diversity, and by Black designers. I only put my business into companies and organizations that have actively cared about diversity all along. I consider NYSID one of those organizations driven by morality, because I have been having conversations with Phyllis Greer, David Sprouls, Hannah Batren, and Ellen Fisher about addressing the lack of diversity in design since 2018 after the Black Interior Designers Network panel was held at NYSID. What’s your best advice for emerging designers of color? Do your best work. Don’t compete with anyone but yourself. Ignore the naysayers. Own who you are and the color of your skin. When you walk into a place and you are the only person who looks like you, your goal should not be to shrink, but to flourish and show everyone there should be a lot more people who look like you in the room. Surround yourself with a design tribe. Network and build relationships from a place of giving and not receiving. This has helped me along the way. •



Toward a HyFlex Model NYSID Prioritizes Choice and Flexibility


ong before the COVID-19 pandemic forced NYSID to temporarily close its campus last March and move classes online, the College was developing a hybrid flexible model with online, in-person, and experiential components. The pandemic accelerated this process, forcing NYSID to undergo years of digital transformation in mere months.



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Hybrid flexible learning (HyFlex) refers to an educational model that combines traditional classroom experiences, experiential learning, and digital course delivery to give maximum choice to students and instructors. A true HyFlex model is neither fully online nor face to face: It uses technology to create a learning environment designed to support students wherever they may be. In a HyFlex course, for example, a parent whose child spikes a fever can decide to stay home and join his on-site studio digitally so he won’t miss a beat; or an instructor might choose to teach furniture detailing in person on Tuesday, give an online Zoom lecture on Thursday, and take her class to a furniture showroom on Friday. For years, NYSID has been able to offer more choice and increased access through distance learning. The Basic Interior Design Certificate (BID), Associate in Applied Science in Interior Design (AAS), and Masters of Professional Studies in Sustainable Interior Environments (MPSS) have been offered remotely for years. The Masters of Professional Studies in Lighting Design (MPSL) is now offered fully online. The College has received permission from the New York State Education Department and the Office of the Professions to develop an online Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design. This program will open for applications soon. When the pandemic closed NYSID’s facilities last spring, the leadership of the College knew that it had to prepare for every eventuality in the fall. “We knew, even in the spring, that our strategic goals would be flexibility and choice,” says Ellen Fisher, PhD, vice president for academic affairs and dean, who has an MA from Columbia’s Teachers College in Computing in Education, and additional graduate degrees earned through online learning. “We had to bring a reduced number of students back to campus safely, in socially distant classrooms. We needed to allow for people who might be physically compromised or vulnerable, or living with a family member in that situation, to be able to choose an entirely virtual schedule. We needed to work with the technology department to redesign and prepare every inperson classroom so that a student quarantining from home could join their class in real time using videoconferencing technology. We used what we learned from the spring course evaluations and teacher feedback to refine our faculty training and become better versed in using technology as a tool for teaching. In short, NYSID’s administrators, faculty, and technology staff worked harder than ever before to offer the most choice, flexibility, and safety to students, accomplishing in a few months what might have taken years, were there not a crisis.”



There are now three kinds of courses being offered to students: ¡ DL—asynchronous online courses that allow students to do their work on their own schedule. ¡ DR—“real-time” or synchronous online courses taught in Zoom with live interaction between the students and faculty. ¡ On-site—courses that happen both online and in person at the same time. Students can join from home via Zoom while their peers are on-site in a traditional classroom. All of these courses are organized and run through Canvas, the College’s learning management system (LMS). NYSID is now much closer to becoming a HyFlex institution. Says Fisher, “This concept of maximum flexibility is the future of higher education. Choice is good for people. This is especially true of a school like ours with a nontraditional demographic of individuals who have jobs, children, and other responsibilities. HyFlex learning gives working adults the freedom to fit higher education into their lives, on their terms. I know this firsthand, because I could never have completed my doctorate without the option of distance education.” UNDERGRADUATE PROGRAMS For fall 2020, undergraduate students had the choice of a virtual schedule, with online studios and lecture courses, or a partially on-site program, with in-person studio courses at the 70th Street facility and lectures online. The in-person studios had to be HyFlex, so that if the need arose for students to quarantine and participate from a distance, they could. Richard Todd Class, NYSID’s assistant dean, oversaw important physical and technological changes to the classrooms. The technology department upgraded the school’s internet bandwidth to handle the increased usage that comes with using Zoom. New projectors and screens


were installed in classrooms. At 70th Street, student and faculty desks now have webcams/mics to facilitate HyFlex classes. In the rooms used for studios, there are overhead cameras so that students can not only view the instructors’ faces on screen, but also view the instructors’ hands as they draw or demonstrate on the desktop. Though NYSID does not have pure HyFlex classrooms, which ideally resemble a Hollywood production studio, the College has made tremendous technological strides in every classroom. In person classrooms were “twinned” at 70th Street, with fewer workstations in each room so that desks may be spread out and students may remain six feet apart. This means the instructor can move between two classrooms, broadcasting via Zoom on a screen in each. There’s evidence that this trial by fire is working for NYSID and its learning community. At the end of the spring semester, which was entirely online, 95.6% of students responded to course evaluations. Anecdotal and statistical evidence pointed to high student satisfaction with the digital format of classes. “Once, we thought there was no way you could replicate the studio experience virtually, but last spring, we found the exact opposite to be true,” says Barbara Weinreich, director of undergraduate programs, who teaches a variety of residential, commercial, and thesis studios at NYSID. “In Zoom, you

