Marcio Decker's Talent for Interior Design and Abstract Art Helps Shape His Career

Vanishing Mutualism

Decker’s award-winning mixed media piece, Vanishing Mutualism. Image courtesy of Marcio Decker.

Interior Designer Marcio Decker has earned plenty of praise during his 14-year career. Based in Truckee, California, his firm, Aspen Leaf Interiors, has been featured in many print and online publications, including Elle Décor, Reno Magazine and Tahoe Quarterly. The firm has also received a number of honors, such as a recent nomination for an HGTV Faces of Design award.

Last fall, Decker added another very special award to his growing collection. But this one had nothing to do with interior design. It was a first-place prize in the mixed media category for his entry in the Florence Biennale, a renowned contemporary art exhibit held every other year in Florence, Italy.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” said Decker, who earned his M.F.A. in interior design through Academy of Art University’s online program in 2016 and also has a degree in fine art. “I walked the show and thought all of the pieces were really strong. I was just proud to be there.”

An international jury of critics, museum directors and scholars selected the finalists competing for Best of Show accolades from some 3,000 nominated artists. Decker was the only one representing the U.S. to be recognized. His creation—a triptych, or three-panel piece titled Vanishing Mutualism,—was inspired by his concern for the environment. 

“The idea came to me through watching shows about all the coral reefs that were once thriving but are now becoming barren,” he explained. “I wanted the piece to speak to the vanishing harmony between humans and the environment.”


Decker (center) with his award at the Florence Biennale. Photo courtesy of Marcio Decker.

sists of collages that blend acrylic paint and photos of Decker and his friends. Each collage is backlit by LED lights. While the composition of the figures in the foreground remains the same on each panel, the background subtly changes to reflect the way our environment is changing.

“The first panel is very colorful and harmonious, but as you move to the next one, you see something has shifted—it’s a bit more muted,” said Decker. “As you look through all three panels, things are evolving, yet the people assume the same position. Our backs are turned to what’s happening to the environment. I wanted the piece to catch people’s attention, to show them the doom we could be looking at. It can also be viewed as a timeline of the past, present and future.”

Working in the Lake Tahoe area, it’s not surprising that Decker’s interior design portfolio includes many mountain homes, from cozy ski cabins to luxurious lodges. But his Aspen Leaf Interiors team—he has two partners and five employees—frequently ventures beyond the shores of Tahoe to serve clients in San Francisco, Palm Springs and other cities. The firm handles a wide array of projects, including high-rises, mid-century modern homes and contemporary residences.

“I love working with people,” said Decker, when asked why he pursued a career in interior design instead of focusing solely on being a professional artist. “It’s also always been important to me to feed the art that you can experience in your everyday environment, the place you wake up in, the place you have meals with the special people in your life. I wanted to have a more rounded experience with art. Also, my art and interior design feed each other.”

Decker was already an interior designer when he enrolled at the Academy. But he wanted to expand his skillset and apply what he learned to his business. The School of Interior Architecture & Design’s online program provided him with that opportunity, as well as the flexibility he needed to earn his M.F.A. while working full-time and creating art.


A living room located in Northstar, Lake Tahoe, California, created for a client of Aspen Leaf Interiors—the interior design firm of School of Interior Architecture & Design M.F.A. alumnus Marcio Decker. Photo courtesy of Marcio Decker.

“It was great to have conversations with teachers who work in the industry about situations I was dealing with in my own projects,” he said. “It was also important for me to take all of the information I got from my classes and mix it with the experience I already had to become a better designer and a better artist.” 

According to one of his instructors, Ivan Azerbegi, Decker was always inquisitive and thinking outside the box. He added that his former student seemed to thrive in the realm of online learning.

“It was a pleasure watching Marcio take some rather complex spatial challenges and create good solutions with interesting concepts,” Azerbegi remarked. “He seemed to have a passion for digital work as well, so I’m not surprised that he won first place in mixed media at the Florence Biennale. His accomplishments show that a spatial designer, who also has good digital skills, can enter into a multi-disciplinary context with confidence.”