How to Become an Interior Designer

Sam Brine at Amara
Sam Brine

Section 1: Getting to know the profession

An Overview

Interior design is the planning, and designing, of a building’s interiors to create an aesthetically pleasing yet functional environment for those using the space. It is the art, and science, behind man-made structures: a stimulating field vital to improving people’s quality of life, and ensuring, and initiating, societal innovation.

The multifaceted craft—often appealing to problem-solving detail-oriented types—typically comprises, but is not limited to, trend research and forecasting, client communication, space planning, site inspections, construction management, as well as the execution of the design.

Professionals, from enhancing a small London apartment to illuminating a luxury hotel lobby, generally work across a range of projects, industries and fields, either as freelancers or as part of a firm.

Careers in interior design are becoming increasingly popular among students and graduates. This guide provides an insight into the industry, including what it takes to become an interior designer; advice on choosing the right path; an overview of the industry’s economic output; the realities of working for a firm; how to start your own business; and setting up a studio.

What are the seven basic elements and principles of interior design?

There are seven basic principles of interior design. They are:

Colour Form Light Line Pattern Texture Space

Contemporary leaders in interior design

Eva Sonaike
Justina Blakeney

  • Sophie Peckett
  • Specializing in residential and commercial design globally, Peckett is an interior designer and interior architecture based in London.
  • Eva Sonaike
  • Sonaike, who was born and raised in Germany and is of Nigerian origin, specializes in luxury home textiles and soft furnishings with a distinctive and vibrant West-African aesthetic.
  • Andrés Reisinger
  • Reisinger is an Argentinian experimental and commercial interior designer who has been selected by Forbes as 30under30 Europe for Arts & Style.
  • Fred Rigby
  • A London-based interior and furniture designer with over 10 years experience creating and working with an array of clients, from galleries to luxury retail stores, boutique hotels and restaurants.
  • Justina Blakeney
  • Blakeney is the founder and creative director of home décor brand, Jungalow and the author of The New Bohemians book series.
  • Mlondolozi Hempe
  • Hempe’s work is influenced by everyday South Africa and his childhood. He founded Umongo and co-founded Broad Based Design.
  • Elisabeth Heier
  • A Norwegian stylist and blogger who has developed her career to include photography, styling and creative direction in addition to interior design.
  • Rose Murray
  • Founder of White Walls, a multi-award-winning studio that creates bold interiors and bespoke experiences for high-end private clients and commercial brands.
  • Tanya Gyani
  • Gyani’s textile-driven unique style reflects her Indian upbringing. She is the owner of Tanya Gyani Design, a boutique design firm based in Palo Alto, California.
  • Duncan Campbell and Charlotte Rey
  • Beginning their career together at Acne Paper, the pair work fluently between residential and commercial interior design, creative direction, furniture and product design.
  • Joanna Gaines
  • Gaines is behind Magnolia, a home decor online market and design blog. She was also a co-star of HGTV's Fixer Upper in the US with her husband Chip.
  • Hashimoto Yukio
  • Born in 1962 in Aichi Prefecture, Japan, Hashimoto is the author of LED to magewappa: shinkasuru dentō dezain and director of Hashimoto Yukio Design Studio Inc.
  • Kelly Wearstler
  • An American designer specializing in the hotel industry; The New Yorker dubbed her “the presiding grande dame of West Coast interior design."
  • Charles Mellersh
  • Mellersh began his career in the design industry as a journalist and stylist for Wallpaper * Magazine. He is known for his warmth and attention to detail.

    Sarit Shai Hay - image credit Roni Cnaani

  • Kevin Fries and Jakob Zumbühl
  • The unlikely duo—a window dresser and a design engineer—met at Zurich University of Arts in Switzerland. In 2013, realizing their complementaries, they established Fries and Zumbühl Studio.
  • Naihan Li
  • Currently living and working in Shanghai, Li is renowned for her design art furniture work exhibited by M+Museum, Milan Design Triennial, London Design Museum, among others.
  • Alessandra Branca
  • Branca personally oversees design projects from her offices in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. They are typically anchored by European classical details, acquired from her Italian upbringing.
  • Greg Natale
  • Multi-award-winning Australian designer Natale is known for his use of pattern and colour.
  • Ben Thompson
  • A London based interior designer working mostly in the restoration of historic country properties. Initially starting at a small firm, he is the former director of Ilse Crawford’s StudioIlse.
  • Maliha Nishat
  • Nishat joined Marriott International in 2017 as director of interior design for global design, Middle East & Africa.
  • Bobby Berk
  • After years in the creative and design field, Berk is best known as the design guru on Netflix’s highly acclaimed Queer Eye.
  • Kanji Ueki
  • At 75, Ueki remains a contemporary leader of the field. He has had a rare career as a designer, graduating from the Faculty of Business and Commerce of Keio University in 1968.
  • Sarit Shani Hay
  • Tel Aviv-based award-winning designer Hay is considered a pioneer in the field of children's environments, offering interior design along with custom furniture and accessories.

    What does it take to become an interior designer?