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see your students’ faces in an array, closeup, and I believe students are more engaged and the class feels more intimate because we can all see the expressions on each others’ faces. We thought the drawing and the drafting would be the most problematic part of teaching online, but in many ways, it has worked. Teachers can use the whiteboard in Zoom to draw in real time, and this has been a fabulous communication tool. You can also take over the students’ screens and annotate their work in real time.” GRADUATE PROGRAMS The Masters of Professional Studies in Sustainable Interior Environments (MPSS) was close to a HyFlex model even before the pandemic. Starting in 2019, students in the distance MPSS program joined their NYC-based peers virtually, and collaborated in a hybrid classroom. Students in the MPSS and MPSL (Masters of Professional Studies in Lighting) were given the choice of creating their own schedule and attending the in-person studio classroom, or joining from a distance. As it turns out, all MPSL students chose the 100% online option and studied from a distance this fall. The MPSS cohort is an integrated group of distance and in-person students as usual. Students in both MFA programs, the professional-level Master of Fine Arts (MFA1) and the post-professional Master •




of Fine Arts (MFA2), were given the option of going 100% online or 100% on-site this fall. MFA2 students were also given the option to start in January. At the Graduate Center, desks are large and already appropriately spaced for the COVID era, and class sizes are very small, usually with no more than 14 students. The podiums at the Graduate Center have been upgraded to tables with webcams, so that in-person classes can become HyFlex for individuals if necessary. In the MFA programs in particular, the students’ peers within a “studio cohort” are an extremely important part of the graduate experience because this replicates the collaborative studio environments that exist in design and architecture firms. This model is an integral part of the MFA1 experience; therefore, all MFA1 students, whether studying on-site or online, are in dedicated studios, with all their classmates attending via the same delivery system. Barbara Lowenthal, associate dean, says, “There is definitely value in being in the room with your teacher and peers, but some studio learning has been even better online. For example, the faculty who taught the two-week design basics summer workshop for our incoming MFA students who have no art background raved about the quality and creativity of the work. The online students had fewer distractions working from home and were more resourceful in their use of materials, using tea bags, dried flowers, and even cardboard boxes in their projects.”

CONSTANTLY IMPROVING ONLINE INSTRUCTION Freya Van Saun, coordinator of online and blended learning, was the person responsible for getting faculty members trained to bring their on-site courses into a “DR” online format when the College closed its physical spaces last March. She’s worked 12-hour days for months, yet she’s more focused on the efforts of others. “The faculty was extraordinary,” she says. “They enthusiastically put in tremendous time and effort to make it all happen.” The spring course evaluations were reassuringly positive and included anecdotes from instructors and students that shed light on how to improve the overall online experience of studios. Working closely with Ellen Fisher, Van Saun integrated all of this feedback into a series of summer training sessions, in which over 70 NYSID faculty members took part. These sessions were collaborative so the faculty could share what they had learned with each other. Says Van Saun, “The perception that online education should cost less than in-person education bothers me. It takes time, training, technology, software, and specialized personnel, in addition to dedicated faculty, to create a good online learning experience. We can’t replicate physical presence, but we can support faculty and students in using digital tools to create community in other ways. People come out of DL and DR courses that are done right with deep learning and real contacts and friendships. Online learning can’t be a discounted product because it costs colleges more, and it’s the future.”


PREPAREDNESS WITH PERKS NYSID is ready to support any student who needs to isolate— and the whole community—if another lockdown happens and the College has to go fully online again. Says Van Saun, “The faculty is well-prepared to deliver online courses no matter what happens.” This is the value of HyFlex course design and NYSID’s approach. In addition to all of this preparedness and flexibility, there is an exciting perk that comes with having a distance component in every classroom. Our instructors have global networks and relationships in the industry beyond New York. Now, they can invite design colleagues from anywhere in the world to be jurors for presentations and guest speakers. Over the summer, NYSID was able to bring in an incredible list of professional designers to virtually mentor students for the Nantucket by Design event as they worked on rooms in “The Oldest House” on the island. The list of mentors included Jamie Drake, Alexa Hampton, Young Huh, David Kleinberg, and Beth Diana Smith (see pg. 34). Says Ellen Fisher, “It’s easier for sought-after designers to give an hour of time via Zoom than to travel for an engagement. I’m excited about the potential this creates for NYSID in so many areas.” •

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LESSONS LEARNED FROM ONLINE TEACHING Freya Van Saun, coordinator of online and blended learning, shares tips and tools that are making NYSID faculty stronger online teachers. Allow Critiques to Be Overheard NYSID instructors found that students get a lot out from overhearing discussions about their peers’ work. Van Saun advised her trainees to encourage students in studios to use the mute button in Zoom to keep working while listening to critiques of other students’ work.

Breakout Rooms for Privacy or Peer Review Van Saun found the best application of Zoom breakout rooms in studio classes was using them for private time to talk with a student about a hurdle in a project. Instructors also used them successfully for peer desk critiques, or peer focus groups for working out a specific task, like designing a stairwell.

Zoom Annotate and Whiteboard Zoom’s Annotate feature allows a teacher to draw on a shared screen, and the Whiteboard lets an instructor write on a blank screen everyone can see. These were both powerful tools for NYSID instructors, who were able to draw in real time and take over screens to annotate computer renderings and drawings

Screencast-O-Matic for Grading, Feedback This is a tool that allows faculty to create recordings of their voice and computer screen while they are giving feedback on a student’s projects. This can drastically speed up grading and provide students with feedback that they can access multiple times.

