Alumni Interview: Marcia Butler

Marcia Butler is an award-winning interior designer and founder of Marcia Butler Interior Design Inc. in New York City and a BFA graduate of the New York School of Interior Design. She is the recipient of a Design Excellence Award from the International Interior Design Association and has been featured in Design Bureau Magazine, on Apartment Therapy's The Kitchn, and in Gourmet Business magazine.

NYSID:  How did you become interested in the field of interior design?
Marcia: I was a professional oboist for 25 years, performing at a very high level throughout the world. But I was always interested in architecture and design. There are many similar principles in these two fields that help to define the fundamentals of the art forms. Symmetry, balance, harmony, texture, line, proportion, scale. You could use any of these words and be speaking about design or music. The concepts are universal and this always resonated and felt organic for me. This is why the change in career has felt like a natural progression for my creative spirit and output.

Why did you choose NYSID?

NYSID had the only BFA program that had the gravitas and rigorous coursework that I felt was necessary to prepare me for a career as an interior designer. Most of the upper studio classes were taught by architects and I wanted that particular point of view to be part of my learning process. As such, I graduated with knowledge of interior architecture, seeing the space as a whole, and with a good working knowledge of building systems.

What in particular stands out for you in your professional life that is something you learned or experienced at NYSID?
The studio classes were heady experiences, of course. They were the meat and potatoes where I could get those plates spinning and really dream. But the underpinning of courses like millwork detail drawing, codes, lighting, as just a few examples, were the support pillars for such dreams. One can have big ideas, but you also have to know how to build it, light it, and prop the whole thing up! So, in my professional life, I can look at the surface of a project and dig deep behind walls and know that I actually understand the volume and how to give the space life. When that understanding is present, the design can really be fleshed out.

What advice would you give to students working towards creating a thriving career in residential design?
A client of mine once described me as a great artist and a precise scientist. As anyone will tell young designers, the business is 25% design and 75% everything else. One must be ready to approach ALL aspects of the job with rigorous discipline. In order to have a career where the referrals come, without hesitation, from your happy clients, the process of the job is almost as important as the fabulous outcome. That means having a good business head, being able to manage client expectations, getting your trades to do their jobs within budget and on time and yes, create an exciting environment.

Can you share a little about your firm, notable projects, and how it has evolved?
I started my firm in 2002, while I was still a student at NYSID, with a gut renovation that I was recommended for. From that renovation, I was referred to a few other clients and I was off to the races. Since then I have renovated a Boston brownstone, worked in Florida on a client's vacation condo, and done dozens and dozens of kitchens and baths. I have worked on everything from designing a single piece of custom furniture to a full gut renovation in Manhattan, where I turned three apartments into one. I think the success of my firm stands upon the belief that the space must reflect the client, rather than being a vehicle for my "style." Clients see me as a partner, a very necessary partner, and as someone who will always have their dreams and desires at the forefront of the project. The evolution and success of my firm has always been firmly planted in the pillars of service to beauty, function and inspiration.

Thank you Marcia!