    Artistic talent

    Artistic ability is, of course, key. You will need to be able to provide accurate, realistic sketches of your proposed designs; and have the stylistic potential to choose complementary furniture, colours, and materials for the ensuing space—considering your client’s needs, particularly in terms of function, and durability.

    Technical skills

    Proficiency in computer-aided design software is desirable. The ability to be able to read and interpret blueprints, known generically as “plans”, is likewise a useful skill for designers to gain an accurate understanding of the architect’s intent, and to be able to interpret the building’s specifications properly.


    Interior designers tend to work on multiple tasks at once. Prospective candidates should be able to demonstrate excellent time management skills, prior experience of meeting deadlines (decision making and delegation is an important part of this), and a track record of working well under pressure.


    Communication is vital to ensuring design plans are completed sufficiently. You should feel comfortable working in a team and with a range of people, including clients and colleagues in different sectors, such as architects, civil and mechanical engineers, and construction labourers.


    Schedules vary greatly but a working week is typically 39 hours, Monday to Friday. Overtime and evening and weekend work are likely to be required, particularly if self-employed or working for a small firm. Part-time roles are also available.

    Travel is to be expected but most interior designers only travel locally or regionally. You should be able to set how far you are willing to travel to fit in with your schedule and lifestyle.


    A formal education is preferred. More information is available in the following sections.

    What is the difference between an interior designer and an interior decorator?

    Although the terms are often used interchangeably, interior designers and interior decorators have different responsibilities. The table below should help to determine the best fit for you.

    Interior designer Interior decorator
    Emphasizes purpose-built functional construction, focusing on the social context of the project, while following a systematic methodology Focuses on aesthetics (style, colour, furniture, and fabrics)
    Note: An interior designer may decorate, but decorators do not design Note: decorators do not design but designers may decorate
    Formal training and a license required; must adhere to code, regulatory requirements, and consider sustainability No formal training required; usually learn on the job, although classes are available
    Works alongside architects and contractors Works alongside homeowners, painters, and other tradespeople
    Typically commercial work Typically residential work

    Personal inventory

    Of course, there’s more to life than work but interior design is a demanding, all-encompassing field. Here are some questions a prospective designer should ask themselves, including recommended answers to each question.

    Remember: You do not have to align completely, however, it might be worth thinking about how well matched your characteristics are, and on that basis, whether or not this is the sector for you.

    How important is interior design for me?

    • You gain joy and satisfaction from reworking your home environment; your bedroom, for example, not only has a focus but is reflective of your style.

    • You feel inspired by interior details—not just in magazines, but your local hospital, too.

    • You understand the transformative power of interior design, and the potential to improve people’s quality of life by better managing the space available.

    • You appreciate that people have different styles, and are willing to adhere to client specifications.

    • You are interested in design techniques, tools and principles.

    What kind of lifestyle do I want to have?

    You prioritize…

    • Flexibility

    You will be expected to travel. You may be able to choose your clients and projects. You may need to adjust your workday to suit your clients’ schedules and deadlines. You may be able to work from home.

    • Variation

    Interior design is a multifaceted job. Two days are rarely ever the same. Tasks are incredibly widespread. At 10 am, you might be choosing tiles; and at 11 am, drawing up a design for a private room at the Tate Modern.

    • A fast pace

    Deadlines are incessant; you should enjoy a challenge, and work well under pressure.

    • Socializing

    Much of your time will be spent soliciting new clients and collaborating with others on ongoing projects.

    Do I have the innate creative abilities to become a successful designer?

    • Artistic ability

    You can draw skilfully; and with ease, can manually develop designs that are not only accurate but also aesthetically pleasing. You feel comfortable using computer software programs, colour wheels, digital cameras, paint chips, and fabric samples.

    • Creativity

    You are imaginative. Scenario 1: A client has asked if you can fit a bookshelf in a small space: Can you advise? Scenario 2: A client wants a formal dining table. What wood do you choose?

    • Detail-oriented

    You are very thorough in your sketches; and have the ability to precisely take measurements for furniture and furnishings, as well as put up a photo frame at the appropriate height on the wall.

    Am I willing to spend the time and money required for formal training?

    Interior design training can be a time-consuming and expensive process. The decision to embark on a career in the field is, therefore, not to be taken lightly; but consider it an investment, and remember that, according to AIGA, almost ninety per cent of people in the industry are happy with their jobs.

    It will typically take three years of a bachelor’s degree (priced at around £9,250 per academic year in the UK, and between $5000 and $50,000 in the US), followed by low-paid work experience placements. Student loans, grants and scholarships are available to support you through your studies.

    Head to our required qualifications section for more information.

    How much time do I want to devote to my work?

    Interior design can easily take precedence over social life. Carefully consider whether you have the capacity (any prior commitments, for example), and your devotion to a work-life balance. On the other hand, enjoying your job might be worth the sacrifices.

    • Working hours are likely to increase when a deadline is approaching.

    • Projects—from inception to completion—take 10-12 months on average, but, again, this is dependent on the scale and everything going to plan.