Build in Structure Working with faculty member Francisco de León, Academic Affairs created Canvas templates that helped build structure into courses. Says Van Saun, “We created templates that would help everybody start from the same place in terms of designing a course, including a front page with basic course information, where and how it’s meeting, a picture of the instructor, and a link to class content.”

GIVING / Supporting Our Community Supporters 2019–2020

(July 1, 2019–June 30, 2020)

NYSID gratefully acknowledges our generous supporters. Thank you for making a difference in the lives of our students. $500,000 +

The Arthur K. Satz Trust Kravet Inc/The Kravet Family

M2L Inc. Chris Pollack Probber Estate David L. Scott/David Scott Interiors C. Thomas Swartz Stacy Waggoner



Maria and Bill Spears

Krystyna Breger James P. Druckman/ New York Design Center David Kleinberg/David Kleinberg Design Associates Ann Pyne/McMillen Betsey Ruprecht Brad Schneller Andy Singer/Visual Comfort & Co. Gale Singer/Circa Lighting

Atelier Meriguet Carrere Geoffrey N. Bradfield Alessandra Branca Chairish Inc. Ide and David E. Dangoor Jean Doyen de Montaillou and Michael Kovner Ingrid Edelman Edmund D. Hollander Jana and Gerold Klauer Kamie Lightburn Mitra & Nadar Peter Pennoyer Joanna L. Silver/ Bond Schoeneck & King Southport Congregational Church Alison Spear and Alexander Reese Newell Turner Vanguard Charitable The Alan M. & Nathalie P. Voorhes Fund at the Community Foundation of Richmond, Virginia



AEA Investors Benjamin Moore & Company Cullman & Kravis, Inc. Designers Lighting Forum of New York, Inc. Jill H. Dienst/ Dienst + Dotter Antikviteter Ferguson & Shamamian Architects, LLP Alexa Hampton Brian J. McCarthy and Daniel Sager Sally McCarthy Dennis C. Miller

Stephen P. Abeles Marie C. Aiello Nurit Amdur Paul F. Anisman Eric Appel ASID New York Metro Chapter Robin Klehr Avia Sara Ayres Penny Drue Baird Elizabeth Bauer Charles Berlin Anne D. Bickerstaff

Jack Cogill Burgess Estate


$20,000-$49,999 Susan Zises Green / The Meyer & Jean Steinberg Family Foundation Nuckolls Fund for Lighting Education The Shade Store Bunny Wiliams Inc. (Bunny Williams and Elizabeth Lawrence) Kelly Williams and Andrew Forsyth


John Todd Bishop Sarah Blank Molly Brennan Katherine Rheinstein Brodsky Thomas A. Buckley James E. Buckman Judith O. Burgert Raymond M. Burke Allison A. Caccoma Cape Regional Medical Center Dara Caponigro Jose Carlino Carrier and Company Laura Casale Stephen Cavallo Earle F. Chapman Lucy Chudson Suzanne Clary Jill Cohen Associates Randy Correll Pierre N. Crosby Edith Dicconson Anne M. Dittmeier Kathleen M. Doyle Jamie Drake Anne K. Duffy David Duncan Cheryl S. Durst Emily Eerdmans Anne Eisenhower Miriam Ellner Angelo Ferraro Robin Feuer Ellen Fisher Clair Fitzgerald Christine Frumkin Gensler Eric J. Gering Wendy Goodman Alexander Gorlin Elliot Greene P.E. Guerin, Inc. Joseph G. Haggar Justin M. Hardy


Gerald Holbrook Steven Jonas Cathy Kincaid John S. Knott Anne Korman Lance Howard/Little Man Parking Wendy Landau Peter Lane Margo M. Langenberg Silvina Leone Linda London Ltd Anthony Lupo-Mack Luxe Interiors + Design Magazine Dudley W. Macfarlane Stewart Manger Christie Manning Chandra Marx Peter W. May Rory McCreesh Daniel McMillan Alexander R. Mehran Polly and Peter Millard Ward Mintz Richard Mishaan Wendy Moonan Cynthia O. Murphy John Murray Susan B. Nagle Christina Nielsen Ellen Niven Sandra Nunnerley Elizabeth O’Brien Nathan Orsman Alex Papachristidis Elizabeth Peek George Marshall Peters Betsy Pitts J. Randall Powers Kathy K. Prounis Ethel Rompilla John Rosselli & Associates Ltd. Dominick Rotondi Designs LLC Barbara Sallick Jorge Sanchez Suzanne R. Santry Brian Sawyer Gil Schafer Anthony L. Schaffer Andrea Schumacher Marc Selwyn Martin Shafiroff William P. Short III Michael Simon Suzanne Slesin

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Patricia M. Sovern Christopher Spitzmiller David Sprouls and Kate Wood Chad Stark Rose Tarlow Melrose House Arthur and Susan Tildesley Barbara Toll Robert H. Tuttle Carol Vargo Marshall Watson Martha Webster Madeline Weinrib Jay Courtland Whisman Douglas C. Wright

$500-$999 Artgroove Kevin Barba-Hill Jane T. Breece Becky L. Button John Danzer Lara Michelle Feinsod Mark Ferguson Daniel Fink Ross Francis Yves Gonnet Michael D. Harold Kathleen Hay Camille Hellwig Michelle L. Jacobson Tham Kannalikham Audrey Keller Lawrence Allan Levy James Marlas Drew McGukin Pauline C. Metcalf MWS Foundation Andrew Oyen William D. Ray Manuel Damian Samora Manuel Santaren Tom Scheerer Lauren and Lawrence Sorrel Thomas P. Sculco and Cynthia D. Sculco Foundation

