Mary Mills Thomas

Mary Mills Thomas grew up in Birmingham, Alabama and then moved to New York when she was 17 to become a professional ballet dancer with American Ballet Theatre (ABT). After a successful six year run, she decided that she wanted to follow her passion and pursue a career in interior design.  She enrolled in the Basic Interior Design (BID)program in fall 2011. After completing the BID, she continued her studies at NYSID in the Associate’s program and then started in the BFA program in fall 2013. She graduated from NYSID in May 2015. She currently works at Williams Blackstoch Architects.


Why was Basic Interior Design the right program for you?
I always loved design, even as a child. I remember drawing floor plans at a very young age and watching the renovation of my parents’ home with great interest. Even as a professional dancer, I was always looking at how interiors were designed. I traveled extensively with ABT and at each destination I would look at how people designed their spaces and the cultural influences. I fell more in love with design then. My mother suggested that I go to NYSID’s open house and check it out. I was so excited after attending the open house; I could barely sleep that night!

The BID was a good fit for me because I wanted to stay in New York and I really liked the size of the school. I also met someone who was in one of NYSID’s graduate programs, and she told me how much she loved it and convinced me it was the right place for me.

You continued your studies in the Associate’s program and are now pursuing a BFA in Interior Design. Why did you want to get a four-year degree?
While I was working on my BID, I saw other people ahead of me who were doing more advanced projects and I was intrigued by what they were doing. It was important to me to have an undergraduate degree.  Also, I am really interested in commercial design, and I felt that I needed a BFA to succeed in that field.

I wanted to continue my studies at NYSID because of the positive experience I’ve had here and the relationships I’ve made with instructors and other students. The faculty is really accessible—either for in-person meetings or via e-mail. It’s a hands-on learning experience, which is really beneficial in design. You really work with the instructors instead of just opening up a book.

I have also learned so much from my fellow students. It’s such an international population, and people bring their cultural backgrounds to projects. It makes for a really interesting learning environment.

Do you miss ballet?
Dance is made up of lines and movement, and that has translated nicely to interior design. I never knew how to draw or even tried to draw before I came to NYSID and now I can sit and create an environment and I get so immersed in what I’m doing. Sometimes I miss waking up in the morning and sweating and moving, but I feel really good about my decision. And my body doesn’t hurt as much anymore.