    In general, do I like the people in the field enough to work with them?

    You should, ideally, be a “people person”; not only will it make the job easier, but much more enjoyable.

    • While it’s likely that you’ll design alone, you will spend a lot of time planning and supervising on-site.

    • In addition to working with clients, you will be travelling to meetings with suppliers, builders, decorators, and architects.

    Do I have the personality to work with any kind of client?

    A pleasant, amicable relationship with your client, no matter how testing they may be, is essential to any interior design project. You need to be able to work effectively together, despite any issues that may arise. Preferably, you are patient, easy-going, a good listener, and an emphatic customer relator.

    • Common problems include tricky questions, money concerns, stubborn personalities, indecisiveness, and differences in aesthetic or vision. How do you think you would fare in such a scenario?

    Do I enjoy planning and organizing?


    • Keep a diary

    • Enjoy making lists

    • Prioritize tasks, breaking your work up into smaller pieces

    • Relish control

    • Plan ahead

    • Have outstanding attention to detail

    • Deliver projects on time and to budget

    • Would describe yourself as having a Type A personality (outgoing; ambitious; impatient; proactive; a high-achiever)

    Am I self-disciplined?


    • Rise to the occasion

    • Set and achieve goals, both short and long-term

    • Avoid temptation

    • Delay instant gratification

    • Demonstrate good time-management skills

    • Practice self-care

    • Take action, but think deeply before doing so

    • Remain organized in both your personal and professional life

    Am I self-motivated?

    You… * Hold a high level of self-belief

    • Are goal-oriented, and driven by purpose

    • Live your life with passion and energy

    • Don’t dwell on mistakes and failure

    • Dare to sacrifice

    • Are willing to take risks

    • Work hard

    • Take accountability for your actions

    Do I have more than average physical and emotional stamina?

    You... * Value your physical and mental health

    • Embrace life and its changes, as well as challenges

    • Would describe yourself as “resilient”

    • Remain in control of your emotions, responding well to adversity

    • Avoid comparing yourself to others

    • Seek help, where necessary

    Traditional designer-client relationships and responsibilities

    It is important to cultivate, and nurture, strong client relationships. Not only will it make your job more pleasant, but a satisfied customer is more likely to lead to loyal clients, references, and referrals—essentially, an increase in business, and therefore profit. Similarly, maintaining a solid rapport with employers, employees, and colleagues is fundamental to a designer’s success.

    Here is an overview of the people an interior designer may work with, depending on job role. Also included is a brief explanation of potential responsibilities, though this will, of course, vary across the sector.

    Pure designer

    • The primary objective is to enhance the interior of a building, using architectural knowledge, creative skills, and project management, to achieve a practical and aesthetically pleasing environment based on a client’s wants and needs

    • Service typically includes: drawings, documents, and purchasing specifications for all interior elements and furnishings required

    • Communicates with, and works alongside, the client and manufacturers

    • Settings vary: domestic, commercial or leisure

    Responsible for

    • Discuss the client’s requirements in detail, acquiring as much information as possible to develop ideas, and set project schedules

    • Prepare detailed sketches using computer-aided design software for client approval

    • Understand the purpose of the space and the needs of the client—carry out further research where necessary

    • Estimate material costs and set a budget, negotiating on the price accordingly

    • Prepare samples for client approval

    • Source all required products, including furniture, lighting, fittings, fixtures, and decorations


    • The primary objective is to facilitate the renovation process, making sure everything runs smoothly

    • Service typically includes: acting as an agent on the client’s behalf, placing the client’s orders with manufacturers and showrooms

    • Communicates with, and works alongside, the client, designer, and manufacturers

    • Settings vary: domestic, commercial or leisure

    Responsible for

    • Discuss the client’s requirements, acquiring as much information as possible, and setting a project schedule

    • Discuss the designer’s requirements, acquiring as much information as possible, and setting a project schedule

    • Estimate material costs and set a budget with the client, negotiating on the price accordingly

    • Estimate material costs and set a budget with the designer, negotiating on the price accordingly

    • Prepare samples for client approval

    • Source and budget for all required products, including furniture, lighting, fittings, fixtures, decorations


    • The primary objective is to sell merchandise, maintaining the audience of a particular brand, agency, store or gallery

    • Service typically includes: development, delivery, and communication of visual strategies and concepts for the promotion of products

    • Communicate with, and works alongside, the client, buyers or manufacturers, marketers, and sales and business managers

    • Setting: Usually employed in retail stores or head offices

    Responsible for

    • Research current and future trends in the interior design industry

    • Prepare and discuss design plans with either the designer or buyer, depending on whether or not you’re outsourcing

    • Identify sources, and arrange samples (this includes negotiating with visual materials suppliers)

    • Estimate material costs and set a budget with the sales and business managers

    • Coordinate with marketing, business and sales managers to discuss sales strategies

    • Discuss in-store product placement with business managers; assemble the visual displays, and dismantle them

    • Access product sales, and conduct customer feedback


    • The primary objective is to enhance the interior of a building, using architectural knowledge, creative skills, and project management, to achieve a practical and aesthetically pleasing environment based on an employee’s wants and needs