$100-$499 Gayle Ahrens Jerome Balest Suzanne Bancroft Joan Barenholtz Ellen Barker David Beach Melinda Jaeger Bickers

Paige Boller Nicola Bonham Carleen Borsella Rosalyn Cama Lawrence Chabra Eric R. Cohen Lawrence I. Cohen Rosemary Ligabo Cona Ally Coulter Erin Cunningham Kati Curtis Susan Davidson Allison Russell Davis Kathy M. Duffin Andrea Henderson Fahnestock Shaun Fillion Jennifer Fink Jennifer Fischbach Alyson Fitzpatrick Adriana Friedman Lois Avery Gaeta Nicole Goldstein Philip C. Gorrivan Krista Leintz Gurevich Susan Gutfreund Lewis I. Haber Mai Hallingby Holly Hayden Inge Heckel Susan M. Hilty Adam Hoffman Helene K. Holden Rosemarie R. Howe Jason Jacques Julia Johnson Debra Kanabis Cornelia V. Kanakis-Wittenberg Ronald W. Keillor Jr. Lindsay B. Key Karen Klopp Sheila Labrecque Anthony Law Maisie M. Lee Paul Libin Kathleen B. Lipkins Mari Ann Maher Bella Mancini Ashley Manfred Susan Markowitz Meredithe Mastrella Elena Mayfield Stacey McArdle Liz McDermott Thomas McManus



Valerie Mead Madeline Merin Jennifer C. Monaco Penni I. Morganstein Nina Reeves Communications LLC Elizabeth C. Nolan Sylvia Curry Owen David M. Owens-Hill Philip Colleck Ltd. Michael Phillips Miles Redd Michele Sarah Safra Scott Sanders Ingrid E. Schneider Elizabeth Senior Leslie H. Sherr Mary G. Singh William Spink Tony Chi & Associates Chris Torrente Catherine Ward-Carothers Sandra Wheeler Maureen Whitaker Ethel J. Wood

$99 and Below Karen Alessi Susan Andelman Warren Ashworth Michelle Berment Laura Catlan Joy Cooper Wendy Cruz-Gonzalez Anne Dittmeier Matthew Enquist Michele Evans Samantha Fingleton Peter Francis Anelle Gandelman Jennifer Gyr Jamie Hammel Barbara Harrison Faith Hoops

Ilyssa Levins-Pimienta Casey Lichter Jennifer Melendez Lucinda Mullin Anita Parry Delainey Peterson Beatriz Pina Maya Ratajczak Linda Sclafani Julieta Sibug Maximilian Sinsteden Aisha Steiner Erin Wells Stefanie Young Ellen Young

In Kind Contributions Cheryl Benner Denton House EvensonBest Geiger Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation Randi Halpern Herman Miller Jayne Design Studio Savannah Jones Jennifer Kowal Jessie Lemaire Aleksei Lubell Christy Mack Mancini Duffy Morrissey Saypol Interiors Jeffrey Phillip Pollack | Weitzner Pollack NYC Rottet Studio Samuel and Sons Christine Schnitzer-Smith Tiffany & Co. Timothy Whealon Inc Rosie Vaughn Barbara Weinrich WeWork

THE 1916 SOCIETY NYSID alumni, friends and alumni find planned giving a fulfilling way to leave a lasting legacy to the College that will help students for generations to come. The 1916 Society was named for the year NYSID was founded. For information about leaving a bequest to NYSID and becoming part of the 1916 Society, please contact Joy Cooper, Director of Development at or


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During these unprecedented times, many NYSID students are facing unanticipated financial challenges. You can help by supporting NYSID’s General Scholarship Fund, the Diversity Scholarship Fund or the Student Emergency Fund. The latter assists students with pressing financial needs which are causing a shortfall in their ability to meet tuition. You can also add to an existing endowment fund or give to an area of your choice. Please join us in supporting the future leaders of interior design by making a tax-deductible donation at For additional info, please contact You can also refer to the enclosed reply envelope.



Why I Give: Kelly Williams NYSID trustee Kelly Williams has enjoyed a 30-year career as an entrepreneur in private-market investing. She founded the Customized Fund Investment Group (CFIG) in 1999 at The Prudential Insurance Company of America. CFIG moved to DLJ, and then Credit Suisse, where she spent 14 years growing CFIG into a market leader—with over $30 billion in assets managed—before Williams led its sale in 2014. She established CFIG’s emerging manager practice, with a focus on investing in diverse managers, as well as establishing its Small and Emerging Managers conference. In 2007, Williams and 12 other female leaders founded the Private Equity Women Investor Network, a global network which includes 700 of the most senior female investors in the private equity industry. Williams is an avid collector of art and an interior design enthusiast. She serves on the boards of numerous art, design, and education nonprofits. She’s vice chair of the Board of Commissioners of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and a trustee of the Olana Partnership, the Norton Museum of Art, the Robert Toigo Foundation, Union College, and the Nantucket Historical Association. She’s been on NYSID’s Board of Trustees since 2018 and has served on the executive and financial oversight committees. She recently endowed the Nate Berkus Scholarship for students engaged in socially conscious and charitable design through The Williams Legacy Foundation, which she established. When we caught up with Ms. Williams, she was deep into the redesign of her Palm Beach home and enjoying the process. You were named one of the most powerful women in finance by American Banker magazine for four consecutive years, and have devoted much of your career to fostering diversity in your industry. Why is diversity your focus? Very early on in my life I was fortunate enough to spend time abroad in Japan, where I was not in the majority. The people were ceaselessly kind, but when you’re different, singled out, and feel like “the other,” it changes your perspective. I am so glad I had this experience early in life because I came back as a person with a different lens. In order to be successful as a society, you have to enfranchise everybody. That’s how you increase the well-being of a society as a whole. This is not just the socially responsible or ethical choice, it’s the right business decision. My best investments have been with diverse individuals and companies. What role do art and design play in your life? I’m very fortunate to serve on the boards of a number of artsrelated organizations. I’m a passionate art collector, and my collection focuses on emerging African American artists. I’ve studied design informally and have chaired the Nantucket Historical Association’s Nantucket by Design (Ellen Fisher,

