Interview with Mary Jane Grigsby, FASID, LEED CI+C
On Thursday, January 19, IARc had the great pleasure of hosting guest speaker, Mary Jane Grigsby. She owns Adesso Design, Inc. and is President of the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ). Many of her projects in commercial and residential design have won awards. She served on the Florida Board of Architecture and Interior Design for eight years, strengthening her knowledge about the certification process. Her lecture was extremely helpful, delivering information about the NCIDQ exam for designers who have already taken or plan to take the exam.

The exam focuses on issues of public health, life safety, and welfare. It consists of three parts – two multiple choice sections and one practicum section – which must be successfully completed before the NCIDQ certificate is awarded. To qualify for the examination, one must complete a formal education in interior design and acquire a minimum amount of professional work experience. More information on the NCIDQ can be found at

After her presentation, IARc correspondents Kathryn Frye and Kara Kooy conducted a brief interview with Grigsby:

IARc: Where did you attend college? What interested you in interior design and when did you decide this was the career path for you?

Grigsby: My freshman and sophomore years were spent at UNC-G. I did not declare a major my first year, decided [or I thought!] I wanted to go to medical school, so I transferred to Duke for my junior and senior years, graduating with a BS Pre-Med. I decided not to go to medical school [go figure!] and worked in medical research for 2 years, NOT enjoying it but not knowing what else to do. Then, one day, I was walking down the hall in the hospital and overheard 2 women discussing the fact that one of them had decided to go to school in Interior Design. The “light bulb” went on, and I knew that was what I wanted to do! Obviously, my interest in the field was there, just under the surface. So, I was accepted into the master’s degree program at UNC-G, and back I went for my Interior Design education. This was in the early 1970’s, and I only had to take the undergraduate prerequisites first, before I took any graduate level courses.

IARc: What was your process from graduation to where you are now?

Grigsby: When I graduated, my husband and I moved to Florida where he was to continue his medical training. There was also an economic recession at that time, and none of the design firms in Miami were hiring. The only job I could get was at a major department store, where I was hired to fill a slot in their interior design department which was going to become vacant in about 9 months. So, I started my career selling furniture and carpeting until that position opened up. I will say that in hindsight this experience was invaluable. I learned from professional salesmen, people who had been in the business 20+ years, how to sell. This knowledge and skill helped me throughout my career in selling myself, my company, and my designs. I also went to the High Point Furniture Market with the buyers and learned how the furniture industry works, learned what constitutes a “good” delivery and installation, and learned the ins and outs of the custom upholstery and window treatment businesses. None of this was learned in school. My next job was with a commercial furniture dealer, affording me the opportunity to learn the commercial industry the same way I had learned the residential industry. This is why my company has always practiced both commercial and residential interior design. I feel comfortable in both arenas. I formed my first company in 1990 and have owned my own business ever since.

IARc: If you could give any advice to young student designers, what would it be?

Grigsby: My advice would be to learn from every experience, no matter what it may be, and to realize the power that interior design holds in its ability to affect the lives of everyone where they live, work, and play. Network with professionals whenever you get the chance and never stop thinking out of the box.

Contributed by Kathryn Frye and Kara Kooy.


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