Student picks up and compares a set of tiles.

One Year of Interior Design at CU Denver

September 27, 2023

“Design that is multidisciplinary and integrated creates results that are elevated and more successful. When we talk about the built environment, Interior Design is at the intersection of all other disciplines within the College of Architecture and Planning,” said the Director of Interior Design at CAP Sarah McGarry.

The College of Architecture and Planning (CAP) at the University of Colorado Denver launched a minor in interior design in the summer of 2022. Today, we are looking back at the first year of interior design at CAP.

Introducing Interior Design to CAP

The interior design discipline complements other programs offered by CAP as they explore our understanding of place and space. Work began on the development of studies in interior design in 2021 with the initial course offerings for the college’s minor and certificate program in interior design beginning in the Fall 2022 semester.

In late August 2022, the college appointed Sarah McGarry, NCIDQ, IIDA, LEED AP, and owner of Clic Design Studio, to direct the newly launched courses. In addition to her 20 years working in interior design, McGarry has been a lead designer on a wide range of projects and served on the board of the Colorado Chapter of the International Interior Design Association for over eight years.

McGarry’s love of interior design began at an early age. “My father got his undergrad in architecture and engineering and my mother always dabbled in interior decorating and even had her own residential business for a few years. So, it was in my genes,” said McGarry.

“Throughout high school, I was very involved in the arts, but I loved the structure that interior design provided, while still being a very creative profession,” McGarry continued. “My program in college was in tandem with architecture, but after learning more about both, I found that I loved (and continue to love) the scale and pace of interior projects. You can watch a project go from concept to constructed competition in a year or less, which is incredible. There is always a new challenge, and it’s a profession where you must be nimble and appreciate that no two days are exactly the same to thrive.”

Student reviews work with instructor.

Opportunities to Study Interior Design

The College of Architecture and Planning offers a minor to undergraduate students at CU Denver and a certificate program to those who are working on a master’s degree or who have earned a bachelor’s degree.

“Going into architecture, I realized that I wanted to be more people-oriented,” said Arlet Munoz, Bachelor of Science in Architecture (BS Arch) student and interior design minor. “Interior design, to me, is just as important when designing a building. It’s the part that allows you to really connect with the client and be creative and problem solve together.”

The fast-growing minor in interior design provides students with an immersive learning experience in the creative, practical, technical, environmental, and ethical aspects of the profession of interior design.

“A big dream of mine is to eventually become a real estate agent and start flipping houses around Denver. While also being a part of the design team that helps create the interiors of retail/commercial spaces. Once I found out that CAP was offering a minor in interior design, I jumped immediately on board,” said Angelo Garcia, BS Arch student, interior design minor, and CAP’s Student Government Association student council representative. “As I am finishing my last course for the minor, I have gained such extensive knowledge and practices that have gone beyond the ordinary aesthetic of interiors. With this knowledge, I feel more engaged and inspired to go toward my dreams into real estate and retail/commercial spaces.”

The minor also integrates sustainable building practices, social justice, and the meaningful use of space through the creative exploration of interior spaces.

“For me, interior design is about the functionality of a space, said BS Arch student and interior design minor Dyllan Bathgate. “To apply it to my future profession, architecture, I won’t ignore the building user(s) by designing unfunctional spaces.”

Students interested in pursuing a minor in interior design are encouraged to reach out to their advisors to learn how to declare their minor.

The college also offers a certificate in interior design. The certificate program is open to students who have either completed their bachelor’s degree or are currently pursuing a master’s degree. By offering human-centered approaches to the program material, aspiring interior designers will gain the professional knowledge, competency, and applied skills necessary for the practice of interior design.

Student looks closely at different kinds of tiles.

Interior Design Workshop

This fall, CAP offered its first Interior Design Workshop. This course, taught by interior designer and CU Denver Master of Architecture alum Lisa Blackman, IIDA, teaches students to apply design processes and theories to interior design projects, while also emphasizing the application of graphic design tools, techniques, and standards for effective design communication.

“The workshop is structured like a studio where the focus is one, semester-long project, weaving concepts into the interior space and includes an opportunity to design a piece of custom furniture,” said Blackman. “It’s an exploration of how materiality, space planning, and furnishings can tell a story.”

In the spring semester, the Interior Design Workshop will be partnering with the State of Colorado and the Department of Motor Vehicles to “reimagine the DMV.”

“Students will have a real client from the DMV who will participate in milestone reviews,” said McGarry. “The DMV plans to implement outcomes from the class in future buildouts and remodels within Colorado. The opportunity to have a real project (that just about everyone interacts with) and client during school is an incredible and unique opportunity.”

Learn more about your opportunities to study interior design at CAP.