September 3, 2019

Name: Sivilay Xayasaene, NCIDQ

Current Title: Interior Designer

Office Location: Charlotte, NC

Years at Gresham Smith: 1


We’ve added quite a few employees to our Charlotte office over the last year, including Sivilay Xayasaene, an interior designer in our Corporate + Urban Design studio. From learning how to win work to winning an Alfred Williams design challenge, she’s had quite the year since joining Gresham Smith. Keep reading to learn how she chose her profession, why she’s comfortable being uncomfortable and what trip is on her bucket list.


Where did you grow up?

Belmont, North Carolina


Where did you go to college?

Appalachian State University


What made you choose your profession?

I chose my profession by accident. I had always gravitated towards all things creative, however my parents really wanted me to pursue a more lucrative career in the medical, business or technology fields. In college I started out as a computer science major, but eventually became a business major with an interior design minor before deciding to pursue interior design as my career. I knew that it wasn’t what my parents had envisioned, nor would it make me a millionaire, but I selected it with the mindset that doing something I loved would eventually bring along the success I dreamed of. I think it says a lot that even today I can still say that I never want to stop being an interior designer.


What drew you to Gresham Smith?

I was drawn to the opportunity to help build our Corporate + Urban Design studio in Charlotte. I also love the culture and diversity that Gresham Smith has to offer.


How has Gresham Smith helped you in your career development?

When I started at Gresham Smith my biggest challenge was business development. At my prior firm I wasn’t part of the pursuit process, but I suddenly found myself involved in meeting people and working to win projects. With firm’s support and gentle pushing, I have become more confident and comfortable with making new connections and building relationships. I’ve even developed a nice network of people that I can call on and consider friends.


What advice would you give to people who aspire to be where you are?

Being uncomfortable is a good thing. It’s easy to doubt yourself and crawl back into your comfort zone and I spent the majority of my early career afraid to take risks. Looking back, I realize that the times when I had no choice but to be uncomfortable were ultimately the most rewarding experiences. I now view being uncomfortable as an exciting challenge.



What’s your favorite Gresham Smith memory?

My favorite memory is winning the Alfred Williams Good Design Challenge in September 2018. Our team was tasked with creating a collaborative art piece to be auctioned off in support of a Charlotte-area nonprofit. The year’s theme inspired our “bee architecture” poster that represented the city’s inherent capacity to network, collaborate and create partnerships that ultimately build a thriving community. It was our first year to enter and thanks to our group effort we took home the top prize and solidified our name in the design community.


What’s on your bucket list?

I was born in a refugee camp in Thailand. I’d love to go back and see it with my family one day.


What book are you currently reading?

To Pixar and Beyond by Lawrence Levy


What’s one thing your coworkers might not know about you?

I’m a lifestyle family photographer and an indoor plant enthusiast!