    • Service typically includes: drawings, documents, and purchasing specifications for all interior elements and furnishings required

    • Communicates with, and works alongside, employer, colleagues, traders, and manufacturers

    • Setting: Usually employed in retail stores

    Responsible for

    • Discuss your employer's requirements in detail, acquiring as much information as possible to develop ideas, and set project schedules for colleagues

    • Understand the purpose of the space and the needs of your employer—carry out further research where necessary

    • Estimate material costs and set a budget, negotiating on the price with traders and manufacturers accordingly

    • Prepare samples for employer approval

    • Source all required products, including furniture, lighting, fittings, fixtures, and decorations

    • Prepare detailed sketches using computer-aided design software for employer approval


    • The primary objective is to project manage employees, making sure everything runs smoothly

    • Service typically includes: The designer acting as a contractor by employing workers to complete required construction (for example, to hang paper, finish surfaces, handle drapery or window treatments)

    • Communicates with, and works alongside, employees, and client

    • Settings vary: domestic, commercial or leisure

    Responsible for

    • Discuss the client’s requirements, acquiring as much information as possible, and setting a project schedule

    • Ask your employees to estimate material costs and then set a budget with the client, negotiating on the price accordingly

    • Prepare samples for client approval

    • Ask your employees to source and budget for all required products

    • Ask your employees to complete construction, making sure to oversee

    • Access the construction before signing off for client approval

    Working styles

    Some people find that they work best solo, while others thrive in a group setting. Both have advantages and disadvantages. The key is finding which works best for you, and how to cater your career accordingly—interior design is a broad profession.

    No matter your style, you’ll have a part to play as a successful employee. For a business to truly thrive, there should be a broad range of personalities and characteristics.

    Consider the way you behave in a professional setting, comparing yourself with the categories below; think about the activities you enjoy, what stimulates you, and the role you typically end up taking within a team.

    Working alone… is it for you?

    You like to take control, and prefer to get things done by yourself. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not a team player, but that you work most effectively alone, without interruption.


    • Able to focus on getting the job done; rather than waiting for advice or approval

    • No need to rely on others

    • Work at your own pace, and depending on employment circumstances, perhaps your time frame

    • Make your own decisions; creative freedom

    • You don’t have to share the credit


    • You have to rely on self-motivation

    • More pressure; there’s nobody to share ideas with or receive help from, which can cause problems if you’re struggling

    • It can be lonely and as a result, boring

    • Nobody to replace you if you need to take time off, which can lead to project delays and client disappointment

    Employers Perhaps a pure design role, as referred to in the previous section, would be the most suitable fit. A significant proportion of interior designers also opt for self-employment, either working on a completely freelance basis or with a contract for a design agency.

    Teamwork… is it for you?

    You describe yourself as an extrovert and enjoy collaboration, generally benefiting from asking questions, directly observing and talking things through.


    • Capacity for brainstorming, which can lead to more ideas and as a result, increased productivity

    • Team members can offer different perspectives, based on their different skills, experiences and backgrounds

    • More social and as a result, generally more enjoyable (particularly if you’re an extrovert)

    • A problem shared, is a problem halved. A team can help solve problems and complete difficult tasks


    • Potential for distractions, decreasing the efficiency of the team and project

    • Conflict may occur; differing visions, and personality clashes

    • Have to rely on others

    • May need to compromise

    • Reduced creative freedom

    • Sharing the credit

    Employers A large proportion of interior design is about teamwork but it is particularly important for certain positions, such as an: agent, merchant, employee, or contractor. In-house roles would also be best suited to a team player.

    Design Associate… is it for you? You are an efficient employee who can easily switch between tasks, and you need, and appreciate, the guidance and security of working under somebody to ensure that the clients’ needs are being met.


    • Less responsibility

    • Fixed working hours

    • Opportunity to gain further knowledge and experience before moving to a managerial position


    • Little creative input; you’re likely to be given administrative tasks over creative ones

    • Lack of freedom and autonomy

    • Reduced job satisfaction

    Employers An associate interior designer typically helps to develop the design, purchase materials, coordinate meetings, and engage in correspondence with the client. Generally speaking, this is a junior position where most people start their interior design career.

    Section 2: Choosing the right path

    Specializations and specialities

    Becoming an expert is a great way to stand out within a tough job market; if you have a particular passion or niche, take advantage of it. If not, it’s likely that during your degree—or even at least further down the career ladder—you’ll find a focus.

    The field of interior design covers a multitude of specializations. A concentration in residential interior design is the most common, yet designers can narrow down to almost anything, from dental offices to computer-aided design, and even Feng Shui. Find inspiration in our examples below.

    Note: An interior designer is likely to be trained in, or have at least some basic knowledge, of each of these specialisms. Pursuing a career as a “generalist” also has its advantages, such as greater flexibility, and more job opportunities.