vice president for academic affairs and dean, has been our keynote speaker). I’m lucky to be able to count amongst my friends and colleagues many extraordinary and talented designers. When you work on Wall Street, it’s fun to be able to use a different part of your brain and do work on behalf of the arts. Why did you decide to become a trustee of the New York School of Interior Design? Well, I became involved through my work with Nantucket by Design. NYSID has been our partner. Every year, they have been sending students to reimagine “The Oldest House,” challenging them to design without altering anything about the historic property (see pg. 34). I became interested in the College because its leaders share my belief that design is an essential element of mental health. It’s not just how an interior functions that matters, but also how it makes us feel. We spend most of our time in interiors. In the time of COVID-19, it’s abundantly clear that design is not something frivolous, but something essential to our lives and well-being. NYSID is doing a service to society by training designers in a holistic way. Why did you choose to endow the Nate Berkus Scholarship? As I said, I feel passionate about the idea that interior design can impact mental health. Encouraging students to include within their education courses that emphasize socially responsible design can have a meaningful impact on society.


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Design should be for everyone. Good design of a domestic violence shelter, hospital, or foster home cannot eliminate trauma, but can blunt its effects. I thought it was important to encourage students on this course of study. I decided to name the scholarship for Nate Berkus because he is well known for his charitable work, and I thought he was someone high profile enough to resonate with students. You were the chair of this past summer’s Nantucket by Design and made it financially possible for seven NYSID students to participate in the “Oldest House” competition virtually. How did it go? I thought it went phenomenally well. The ability to have seven students participate and have them share their work virtually, with people throughout the country, allowed them to be more innovative because they did not have to rely on what was in the house, and exposed them to a larger audience than has been possible in years past. This was a silver lining of COVID-19. What does it mean to you to be a philanthropist? I am a very blessed person. I come from a modest background. My father was a police officer and brilliant, but he never had the chance to go to college. I was a first-generation college student. In one generation, I have been able to have enormous success. It shows what the trajectory can be for people when they have an opportunity. As a philanthropist, you use the resources you have to ignite someone else. What a blessing to be able to give something like that. It’s the greatest gift you can give to yourself. •

“As a philanthropist, you use the resources you have to ignite someone else. What a blessing to be able to give something like that. In fact, it’s the greatest gift you can give to yourself.” KELLY WILLIAMS


“This scholarship makes me feel like there is a lane for me in the big world of design.” Infante is an MFA1 student in her final year, a first-generation American of Dominican descent, and a former case manager for children in the foster care system. Trustee Kelly Williams and The Williams Legacy Foundation established the scholarship in 2019 in honor of Nate Berkus, a proponent of socially conscious and charitable work in design. The scholarship is intended for interior design students pursuing a course of study with a demonstrated emphasis on improving the human condition, which Infante is. Upon hearing she won the scholarship and became the first Nate Berkus scholar, Infante felt her winding path to interior design had been justified. She says, “It feels really good to have my passion for socially conscious design validated. I feel more confident that it might be possible to blend my desire to help people with my creative abilities. This scholarship makes me feel like there is a lane for me in the big world of design.”



Ask Yourself What the World Needs BFA Student Sara Herrera Lays the Groundwork for a Successful Thesis Project

“Don’t stress out if you start without a clear direction. The ideas will come through the research. If you find something that matters to you, everything will just flow.”


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he thesis is the culmination of a NYSID student’s education. It’s also an exercise in dizzying freedom. How does one settle on just one idea? Sara Herrera, a BFA senior, shares insight about how to get the most out of the Thesis Preparation course. Herrera found herself anxious and overwhelmed when she received the first email from her thesis advisor, Barbara Weinreich, also NYSID’s director of undergraduate programs. The email welcoming her to Thesis Preparation for the spring 2020 semester suggested that she come to the first class with several possible thesis ideas. Herrera didn’t know where to begin, but by the end of the semester, she knew what she wanted to do and had strategies for accomplishing her vision. We sat down with Herrera to discuss her process. Will you tell us about your experience in Thesis Preparation? Sure! The beginning of Thesis Prep is about narrowing down what you want to do from three or four ideas. Barbara asked me to consider what would sustain my interest for a whole year. When I realized I was most interested in getting fresh, healthy food—particularly produce—to urban, underserved communities, I began to look into how I might accomplish this through strategies like vertical gardens or rooftop greenhouses. Once we have the basic idea, we begin devising questions that will serve as a starting point for our evidence-based design research. Then, we do three case studies. Mine were Mercado Roma, in Mexico City, a fresh-air market that has an outdoor vertical farm, which taught me about circulation in a market; a restaurant in the Netherlands called The Green House with an exposed glass facade that allows customers to see into the farm where the greens are grown; and a supermarket in Belgium that gave me aesthetic direction and ideas for using natural lighting and sustainable building materials.

