Three students seated at desks with laptops and a professor standing behind them
Professor Lynn Capirsello, second from right, with Interior + Spatial Design students

 

Lynn Capirsello is a designer and educator who specializes in interiors. Before becoming a professor she worked in architecture firms in Syracuse and New York City and designed and ran her own coffee house in Auburn, New York. Today she’s an assistant professor and program director for Russell Sage College’s Interior + Spatial Design BFA program

Capirsello’s Russell Sage students voted her faculty member of the year at the conclusion of the 2023 academic year. Per college tradition, she delivered special remarks at Sage’s 2024 Honors Convocation and later responded to a Q&A about her career inspiration, favorite classes, and what she’s excited for the 2024-2025 academic year. 

What attracted you to the Interior + Spatial Design field in general, and to the higher education side more specifically?

I’ve been an artist since I was a child. I was always creating something. My mom says I would constantly be building spaces with Legos or commenting on why the spaces we were in weren’t right or should be better. 

I believe always being in the city and being brought to museums and Broadway plays introduced me to design without knowing it.

I opened, designed, and operated my own coffee house when I was 28. This introduced me to working with high school students and local community college students. I loved working with them, talking to the young artists and musicians. They pushed me to get my master’s in art education at Syracuse University, where I also received my BFA in interior design.  

After receiving my master’s, the chair and faculty at SU offered me a full-time teaching position running the department. So higher ed chose me! 

I couldn’t turn down an opportunity to teach what I love alongside the people who taught me everything. It was a great honor. 

How do you use your experience as an interior and spatial designer and business owner to prepare future designers?

I offer insights into how the industry works. I am honest and tell them how it is because their clients will! 

Please tell me more about your approach to teaching — what strategies or techniques do you use to connect with students?

I have to teach them another language, a universal design language, which they must be fluent in. They have to communicate with multiple professions and understand how they all work together to create unique and functional spaces.  

To do this, I have to introduce them to new concepts, open their eyes to worlds they might have not experienced. My colleagues and I work together with our expertise to make sure they become creative problem solvers, good researchers, good technicians in all industry current software and standards. 

I create a family atmosphere where they learn from their faculty but also from their peers. It truly is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. You see them grow and learn, even teaching us a bit or two along the way. 

Do you have a favorite course to teach?

Right now it has to be CoLab!  It’s an interdisciplinary class with the Graphic + Media Design program. The class is designed to be a “real world“ scenario class, where teams are given a hospitality project, and they must work together to create the hotel brand, interiors, and all the deliverables needed to create a cohesive project. It’s truly exciting to watch the graphic and interior students working and learning together. 

Do you have any exciting new projects, classes, etc. on the horizon?

With the marijuana industry being legal in New York, dispensary design is becoming a hot commodity —  so understanding the rules and strict regulations for designing these facilities is critical.  

We will also be making CoLab permanent as a senior capstone class. With our students winning awards and getting recognized by professionals in the field, our small program is growing and our alumni are doing so well. We love what we do and do what we love. 

Congratulations, Assistant Professor of Interior + Spatial Design  Lynn Capirsello and Assistant Provost Peter Stapleton, who teaches in the Physical education program and who was voted Faculty Member of the Year this semester. 

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