Graduate Interior Design, Class of 2011
What sort of educational background do you bring to Pratt?
I earned my bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and my master’s degree in counseling psychology (with a specialty in expressive arts therapy) from the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. My hometown, incidentally, is Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Before coming to Pratt, I was a licensed marriage and family therapist in California. I had a private practice and was an arts therapy group leader at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center and at two eating disorders clinics in Los Angeles. Before that I was an art installer at the de Young Museum in San Francisco for a few years.
Why the career shift to interior design?
I loved the challenge of helping others find their creativity and using the arts to deepen the therapeutic process, but, after 10 years of being a therapist, I had no energy left for my own creativity. I missed using my hands and eyes to solve problems, and became very interested in how people use space and are affected by their environments. My father was an architect, and his tools, models, and Italian design magazines fascinated me as a kid.
Why did you choose Pratt to help you make your career change?
I had taken a bunch of fantastic interior design classes at UCLA to see if I liked the field, but knew I wanted to be on the East Coast. Pratt’s program gives me an opportunity to study interior design in depth, in a city I love, which also happens to be an endless source of inspiration.
Are you doing an internship?
Yes, I’m interning at a small firm in Chelsea that does mostly high-end residences. I’ve learned a lot about what it’s like to be a designer in the real world, for better or worse.
Has your experience as a therapist been helpful?
So far, my background in art therapy has been super-helpful in dealing with people’s temporary craziness brought on by grad school and at my internship with co-workers under pressure.
What do you see as the biggest challenge in interior design today?
There are two big challenges for the field. The first is being relevant and useful to more than a tiny, rich minority. I think good design should be part of people’s lives on every level, from the can opener to urban planning. The second challenge is a huge mountain of prejudice and negative attitudes towards interior design in the larger design world; it’s seen as frivolous, feminine, and elitist.
Who would be your ideal client and what could you do for that person?
I would love to design for people who are willing to take risks, and who want to be affected by design on more than just a superficial level. I’d like my design to be the cake, and not just the frosting!
What do you do for recreation?
Well, sleep, as much as possible, but I do love running in Prospect Park with my dogs. Nothing too artsy, if I can help it.
Photo: Diana Pau