Interior Design (MFA)

  • The Master of Fine Arts in Interior Design program at Parsons is uniquely positioned to lead the discourse and practice of interior design in the 21st century. Inaugurated in 2009 at Parsons, the school where formal interior design education began, this graduate program builds on more than 100 years of leadership in the field. Design as a social practice is the program’s guiding philosophy. Students explore design as a force for change, a means of environmental stewardship, and a tool for shaping experiences.

    This program is part of Parsons' School of Constructed Environments (SCE). Learn about the SCE community and explore our blog to see what students, faculty, and alumni are doing in NYC and around the world.

    Read More About the ProgramRead Less

    New Possibilities for Design

    Integrating sustainable design strategies with new developments in technology and materials, the two-year, full-time professional MFA in Interior Design program prepares a new generation of designers to address social changes and demographic shifts shaping clients’ needs today. A faculty of distinguished practicing professionals work with students to imagine new possibilities for the design of habitable space. The program hosts “AfterTaste,” an international conference dedicated to exploring the connections between interior design and fields including art, architecture, film, science, psychology, philosophy, medicine, and music.

    Designed for Change

    The 60-credit studio-based and research-oriented curriculum challenges students to analyze the relationship between human behavior and perception of the interior. Courses investigate materials and their environmental impact, fabrication and manufacturing processes, building systems and operational energy consumption, drawing and digital representation, and the history and theory of interior design. During the second year, students develop a thesis project, written thesis book, and exhibition. This program is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. 

    The Urban Laboratory

    Using New York City as an urban laboratory, the curriculum draws on Parsons’ long-standing connections to design firms, manufacturers, galleries, and museums. Students supplement core classes with electives offered throughout Parsons and the rest of The New School in fields such as design and technology, anthropology, psychology, and environmental and urban studies.

    Space for Collaboration

    The program is situated in Parsons’ School of Constructed Environments (SCE), home to related programs in architecture, lighting design, and product/industrial design. SCE students share research and fabrication facilities and work collaboratively on projects in an open design studio, uniting historically separate design disciplines to support cross-disciplinary innovation.

    Double Major with MFA Lighting Design

    The School of Constructed Environments offers students wishing to combine interior design and lighting design a unique double major. The MFA Lighting Design and Interior Design is a three-year, 90-credit-hour curriculum allowing students to develop an in-depth technical, aesthetic, and experiential understanding of the relationship between light and interior space. Interested students should apply directly to their primary program of interest — Interior Design or Lighting Design — and follow the application prompts for the double major.

    Future Opportunities

    Graduates are positioned to transform the field as practitioners and educators by working in interior design and architecture studios and in the fields of industrial design and sustainable design; developing new design practices; and collaborating with nonprofit, government, and educational institutions.

  • Curriculum

    The Master of Fine Arts degree is awarded for completion of 60 credits. Transfer credits are not accepted. Students must maintain a 3.0 cumulative grade point average and fulfill all requirements in a timely manner.


    Program Contact

    Full Time Faculty

      See All Program Faculty


      Learn more about what Parsons students, faculty, and alumni are doing throughout the city and around the world. Explore the SCE Community

      MFA Double Major in Interior Design and Lighting Design


      Since 2012, the School of Constructed Environments has offered an MFA double major combining the established Master of Fine Arts Interior Design and Master of Fine Arts Lighting Design programs. This unique curricular track allows students to investigate in depth the design of environments and human inhabitation with a focus on the relationship between light, materials, and interior volumetric space. The three-year MFA track will enable students to develop critical sustainable design thinking and technical skills associated with lighting design and interior design.

      Founding Principles

      Students enrolled in this unique multi-disciplinary track expand their knowledge of light and space relationships through research and design investigations of material, form, and surface interactions with light. Human perception within the interior, and the corresponding psychological and physiological effects of design decisions, are basic to all investigations. Design as a social practice is a guiding philosophy.