    CAD specialist

    • Computer-aided design, as opposed to traditional sketching methods, is capable of dramatically reducing production time. Though most modern-day interior designers have, and need, knowledge of the software, specialists are on-hand to develop technical drawings, blueprints, and other schematics, and when necessary, troubleshoot issues.

    • CAD specialists tend to work as freelance consultants but can be employed in-house, usually within larger companies.

    • Computer design is largely a solo effort but will require working with others face to face, over the phone, and via email.

    Colour consultation

    • Colour consultants are not usually fully-fledged interior designers, although interior designers can help with colour as a part of their overall services, and tend to have adequate knowledge.

    • They will design a scheme based on the client’s preferences and space’s features, advising on all aspects of home decoration, including; walls, floors, curtains, furnishings, storage, lighting, tiles, and accessories.

    • Colour consultants can work in-house or freelance.

    • Levels of collaboration vary.


    • Creates and directs the construction or renovation of commercial spaces.

    • A diverse and traditionally intense specialism, with lots at stake, such as profit and public safety.

    • Commercial specialists can work in-house or freelance.

    • Projects, though usually long-term, differ substantially in size, scale, number of rooms, and budget; teamwork is required.

    Display and exhibition

    • Creates display stands for exhibitions, usually temporary ones, at conferences, trade shows, museums, galleries, and libraries.

    • Their work revolves around themes, ideas or promotions, taking into consideration space and budget available.

    • Specialists generally work full-time, for example, in a gallery, or may work as an in-house or freelance independent events designer.

    • Projects may run on for several months, for instance, in a museum, or they can be completed within 24 hours, for conferences; levels of collaboration varies.

    Feng Shui

    • Feng Shui, which translates as “wind-water” in English, is a practice of arranging the pieces of living spaces to create balance in the natural world.

    • Instead of emphasizing comfort or aesthetic, Feng Shui uses a Bagua map to prioritize optimizing energy—essentially, a homeowner’s physical and mental health.

    • Feng Shui specialists tend to work as freelance consultants.

    • Levels of collaboration vary.


    • Furniture makes a home complete. It not only enhances, and usually dominates, the aesthetic, but it is vital for rest and comfort.

    • With many styles, pieces and outlets to choose from, creativity as a specialist is key. You need to be able to think outside the box and keep up to date with trends.

    • Furniture specialists tend to work as freelance consultants, but can be employed in-house, usually within larger companies.

    • Levels of collaboration vary.


    • Interior lighting is one of the most important aspects of any space; as a designer, you must decide and choose the types, styles, volume, and arrangement of lighting, considering the client’s desired mood while utilizing the size of the room.

    • It is an extremely diverse specialization. Tasks include developing designs for special effects, as well as residential and commercial projects.

    • Lighting specialists tend to work as freelance consultants, but can be employed in-house, usually within larger companies.

    • It is likely to be a collaborative effort. Expect to work alongside electrical engineers and merchandisers; and other designers, ranging from kitchen designers to costume.


    • Sustainable interior design is arguably the fastest growing specialization. After all, according to the World Green Building Council, building and construction projects contribute to 39 per cent of all carbon emissions.

    • Key objectives include: saving energy, reducing pollution, and limiting waste. Such practices not only improve environmental impact but also bring benefits to clients through savings in maintenance.

    • Sustainability designers, when used, hold substantial power in the renovation process; they should be confident leaders, as well as positive collaborators.


    • Specializing doesn’t need to be limiting. From crafting a luxury hotel bar to a library on a cruise ship, working in hospitality is an incredibly diverse, and creative, field.

    • Understanding the needs and desires of customers is, of course, the key here. It’s also advisable to have both interior design and hospitality education.

    • Global travel is likely to be required.

    • Projects, though usually long-term, differ substantially in size, scale, number of rooms, and budget; teamwork is essential.


    • The kitchen is the hub of a home—a place for gathering, cooking, and often, eating. For this reason, a designer must meet the needs and demands of its occupants.

    • A kitchen designer needs to be analytical. It is relatively easy to create a beautiful kitchen; the hard part is to create a space with logical, functional flow (the bin, for example, should be near the dishwasher).

    • The professional may remain involved throughout the project or may limit their involvement to the initial design. Depending on this, levels of collaboration will vary.

    • Kitchens are predominantly residential components but there may be a chance to work on a commercial project.

    Finding your place within the interior design field

    With an abundance of options, it can be difficult to find your place in the interior design world.

    Consider asking yourself:

    • What do I want from my career?

    • What do I enjoy, professionally and personally?

    • What are my core values?

    • What are my strengths?

    • What are my weaknesses?

    • What are my salary needs?

    Measures of success as an interior designer People have different values and priorities; success, in any field, depends on what’s important to you.

    Ways of measuring your success:

    • Career growth; A promotion, or at least potential for further progression

    • Opportunities to learn; Ability to learn new skills; Training courses

    • Job satisfaction; Your work feels important and aligns with your values

    • Work enjoyment; You love your job - it doesn’t feel like a chore

    • Salary; Your income maintains your lifestyle; No financial worries, or need for additional work

    • Stability; Not living in fear of unemployment

    How is success measured in the field?

