I (M. Grisafe Architects owner Mark Grisafe) was recently asked to teach a course at Mount San Antonio College, a junior college located about 50 miles from our Long Beach architecture firm. The course is Introduction to Interior Design, and it meets two nights a week during the fall quarter.
So far, it’s been a great experience, and I feel good about being able to add value to my students’ educations. This is an introductory class, and not all of the students are necessarily design majors looking to have careers in interior design. Some are majoring in Nursing and Business Management, as well as some in Interior and Graphic Design. Because of this, it has required me to go back to the basics of what I know about interior design and explain the concepts in ways that can be grasped by all students taking the course, regardless of their majors.
My approach to teaching has been to be as organized as possible, and to create a style of teaching that is similar to the way I communicate with my clients—using my training, backed up by my knowledge from personal experiences, and information from reliable sources.
Relying heavily on personal experience can be tricky. It takes a great deal of filtering to determine which experiences are based in a consistent reality. But I think my students appreciate hearing about, and are learning a great deal from, the real-world client scenarios that I’m able to share with them from my experience as a designer and architect.
While it may not be the most sanitary illustration, toilet compartments are a great example of my experienced-based understanding. When I first started meeting clients on my own, I assumed that everyone had the same feeling about toilet compartments in the master bathroom—the more private, the better. I learned however, that toilet compartments are one of the more controversial components of any residence, and opinions about them can vary to the point of conflict within a relationship.
There are essentially two schools of thought when it comes to toilet compartments. The first, as I indicated, is, “the more remote, the better” and that they should be sealed off by a heavy door, preferably made of heavy timber or stone. The second school of thought is represented by the question, “Why does anyone need a separate room for a toilet?” That question is usually followed up by a clarification like, “It seems extravagant and will cost more for the walls, window and door.” Or, “We’ve been together for years and we don’t have anything to hide.” It’s examples like these that give my students a taste for what they can expect when they have to deal with clients in the future.
Through teaching this course, I’ve gained a newfound respect for teachers and find that I am learning a great deal myself. I’m having to revisit the question of why I do what I do when it comes to design, in order to be able to explain concepts clearly to my students.
As our company grows, and this new role of teacher gets added to my resume, we will continue to stay current in the design and architecture industries by being involved in academia—studying others’ solutions and adapting our own solutions that are based on years of on-the-job experience.