      Design of the Interior

      The MFA double major offers an opportunity for critical and speculative evaluation of the interior condition; its studio-centered, research-oriented focus challenges students to analyze the relationship between human behavior, comfort, perception, and social exchange with attention to light and the built interior. Human health and sustainable strategies associated with materials, indoor air quality, and energy allow students to position aesthetic and intellectual interests against tangible realities confronted in practice.

      Through project-based learning and a culminating thesis year, students pose questions and develop independent ideas, interests, and problem-solving skills. Seminars focusing on technologies, analysis, application techniques, biology, and design theory complement the studio coursework. As the birthplace of interior design education in the early 20th century and of lighting design education in the 1970s, Parsons invites re-examination and innovation of these related design disciplines through its MFA double major.

      Resources for the Future

      Assisted by Parsons' alliance with professional organizations and a distinguished faculty of prominent practitioners, theorists, historians, critics, and scientists drawn from New York City, students pursue professional internships and other partnerships during semester breaks and full-time positions subsequent to graduation with leading players on the global design and research stage.

      Admission to the MFA Double Major requires acceptance into both the Interior Design and the Lighting Design programs.


      To learn more about the double major's curriculum, see the Curriculum section.


      Interested students should apply directly to the double major program; they will automatically be considered for admission to the individual MFA Interior Design and MFA Lighting Design programs as well.

      Admission Requirements

      Applicant Profile

      The MFA Interior Design program seeks students with an insatiable curiosity, a hunger for learning, and a desire to explore unknown territories. We are looking for students who are committed to making a better future for all people through the design of experiences and environments. We look for students who want to experiment and invent, who know the importance and power of collaboration, are willing to work hard, who take risks, and who aren't afraid of failure.

      Because interior designers create places for other people to inhabit (live, work, learn, and play), the ideal applicant will have had at least one year living and working outside of academic institutions prior to attending graduate school. We are looking for students who understand that designers must be conscious stewards of quality of life, of culture, of planetary health, and of the health of all living things. We are looking for people who want to learn new ways of doing things, will help shift paradigms, and are committed to inventing a healthier, more engaging future.

      Applicants of any academic background and with a variety of experiences will be considered for acceptance into the MFA Interior Design program.

      Application and Financial Aid Deadlines

      Application Deadline

      The application deadline is January 1. To be most competitive for admission and merit scholarship consideration, please apply before the deadline. We will continue to review applications submitted after the January 1 priority deadline pending space availability in the program. The Admission Committee will make a decision on your application only after all the required materials have been received. Spring term admission is not offered for this program. The fall term readmission deadline is August 1 (review readmission information below).

      Financial Aid Deadline

      All applicants selected for admission into our program are considered for a merit scholarship award that is determined by the strength of their application. Scholarship award notification is communicated at the same time as the admission decision. International students are eligible only for merit scholarships. If you are a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen, we encourage you to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which can be found on the Web at The FAFSA is available each year on October 1. You do not need to wait for an admission decision to apply for federal aid; we recommend submitting by our FAFSA priority deadline of February 1 for fall applicants. (The New School’s federal school code is 002780.)

      Application Instructions

      All applicants are required to apply online. Save your work frequently and print a copy for your records. You must complete all required fields and uploads prior to submission.

      Any additional supporting documents that need to be sent by mail must include an Application Materials Cover Sheet. All supporting materials must be received before your application can be reviewed.

      See below for additional information regarding submission of transcripts and recommendations.

      Some of your required materials will be submitted through SlideRoom:

      1. In addition to submitting the online application, Parsons requires that you submit a portfolio using SlideRoom.
      2. Finalize your portfolio at the time you submit your application. This will help prevent any delays in reviewing your application, as we need to receive all required materials before we can place your application under review.
      3. Once you have submitted the required SlideRoom materials, a confirmation number will be emailed to you. Save this for your records and enter it on the online application when requested.