    • Public success; Gained social status or fame as a result of interior design

    • Clients; Who have you worked for? A famous actor; a swanky bar?

    • Project type; Memorable, striking designs—whether a floating bar or a viral perfectly-matched living room

    • Awards; Prizes give a clear message about the excellence, dedication and commitment of an interior designer; the shortlists for World Interior of the Year, for example

    • Successful business or freelance career; A recognized expert in the industry; you don’t need to look for work, clients come to you

    The right mentality for a successful interior designer

    Designers are typically curious, non-restrictive types, who love to explore the minute detail and the bigger picture; you should be a natural problem-solver who has the skills to clearly and transparently communicate with a range of people. Passion and drive are also assuredly key for success, along with patience—answers don’t always come quickly and projects often encounter issues.

    A (non-exhaustive) list of international professional associations

    American Society of Interior Designers

    Founded in 1931, ASID has over 40,000 members across the US and Canada, offering a range of resources to the design community, including networking opportunities and marketing support. It is considered to be one of the most prominent associations in the industry.

    Association of Product designers

    The ADP is a civil non-profit society based in Brazil that aims to bring together professionals, students, institutions and companies working in design to develop, promote, publicize, regulate and support the industry. It launched in 2002.

    Allianz German Designer

    AGD is one of the largest design professional associations in Europe, working with politicians, business, chambers and associations to attain copyright, adequate remuneration models and sustainability.

    Asia Designer Communication Platform

    The ADP is devoted to promoting the global design exchange, with offices in Hong Kong, USA, Sydney, and Amsterdam. The establishment, born in 2013, has increased the international visibility and influence of Asian design.

    The Bureau of European Design Associations

    BEDA was created in 1969 to communicate the value of design and innovation to the European economy. Boasting 46 members from 27 countries in Europe, it is the only pan-European multi-disciplinary design association.

    British Design Innovation

    BDI provides innovators, from all branches of the design process, a safe trading environment to collaborate on projects. They do not interfere in the trading process nor take commissions or any form of fee resulting from a partnership with the Innovation Bank.

    British Institute of Interior Design

    Founded in 1965, the BIID is a professional organization for commercial and residential interior designers in Britain committed to encouraging and supporting creativity and competence in the field.

    Design Sweden

    Design Sweden drives and engages in the discussions surrounding design on an industry level and in the public sphere, shaping better working conditions by lobbying for change and providing advice.

    International Federation of Interior Architects

    The organization acts as a global forum for the exchange and development of interior architecture and design knowledge, connecting the community and while raising the status of the profession worldwide.

    Japan Industrial Designers Associations

    JIDA, in an effort to develop the Japanese design world and industry, society and culture, is the only national organization of industrial designers, founded by 25 members in 1952.

    Taipei Association Of Interior Designers

    The association—established in 1970, under the name Taipei City Interior Design and Decorative Business Association—aims to improve the interior design business and renovation project, coordinate the inter-bank relationship and enhance common interests.

    Section 3: What it Takes to Become an Interior Designer

    Earning a Degree/certification

    Interior design is an increasingly competitive sector. Large numbers of applicants hustle for very limited job openings; you'll need the right qualifications to stand out.

    It is, however, worth noting that there is not only one route into the industry, and sometimes the most beneficial, and fastest, way of gaining experience is not through education, but concrete practice—whether your projects or work placements. Equally, a degree does not necessarily secure you a job.

    Required Qualifications Needed Most firms require their interior designers to have some formal education—either a master’s degree, bachelor's degree, foundation degree, or a Higher National Diploma. A bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject, such as architecture, fine art, furniture design, interior/spatial design, interior architecture, textile design and 3D design, is the most common and arguably preferred, route. Online courses are also available.

    UK qualifications

    Doctoral research degree

    • A PhD involves extensive research and prepares students to work as high-paying consultants, researchers, professors, and other leaders in the interior design field.

    • Duration: Three to four years of full-time

    • Fees: Many PhD projects and programs are fully funded, meaning they are created with funding already allocated. When this is the case, the student does not have to pay fees (tuition) and is paid by the university.

    • Most programs require students to hold a master's degree in interior design, architecture or a related field.

    Master’s degree

    • A master's degree prepares students to work as researchers, professors, and other leaders in the interior design field, providing graduates with a distinct salary advantage.

    • Duration: One or two years full-time; two or four years part-time

    • Fees: Around £9000

    • Most programs require students to hold a master's degree in interior design, architecture or a related field.

    Bachelor’s degree

    • A bachelor’s degree prepares students to work in the interior design industry.

    • Duration: three years full-time; six years part-time

    • Fees: around £9250 per academic year

    • Requirements: Three A-Levels, or a BTEC diploma

    Foundation degree

    • A foundation degree provides students with an introduction into the interior design industry. Equivalent to two-thirds of a bachelor’s degree.

    • Duration: Two years full-time; four years part-time

    • Fees: Around £2,600 per academic year

    • Requirements: No set qualifications—commercial or industry experience might be more relevant

    Higher national diploma

    • A foundation degree provides students with an introduction into the interior design industry. Equivalent to the second year of a bachelor’s degree.