What’s your advice on selecting a thesis topic? Think about what your idea or project will do to help society, or even your neighborhood. Once you can see whom your design will help, it becomes more interesting. Look at your own world closely and consider what is lacking. I live in Harlem, and walking around my community, it became clear to me that my neighbors deserve better access to fresh, healthy produce. Ask yourself what the world needs.

Do you situate your projects in real buildings? Yes, we use the footprint of an existing building in a real location, and this is a big focus of the research towards the end of the course. You have to be able to defend why you chose the building you did, considering things like square footage, access to transportation, and foot traffic. I selected a warehouse located in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, because there are not a lot of places in that area where people can access fresh produce, and a big warehouse is basically a white canvas I can play with.

What role does your thesis advisor have in the beginning stages of your project? Well, that depends on what you need. Barbara challenged me to think outside the box. She pushed me to consider what the community required, and to expand my vision to meet those needs. Through my research, I discovered that “healthy produce” is often pushed onto underserved communities, and then people don’t know what to do with it or how to cook it. Education and inspiration have to be part of the transformation. I started out with a simple market and vertical garden idea, and I’ve expanded it to include a space with eateries and cooking/education spaces.

How is your thesis going? My working title is the “Urban Farming Market Hub.” It’s a market, a farm. and a learning center where the community can come to learn healthy ways of eating. I think it’s going well! •


“A thesis topic should pose a question and the thesis study should attempt to provide some answers. So, the “why” of a thesis topic is important: Why do you want to explore this? Whom does it help? Not every thesis topic has to address a societal problem…but it should be looking for a meaningful designed response. So whether it’s a shelter for LGBTQ+ youth or a wellness spa that explores the five senses, the thesis study should investigate how to create interior spaces for that particular topic based on evidence, case-studies, and original research.” BARBARA WEINREICH, BFA THESIS ADVISOR

“This is your last chance to have a project without a budget or a boss. It’s also your main portfolio piece, and it has to say what your values are as a designer. The concept has to sustain your interest for a year, so choose something that sets you on fire.” DAVID BURDETT, MFA1 THESIS INSTRUCTOR

PORTFOLIO / Class of 2020 Award Winners The Office of Academic Affairs awarded the students whose capstone projects are featured on these pages the Chairman’s Award for their overall performance in the Master of Professional Studies programs: Sustainable Interior Environments (MPSS) and Lighting Design (MPSL). A Year-Long Journey At NYSID, capstone projects are long journeys that challenge students to brainstorm, conduct research, and synthesize all they have learned. The journey ends with a presentation to a jury of faculty and industry professionals. Our students work closely with faculty to create hypothetical designs that offer solutions to real-world problems.

“My teammates and I wanted to create a holistic environment that cultivates beauty and joy by addressing the physical and mental needs of the employees, and to achieve this through sustainable methods.” KLAYRE TAN ’20 (MPSS)



“If the sky represents the most subtle changes in nature; so light represents the most subtle changes in the Brooklyn Historical Society.” KORAPIN SRISOM ’20 (MPSL)



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Korapin Srisom

Project: Lighting Design For Historical Landmark Building

Master of Professional Studies in Lighting Design Korapin Srisom endeavored to create a lighting design for an existing landmark building, the Brooklyn Historical Society, that reflected the way the sky and skyline have changed between the 1800s and today. Srisom studied photographs from the early 20th century to get a sense of changes in light, nature, and the built environment from more than a century ago to our times. For Srisom, the sky is a metaphor. She says, “Our sky is not the same as the sky from 150 years ago. If the sky represents the most subtle changes in nature; so light represents the most subtle changes in the Brooklyn Historical Society.” She wanted the lighting within the historical society to be dynamic, ever-changing, and so inconspicuous as to be almost imperceptible, like the sky. Her favorite element of the project is “the integration of luminaries into architectural elements.” She says, “Advances in technology empowered me to use smaller luminaires, with higher efficacy and more control built in. There is a step light hidden inside the cornice. I preserved the appearance of the elegant, vast ceiling, yet the illuminated ceiling system still emits light. This system empowers us to aim and focus spotlights, and to change beam angles and color temperatures via a tablet.” Although Marty Salzberg was her thesis advisor, she also credits program instructors Chuck Cameron, Shaun Fillion, and Melanie Taylor for helping her with “practical insight and instructions.”

Instructor: Marty Salzberg


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Molly Cummins, Phuong Hyunh, and Klayre Tan Master of Professional Studies in Sustainable Interior Environments Molly Cummins, Phuong Hyunh, and Klayre Tan set out to create a sustainable workplace and headquarters for the international beauty brand Lush. The company’s core values are transparency, positivity, and sustainability, and the trio encapsulated this ethos in both the aesthetics of the space and the use of sustainable materials, energy-efficient lighting, and plants. Says Tan, “My teammates and I wanted to create a holistic environment that cultivates beauty and joy by addressing the physical and mental needs of the employees, and to achieve this through sustainable methods.” Their design sets the tone the moment a visitor steps off the elevator with a bright, ebullient, geometric display of Lush’s signature bath bombs, engaging the users’ senses of smell and sight upon arrival. Adds Tan, who was the 2020 Chairman’s Award Winner for the MPSS, “As you go through the main lobby, there’s a tunnel-like effect we created with a dropped ceiling and vertical recessed LED strips that are installed on one side of the wall. Again, we engage one’s sense of sight as we play with the volume of the space.” Another very dramatic space is the open office overlooking the garden wall of the pantry. “We specifically used sustainable interior finishes, furniture, and sustainable lighting methods to achieve LEED credits in this space,” says Tan. “One of the highlights of this area would be the garden wall which is semiencased in glass. We wanted to implement the biophilic pattern of visual connection to nature as it’s beneficial to the office workers’ mental health and performance.” Among the sustainable materials in this design are Baux Wood Wool Tiles (an acoustic product) and Interface Carpet, made from recycled fish nets. Both of these materials have low to zero VOCs. Tan points out that this design was made more successful through the guidance of the team’s thesis advisors Luca Baraldo and Bethany Borel. Says Tan, “They gave us constructive feedback that helped my team to arrive at the best interior design solutions possible.”

