THAO BUI – The story of an Interior Designer

Ever wonder what it’s like to be an Interior Designer in New York City? Ask Thao Bui,  a talented designer at SOSH Architects. After working for 7 years in Vietnam, Thao attended grad school in the U.S. and landed the job offer right after graduation. At her current role, Thao focuses on Casino and Hospitality Design (hotel, resort, restaurant, and recently…a museum). Check out Thao’s story below and her stunning portfolio at


My study abroad experience began rather late in my life. I obtained a Bachelor degree from the Ho Chi Minh City University of Architecture in 2005, and had 7 years of work experience in Vietnam before I started the Master’s program at the New York School of Interior Design. Therefore, when I applied for jobs in NYC, I already accumulated a thick substantial portfolio from diverse projects I had worked on in Vietnam and at school. With respect to all types of projects, I always know what I want to do. I want to work in NYC as it is a great inspiring city, and I want to work in the hospitality design industry as it is a very creative world. With some help from the career office at my school, I found the list of Hospitality Design Giants of the year, and I submitted my applications to about 30 companies in NYC.

I had 2 interviews with 2 different companies and I got the offer at the second one right during the interview. My boss asked “Can you work tomorrow?”. I said “Yes”. I started working on Thursday on a random day in September.

Design firms in NYC are not so big as finance firms. Furthermore, there are always numerous designers and architects looking for jobs in NYC, many of whom agree to work with low income to gain experience and enrich their portfolio. It is a high pressure work environment in which everyone must prove that they are the most qualified.


For many people, it seems that Interior Design is not one of the dream jobs in America. Many people have changed their occupation to different fields that could help them earn more money. One of my friends had the advice that “You wouldn’t be rich as an interior designer. You should had changed your job”. Unfortunately, that made her stop pursuing her dream. I ignore those kinds of advice and opinions, solely focus on self-improvement. To me, all jobs are valuable; the facts that make us successful depends on how good we are, how diligent we are, how much effort we put into our work. When we have commitment to pursue our dreams and build our career, our success can come in many forms. It’s not only about money, but also everything else we gain. We feel successful when we are satisfied with what we have achieved.

In my architecture and design firm, I’m wearing all the hats when necessary. The goal is always the end we deliver to our clients. Two years of speaking English might constrain my ability to communicate, but eight years of diverse work experience provides a real edge. Outside of regular work hours, I always find time to further improve my knowledge of design. Job is not always exciting, so I have to motivate myself by setting higher goals to achieve. Sometimes, I go to my boss and ask for more challenging assignments, reminding him that I have more skills than what he requires me to have to fulfill the current position. Whenever I have the chance, I study and apply new skills to meet my own higher expectation.

To be an interior designer or architect in the U.S. is not easy. After graduation, we need to obtain licenses and certificates to enrich our resume that can help us promote our career. Once working, we still need to constantly practice, learn new skills, and earn more credits to maintain certified.

The job of creating aesthetic spaces really brings a lot joy into my life. It inspires people to have a better life. Furthermore, I’m learning and practicing to create a healthy living space in which all the things we touch, we inhale, we taste, we see, we hear are within our design.

Last but not least, my heart is always in the same beat with the Vietnamese community. The temporary work authorization status in the U.S. does not bother me much as I have always planned to go back to Vietnam. However, as long as I am still living in the Big Apple, I make sure to constantly challenge myself to learn, experience, and be inspired. The good knowledge I have been studying here, I make the journals to spread the ideas and to inspire more innovation.

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