    • Duration: Two years full-time; four years part-time

    • Fees: Around £6,000 per academic year

    • Requirements: Minimum of one or two A-levels

    US qualifications

    National Council for Interior Design qualification exam

    • A nationally recognized competency assessment, allowing interior designs to validate their skills and experience to both clients and employers. It is required by 27 states to professionally practise interior design.

    • Duration: Three exams

    • Fees: $450 plus up to $225 in additional fees

    • You must have an Interior Design degree from an accredited CIDA or Non-CIDA school. If you have an associate degree or an architecture degree, you are also eligible to sit for the exam.

    Doctoral research degree

    • A PhD involves extensive research and prepares students to work as high-paying consultants, researchers, professors, and other leaders in the interior design field.

    • Duration: Four to six years of full-time

    • Fees: Many PhD projects and programs are fully funded, meaning they are created with funding already allocated. When this is the case, the student does not have to pay fees (tuition) and is paid by the university.

    • Most programs require students to hold a master's degree in interior design, architecture or a related field.

    Master’s degree

    • A master's degree prepares students to work as researchers, professors, and other leaders in the interior design field, providing graduates with a distinct salary advantage.

    • Duration: Two years full-time; Four years part-time

    • Fees: $8000 to $120,000

    • Most programs require students to hold a master's degree in interior design, architecture or a related field.

    Bachelor’s degree

    • A bachelor’s degree prepares students to work in the interior design industry.

    • Duration: Four years full-time; eight years part-time

    • Fees: $5000-$50,000 per academic year

    • Requirements: High school diploma with a minimum grade point average (dependent on the university)

    Popular schools providing a degree in interior design

    While most higher education establishments do offer art degrees, a dedicated school, particularly for those who are interested in a specialist subject such as interior design, is generally the best option. Standards of teaching are usually much higher, courses and modules more wide-ranging, and there tend to be greater opportunities to make the necessary professional art world connections.


    Royal College of Art

    The world’s only wholly postgraduate art and design institution, offering MA, MPhil and PhD degrees. There are six schools at the Royal College of Art in design, architecture, communication, fine art, humanities, and materials, offering 24 different programmes.

    KLC School of Design

    A career-focused interior and garden design school based at the heart of London's Design Centre, KLC has been providing unrivalled teaching, welfare and careers support for over 37 years. They offer undergraduate degrees and a range of interior design industry-recognized professional courses. Their latest innovation, KLC Connect, is a new initiative aimed at helping students bridge the gap between their course and employment and to make them feel more a part of the design community.

    University of the Arts London

    Comprising six specialist art and design colleagues, it is the largest specialist Art and Design institution in Europe with over 18,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students, 6,000 of whom are international. The course works in partnership with organizations, practices and key individuals from the design industry.

    Glasgow School of Art

    An internationally recognized higher education art school, founded in 1854, offering undergraduate degrees; post-graduate awards (both taught and research-led) and PhDs in interior design. Courses seek to use speculation and critique as a tool to enhance the creation of high-quality projects.


    New York School of Interior Design

    Specializes solely in interior design education, with 98 per cent of students finding jobs within six months of getting their degrees. All courses are chartered by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York.

    Pratt Institute, New York City

    A global leader in higher education, boasting a top-rated graduate program for interior design, with emphasis on spatial design as well as surface embellishment. Interested students can apply to spend the spring term of the junior year at the Danish International School (DIS) studying interior architecture in Copenhagen.

    Rhode Island School of Design

    One of the most famous and well-ranked arts and design schools in the US, RISD is particularly well-known for teaching students with practical instruction and coursework. It is also located in the city of Providence, which has one of the highest concentrations of artists in the country.

    Online courses available

    Various online platforms can help you enhance your career, offering both free and paid-for courses with certification; many offer a great introduction to the interior design world, while others act as a tool to brush up on pre-existing skills and knowledge. Enjoy a flexible schedule, and in most cases, reduced fees.

    Interior Design Institute

    Beginners have the opportunity to study the technical and practical skills necessary to translate design ideas into reality. The course is designed to be self-paced, consisting of 12 modules and 12 corresponding assignments; and guidance of a personal tutor and 24/7 student support is available.

    British College of Interior Design

    Provides you with the knowledge and skills to start your interior design consultancy; to work as a freelance interior designer, or to seek work in the many businesses and industries associated with interior design.

    University of the Arts London, Technical Drawing for Interior Design

    Learn how to create plans, elevations and sections as used by professionals; and gain an understanding of the drawings used, the processes and spatial considerations involved.

    The differences between a degree, foundation degree, or HND

    Studying for a bachelor’s degree will give you an in-depth understanding of one or more subjects, and allows you to enrol in postgraduate study.

    A foundation degree offers a combination of workplace and academic study and carries the same weight as two-thirds of a bachelor's degree. If you are unsure about taking on a full degree or would like to work while you study, this could be a good option. Upon completion, there is also the option to continue for a further year to gain a full honours degree.