Project: Office

Instructor: Luca Baraldo & Bethany Borel

LAYOUT / New and Notable at NYSID Formation of the NYSID Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Commission (DEI)

For years, NYSID has been reaching out to its alumni, trustees, and friends in the industry for informal discussions about how to make interior design education—and by extension the profession—more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. Over the summer, President David Sprouls invited trustee Cheryl Durst and interested faculty members, staff members, advisors, and alumni to form a new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Commission. Faculty member Leyden Lewis and registrar Jennifer Melendez stepped up beside Durst to co-chair the Commission. Neither President Sprouls nor any of the other leaders of the College sit on the Commission, because the point is to provide independent, actionable guidance. The group is diverse in terms of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, and ethnicity. According to its mission statement, “The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission is tasked with and fully committed to advancing the school’s efforts to embed DEI and cultural competency as significant transformational forces in institution-wide culture, academic excellence, student life, and all aspects of the college’s outreach, engagement, and curriculum. . . . The vision is to set the educational precedent for the design community at large.”


The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission is tasked with and fully committed to advancing the school’s efforts to embed DEI and cultural competency as significant transformational forces in institution-wide culture, academic excellence, student life, and all aspects of the college’s outreach, engagement, and curriculum.


Chesie Breen Joins NYSID’s Board of Trustees

Marie Aiello Becomes President of Alumni Council

NYSID has a new trustee: Chesie Breen, the co-founder and principal of NivenBreen, a strategic brand communications firm specializing in media, lifestyle, home, fashion, and luxury brands. She’s also editor-in-chief of ID BOSTON magazine. “We are pleased that Chesie has made the decision to come on board and provide her expertise and leadership to NYSID,” says President David Sprouls.

Marie Aiello ’04 (AAS), owner and principal of Marie Aiello Design Studio, took the helm of the NYSID’s Alumni Council this summer, succeeding outgoing president Lawrence Levy ’05 (BFA). Levy will continue to serve as a member of the Council. Aiello says, “I want alumni to feel like this is their home in the design community.”


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NYSID Welcomes New Faculty Ilya Pulyaev ’17 (MFA2) is an interior designer and associate at Perkins & Will. He’ll be teaching Design and Drawing I in the MFA1 program. Kyle Spence is an architect and the founding principal of the design and architecture firm The BAKLab. As an architectural designer at Grimshaw Architects, he worked on the Dubai Expo 2020 Sustainability Pavilion project and the Newark Airport International Airport’s Terminal 1 project. He’s teaching Presentation Techniques I to undergraduates.

Ilya Pulyaev

Kyle Spence

STUDENTS Natasha Rivera ’21 (MFA1) Rivera beat out applicants from all over the country to become the Spring 2020 Chairish scholarship winner. Raised in Harlem, Rivera says, “I want to go back into underprivileged spaces like those in my own community and allow people to experience beauty and life through design.”

“I was always connected to the arts… I want to have the ability to go back into underprivileged spaces like my own community and allow them to experience beauty and life through design.”

Sheng-Wei Yang ’22 (MFA1) Yang was the 2020 Dacor National Kitchen Design Contest First Place Student prize winner, securing a scholarship of $10,000.




Stars Come Out at Virtual Nantucket by Design Since 2015, NYSID students have participated in Nantucket by Design, a fundraiser for the Nantucket Historical Association, by redesigning rooms in “The Oldest House,” a building dating back to 1686. When Nantucket by Design went virtual last summer during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ellen Fisher, vice president for academic affairs and dean, saw an opportunity to give students an unforgettable learning experience in the form of a contest. She challenged twelve teams of students to design a room in “The Oldest House,” using photos and floor plans, and under the guidance of renowned interior designers connected to the NYSID community. Kati Curtis, Jamie Drake, Philip Gorrivan, Elaine Griffin, Alexa Hampton, Young Huh, David Kleinberg, Leyden Lewis, Stephanie Sarkies, and Beth Diana Smith mentored students via Zoom. The Williams Legacy Foundation, under the direction of NYSID trustee Kelly Williams (also the president of the Nantucket Historical Association and chair of Nantucket by Design 2020), underwrote the contest and provided prize money. The challenge was to encapsulate modern living in a historic home, and the winning teams were BFA seniors Shane Curnutt and Jessica Hassler (mentored by David Kleinberg), third year MFA1 students Hanna Propst and Daniela Rutigliano (mentored by Young Huh), second year MFA1 students Kelsey Egan and Rachel Golland (mentored by Jamie Drake), and BFA junior Nicole Halulakos (mentored by Alexa Hampton). All participants had their design presentations displayed on the Nantucket by Design website, and the winning designs were shown at the Whaling Museum in downtown Nantucket.