      Required Application Materials

      1. Application Form: Complete the online application. All applicants are required to apply online.
      2. Application Fee: A nonrefundable $50 application fee paid as part of the online application. A $15 SlideRoom fee is also required.
      3. Transcripts:
        Unofficial Transcripts: Applicants must upload an unofficial transcript, mark sheet, or academic record for each institution (even if you didn’t receive a degree) in the Educational Background section of the online application.
        • All transcript uploads must be accompanied by a key, a legend, or the back copy of the transcript.
        • Non-English transcripts must be accompanied by an English translation. Records from non-U.S. institutions must have grades or marks and contain a copy of diploma if the degree has been conferred.
        • Make sure your name appears on the transcript/record. Scans must be clear and legible.
        • Do not mail materials that have been uploaded with the online application or any other materials unless requested by the admission office.
        • If you experience trouble uploading your transcript, email and give a detailed description of the issue and attach the document in question.
        The New School reserves the right to require official transcripts at any time during the admissions process. Any fraudulent activity or discrepancies found between uploaded and official transcripts will result in the immediate revocation of admission and/or dismissal from The New School. Transcripts uploaded with the online application are considered unofficial.

        Official Transcripts: Applicants offered admission will be required to submit official transcripts (as well as official certified translations and evaluations of the transcripts/mark sheets and degree certifications if the degree was earned outside of the United States) to The New School. Admitted applicants must submit all official transcripts pertaining to their entire academic career.

        Your offer of admission will be contingent upon the receipt and verification of these official documents. New students will not be permitted to register for their second semester of study until all official transcripts (including degree-awarding transcripts) have been received by the Office of Graduate Admission. Transcripts uploaded with the online application do not satisfy this requirement.

        By Mail: Official transcripts should have an original signature or a raised university seal, and must be in a sealed envelope that has been signed or stamped by the issuing university’s registrar or records office. Applicants can either send official transcripts with an Application Materials Cover Sheet or request that institutions send transcripts directly to The New School. See “Mailing Address for Supplemental Materials” for our mailing address in the Additional Instructions and Information section below.

        Electronic Transcripts (U.S./Domestic Institutions Only): The New School accepts electronic transcripts only from our approved vendors. The New School’s approved vendors, in order of preference, are
        • Parchment Exchange
        • SCRIP-SAFE International
        • National Student Clearinghouse
        We do not accept electronic transcripts sent directly by a student or school offices. Note: All international academic credentials must be submitted as indicated in the International Academic Credentials sections below.

        International Academic Credentials: All transcripts not written in English must be accompanied by a certified English translation or be evaluated by World Education Services (WES), or by another member of the National Association of Credit Evaluation Services (NACES). A course-by-course evaluation must be prepared for each transcript. In the absence of an evaluation, the Admission Committee will do its best to render a decision. Please note: In some cases, a review cannot be made without an evaluation, and a committee decision will be delayed. The Admission Office reserves the right to request a transcript evaluation if necessary.

        If using WES, visit for instructions and to begin the application process. The “Required Documents” section will explain what to send. If you request your report online, search for “The New School” when selecting our institution. WES will send your completed evaluation directly to The New School.

        If using another NACES provider, follow instructions for that provider. Mailed evaluations and translations should be sent to the mailing address provided for supporting materials. Applicants forwarding these sealed documents should include an Application Materials Cover Sheet.
      4. Résumé: Submit a brief résumé/curriculum vitae summarizing your academic qualifications, relevant work experience, volunteer/community work, travel, exhibitions, public speaking, or any other relevant experiences as they may relate to your field of study, including dates and positions held. Please also note any special language or computer skills that you have.
      5. Statement of Purpose: The field of Interior Design is often presumed to be the art of decoration. This program was initiated to advance the study and discipline of interior design, and challenging assumptions is a core principle. Choose a prompt from the list below. (500–750-word limit)
        • Describe, in meticulous detail, a particular experience or moment in your life that has transformed the way you perceive the built world.
        • Describe how a particular object, a room, a building, or a city can shape the experience of people.
        • Describe how you imagine the design of interiors can be transformative for people's lives.
        • What do you believe to be the role of decoration in transforming the experience of people? Why?
        • Describe a moment in your life when you were expected to make a decision but couldn't, and why.
      6. Recommendation Letters: You are required to submit two letters of recommendation from faculty or people with whom you have worked professionally. Recommenders can submit recommendations online; instructions are included with the online application. If preferred, the recommendation form may instead be sent by mail in a signed, sealed envelope. To send by mail, download the PDF recommendation form found in the online application, complete the personal information, save the form, and forward it to the recommender for completion and submission. Applicants can also send signed and sealed recommendations to the Office of Admission using an Application Materials Cover Sheet.
      7. Portfolio: The portfolio must be completed in SlideRoom only. The purpose of the portfolio is to show your individual perspective and creative skills. Prepare a sequence of 15–25 images that best communicate your visual thinking. Include work that best demonstrates your skills from previous educational and/or professional experience. Sketches and conceptual work can also be included.

