August 30, 2013 UT Interior Design Program Welcomes New Faculty

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Architecture and Design welcomes two new faculty members to the Interior Design Program – Lisa Mullikin, an associate professor, and Liz Teston, an assistant professor.

With varied backgrounds ranging from practicing in New York, London and San Francisco to specializing in healthcare and corporate environments, the new professors offer scholarly and design expertise to the growing interior design curriculum.

Here Mullikin and Teston share their interests, passions, approaches to teaching, and what they are looking forward to as members of the Architecture and Design community.

Teaching and Passions

“Almost everyone who goes into interior design is passionate,” said Mullikin. “That’s the nature of someone wanting to make the environment better. I hope I can help students channel their passion so they get the results they imagine. Of course the discipline takes so much rigor, and students need to embrace the challenge of hard work. Knowing you worked as hard as possible to make things better for people is a great feeling, even if you’re totally exhausted at the end of the day.”

Teston reverberates Mullikin’s enthusiasm, noting that she hopes to unite design with outreach in her teaching. “My research will focus on the intersection of design activism and pedagogy,” she said. “Uncovering the evocative aspects of something that initially seems really mundane is incredibly compelling. That fascination is associated with my interest in community design. How can a student take something that the public ignores every day and re-appropriate it to reveal its intrinsic value?”

Mullikin, who comes to UT from Louisiana Tech, adds: “[I]t took me a few years of teaching to realize that each student has a certain temperament, and education needs to work around that person’s talent and desire. Some students need a little pushing, and others, I just stand back and let them push themselves. One isn’t better than the other.”

Path to the University of Tennessee

Mullikin and Teston were once pupils of design like the students they teach. As with many of our students, their passion for the designed environment started at an early age.

“Our environment has a profound effect on our health and happiness,” said Mullikin. “When I was growing up my family moved around all the time. I’ve lived in beautiful stimulating environments and I’ve lived at the opposite end of the spectrum. And of course bad environments are usually tied to poverty and repression. I wish I could wave my magic wand and make it better for everyone. This remains our ethical dilemma as designers.”

Teston shares about growing up in Atlanta in the 1980s. As the city was growing, her family would visit construction sites in her neighborhood. “We would go home and draw floor plans of the buildings and build massive Lego models,” she said. “I can’t remember a time that being an interior designer was not on my long list of things I wanted to be ‘when I grow up.’”

Achieving her dream, Teston “practiced commercial interior design in Atlanta for 10 years.” Her work was primarily centered on “corporate and healthcare typologies, including national accounting firms, and small, intricately detailed projects. I recently returned to academia by obtaining my Master of Architecture and was an instructor in the Common First Year program [at Georgia Tech].”

Sharing about her personal history in interior design, Mullikin said, “I’ve worked for years in architectural offices and as a teacher in both [architecture and interior design] disciplines. About 13 years ago I started a small firm with my husband and we’ve been teaching and undertaking small projects ever since. I naturally gravitate toward anything interiors-related, and lately have gotten very interested in landscape design.”

“It’s been a long career and I have a lot to be thankful for,” adds Mullikin. “I have to say that my career stems from a lifetime of perplexing decisions. Going to college in lieu of a steady job was daunting (and not what was expected of me), but life-changing.  When I graduated from college I moved to London with no job and no acquaintances. Again, I was terrified. But I was slowly learning that tough decisions can be the beginning of something boundless and incredible. And it hasn’t been about courage like some people might think. It’s just desire, and that’s a hard thing to ignore.”

Teston shares that “[w]hile I have designed some projects that have been published and the peer recognition on my design projects was gratifying, the relationships with my clients were most rewarding. Working with the same group of clients, consultants and contractors through the years created a collegial work atmosphere that I really enjoyed. I hope that I can find a similar atmosphere in the College of Architecture and Design.”


Their education reflects their drive. Mullikin received her Master of Architecture from the University of Maryland, College Park (1992), Architectural History Certificate from the Royal Academy of Art, London (1984), and Bachelor of Science Interior Design from the University of Maryland, College Park (1983). Teston graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with her Master of Architecture (2013), and earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design with a minor in Electronic Design from the Savannah College of Art and Design (2000).

Design Work

Images of a few of their projects:

Lisa Mullikin

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Liz Teston
Liz Teston[/caption]

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