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Outdoor Theaters for the COVID-19 Era Instructor Warren Ashworth challenged undergraduate students in his Contract Design I course to take part in a design charrette and develop an idea for an outdoor theater space that would let performers connect safely with audiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Says Ashworth, “The word charrette has come to mean a project done on a very short deadline.” He gave the students only one week, and the designs were wildly inventive. Sean Desmond, Liraz Dror, and Olivia Kane set their theater in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park of Salt Flat, Texas, and based their design on the spiral shape of a fossil. Maayan Adin, Claire Burke, and Lan Do envisioned their theater on Tunitas Creek Beach in Half Moon Cay, California, and created a metallic wave rising over the stage, set against the seating, which morphs into a sandy landscape (pictured here). Isabella Eastham, Kaethe Fink, and Diana Lawson imagined a “Theater by the Sea” on the Amalfi Coast of Italy.



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MFA1 Independent Study Summer 2020: Horizons for Homeless Children Independent study is one option MFA1 students can select for their two required summers of experiential learning. During the summer of 2020, Elaine Gahagan, Alannah O’Neil, Judy Ordonez, Anushe Uzair, and Jamie Goldstein, students between their first and second years, turned their independent study into an exercise in social justice. Working primarily virtually, they donated their time to Horizons for Homeless Children, an organization that provides schooling and support for homeless children and their families in Boston. Faculty member Pamela Durante taught the experiential learning section and supervised the group through a five-phase design process. The students spent weeks conducting studies with focus groups of staff members. They had weekly meetings with the project architect and with Kate Berrand, CEO of Horizons. “I was amazed by the talents, abilities, and professionalism that was shown throughout the project,” says Durante.





Service Learning Goes Virtual & Expands Though NYSID had to adopt a fully online instruction model in summer 2020, the College’s MFA1 service learning studio was more popular and productive than ever. Terry Kleinberg, NYSID Instructor and the force behind the studio, added a second section and mentored a team of students who redesigned SUNY College of Optometry’s 15,000 SF University Eye Center (this page). The students were Jacqueline Feng, Kimberly Friedman, Alina Hackett, Allyson Hughes, Rebecca Lipschitz, Jingxian Liu, Mallory Max, Sonalika Nair, and Chazzten Pettiford. Their end users were people with low vision and/or head traumas that impacted sight, visual therapy patients, attending physicians, and residents. “Knowing that this project could go live was a big thing for me. It made me more determined to double-check whatever ideas I put forth,” said student Sonalika Nair. Faculty member David Burdett led the Safe Horizon section of the course, which focused on a residence and emergency shelter for victims of violence (opposite page). The design team included students Praveena Aleti, Jung-Chen Chih, Benny Seda-Galarza, Michal Greenbaum, Yevgeniya Khatskevich, Anna Love, Lauren Moonan, April Podlaski, Nelson Sanchez, Diana Seserman, Yu-Wen Wang, and Sheng-Wei Yang. “It was satisfying to know that our designs for the domestic violence shelter could help the residents in their healing journey. It was designing with a purpose, not just about aesthetics,” said Benny Seda-Galarza.


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LEADERSHIP / Moving the College Forward BOARD OF TRUSTEES



Ellen Kravet, Chairman David Sprouls, NYSID President Chesie Breen Jill H. Dienst James P. Druckman Cheryl S. Durst Susan Zises Green Alexa Hampton David Kleinberg Anne Korman Dennis Miller Susan B. Nagle Betsey Ruprecht Brad Schneller David Scott Maria Spears Newell Turner Kelly M. Williams Eric Gering, Faculty Trustee Joanna L. Silver, Esq., General Counsel Elaine Wingate Conway, Trustee Emerita Inge Heckel, Trustee Emerita Patricia M. Sovern, Chairman Emeritus

Robin Klehr Avia Michael Bruno Kathleen M. Doyle Anne Eisenhower Ross J. Francis Mariette Himes Gomez Gerald A. Holbrook Thomas Jayne Wolfram Koeppe Charlotte Moss Barbara Ostrom Sylvia Owen Ann Pyne Peter Sallick Calvin Tsao Bunny Williams Vicente Wolf

Marie Aiello ’04 (AAS), President Court Whisman ’05 (AAS), Vice-President Ruth Burt ’88 (AAS) Lawrence Chabra ’09 (BFA) Allison Russell Davis ’05 (BFA) Krista Gurevich ’16 (MFA-1) Michael Harold ’10 (BFA) Faith Hoops ’18 (BFA) Don Kossar ’95 (BFA) Maisie Lee ’00 (BFA) Lawrence Levy ’05 (BFA) Drew McGukin ’10 (AAS) Valerie Mead ’00 (BFA) Charles Pavarini ’81 (BFA) George Marshall Peters ’08 (BFA) Ethel Rompilla ’84 (BFA) Linda Sclafani ’90 (BFA) Susan Thorn ’96 (AAS) Erin Wells ’04 (BFA)

“I want to deepen alumni connections to the school and get people involved in initiatives that are meaningful to them. I want alumni to feel like this is their home in the design community.” MARIE AIELLO ’04 (AAS), ALUMNI COUNCIL PRESIDENT

“The challenge of healthcare design is to deliver on the functionality while still providing comfort and beauty for the patients, family, and staff.” PETER AGNEW ’15 (BFA)/’16 (MPSH) ASSOCIATE INTERIOR DESIGNER HEALTHCARE DESIGN STUDIO PERKINS EASTMAN

170 East 70 Street New York, NY 10021

“A home is supposed to be your refuge, your oasis—a place to laugh, be happy, and find peace—and I’m painfully aware too many people don’t have that.” BETH DIANA SMITH ’14 (AAS)

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