        We welcome students from a wide variety of disciplines. If you are an applicant without previous training in interior design or other design-related fields, you can demonstrate your aptitude by submitting examples of freehand drawing, photography, painting, sculpture, graphic design, three-dimensional work, furniture, product design, digital media, or work in other forms. Time-based works such as film, video, performance, installation, or sound are also accepted. Do not combine images in a prepared presentation or slideshow of any type (e.g., PowerPoint or Keynote).
      8. Test Scores:
        GRE (optional): Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores are encouraged, but not required. If you took the GRE and general tests (verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing) scores can be submitted to support your application. The institution code is 2638.

        TOEFL, IELTS, and PTE: All applicants whose first language is not English must submit valid TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE scores. The minimum score required for TOEFL (IBT) is 92, for IELTS is 7.0, and for PTE is 63. Our TOEFL institution code is 2638.

        The New School does not require TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE scores for applicants:

        • Whose native language is English
        • Who have earned a four-year degree from a U.S. college/university or from a university where English is the primary language of instruction (minimum of three years attendance)

        Upon review of your application, the Office of Admission reserves the right to request a TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE score.

        Arrange for the testing service to send your test scores directly to The New School using the codes listed above. We accept scores from the past two years. If your scores are older, you must retake the test. For more information, visit TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE.

        Applicants also have the option of enrolling in The New School's English as a Second Language (ESL) program. Students must pass Level 6 in order to waive the TOEFL/IELTS/PTE requirement. Visit the ESL website for more information.
      9. Interviews: An interview may be requested by the graduate faculty.

      Additional Information and Instructions

      1. Applying to More Than One Program: In any given term, a student can apply to only one department or program within The New School. Applicants who file more than one application in a given semester will be required to withdraw one of the applications, and application fees will not be refunded.
      2. Application Materials: All materials submitted in association with The New School application become the property of The New School and cannot be returned to you or transmitted to a third party.
      3. Test Score Codes:
        • TOEFL: The institution code is 2638.
        • GRE: The institution code is 2638.
      4. Application Status: Applications become complete and ready for review once all required items have been received by the Office of Admission. You can check your application status online at the Admission Hub.

        Allow at least 14 days from the date you submitted your application for items to be matched and shown as received on the Hub. Applicants are responsible for following up with schools and recommenders to confirm that items have been sent.

        The Office of Admission will periodically notify applicants by email if their file is missing any documents and again when their file is complete for review. These notifications are sent to the email address provided in the online application.
      5. Readmission
      6. The Application for Readmission (PDF) should be completed by students who wish to return after an absence of four semesters (fall and spring). Students must reapply to the program to which they were originally admitted. Readmission is only available for current New School programs. If you are looking to transfer 24 or more semester-based credits, you should apply for admission as a transfer student according to the instructions outlined above. The following materials are required of applicants seeking readmission:

        • Application for Readmission (PDF)
        • Statement of Purpose
        • One letter of recommendation
        • Transcripts if you have attended another college or university since last at The New School
        • An updated portfolio upon faculty request
        Mailing Address for Supplemental Materials:
        Parsons School of Design
        Office of Admission (PS 300)
        79 Fifth Avenue, 5th floor
        New York, NY 10003