    A Higher National Diploma is equivalent to the second year of a bachelor’s degree and is suitable for those looking to enter practical industries. Courses are mostly classroom taught but the assessment is by projects, presentations and practical tasks rather than traditional exams, which can lead directly to a career or can be extended via a ‘top-up’ course into a full bachelor’s degree.

    Notable differences also include entry requirements and fees, as discussed in the section above.

    Section 4: The Designer Economy

    An overview of the state of design

    Though characteristically a thriving sector, the designer economy, like most creative industries, is currently majorly under threat due to Covid-19. Design, however, will likely be at the heart of collaborations needed to deliver resolutions in our new world and is predicted to be instrumental in ensuring economies bounce back.

    In the UK

    According to the Design Council’s most recent report (2018), the design economy, referring to those employed in roles in a wide variety of industries, generated £85.2bn in gross value added (GVA) to the UK in 2016. This is equivalent to 7 per cent of UK GVA, which highlights the industry’s substantial contribution. It’s also important to note that, largely due to new technologies and business models, the demand in the UK for design skills and knowledge is building; between 2009 and 2016 the GVA of the design economy grew by 52 per cent.

    Due to Covid-19, the creative industries face a potential loss of £74billion in turnover by the end of 2020, which could cost over 400,000 jobs and result in a 25% reduction in the creative sector’s Gross Value Added (GVA).

    In the US

    The value of arts and cultural production in America in 2017, the most recent figures available, was $877.8 billion, amounting to 4.5% of gross domestic product.

    The city of New York is considered to be an international hub for design. Jobs, for example, have increased at a significantly faster pace than in the rest of the country, growing by 23 per cent from 2006 to 2016, compared to a three per cent increase in the United States overall. The number of architecture and design firms in the city also grew by 16 per cent, to 575 firms, between 2006 and 2016.

    In 2019, however, it was reported by the American Society of Interior Designs that though the design industry is growing, the pace of expansion is projected to slow in the years ahead—owing to demographic shifts, technological advancements, and new business. Covid-19 is also expected to have a worrisome impact. But according to the American Society of Interior Designers, in May the number of designers who say the coronavirus has had “no impact” on their business doubled, from 26 to 51 per cent, suggesting that designers have rapidly figured out how to make it work.


    The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has calculated that by 2025 there will be 160 million designers in the world, representing five per cent of the global workforce of 3.4 billion people. Switzerland, where industry has represented 18 per cent of their GDP for several years, is considered to be the world’s most innovative country: followed by Sweden, the US., the Netherlands and the UK.

    How design drives innovation

    Design thinking—predominantly focused on an improved future—navigates change by finding solutions based on the real needs of real people; the key is to focus on the problem worth solving.

    Design Occupations

    Description Example of a designer Typical education required (UK/ US) Average salary (UK/ US)
    Civil engineers Building engineer, structural engineer Accredited civil engineering bachelor’s degree; accredited bachelor’s degree, and a license £35, 867; $93,720
    Architects Architect, architectural consultant, landscape architect Accredited five-year architecture bachelor’s degree; accredited five-year bachelor’s degree, and a license £33,440; $80,750
    Town planning officers Planning officer, town planner Accredited bachelor's degree or a postgraduate qualification; master’s degree from an accredited urban or regional planning program £42,216; $66,685
    Chartered architectural technologists Architectural technologist Accredited Chartered Institute HND, foundation degree or bachelor’s degree; accredited certificate, associate’s or bachelor’s degree £33,167; $92,766
    Architectural and town planning technicians Architectural assistant, construction planner Accredited HND, or bachelor’s degree; accredited certificate, associate’s or bachelor’s degree £24,822; $57,490
    Draughtspersons CAD operators, cartographer Apprenticeship, or associate’s degree; associate’s degree but bachelor’s preferred £30,565; $47,444
    Gardeners and landscape gardeners Garden designer, landscape gardener No formal qualifications necessary; certificate, diploma or degree may be required £27,225; $37,863
    Product, clothing and related designers Fashion designer, product designer Entrants usually possess a bachelor’s degree in a related field £26,525; $97,015 - £50,177; $87,923
    Advertising accounts managers and creative directors Advertising manager, campaign manager, brand identity No formal qualifications required but ideally a bachelor’s degree £24,000; $98, 123
    Smiths and forge workers Blacksmith, farrier No formal qualifications necessary, training is usually via a four-year apprenticeship £20,651; $47,000
    Weavers and knitters Carpet weaver, knitwear manufacturer No formal qualifications necessary, training is usually provided on the job £20,857; $29,825
    Glass and ceramics makers, decorators and finishers Glassblower, potter No formal qualifications necessary, training is usually provided on the job £19,863; $30,200
    Furniture makers and other craft woodworkers Antique restorer, cabinet maker No formal qualifications necessary, training is usually provided on the job £23,418; $35, 270
    Other skilled trades not elsewhere classified Engraver, goldsmith No formal qualifications necessary, training is usually provided on the job £20,000; $30, 620 - £25,962; $44,329 /td>
    IT business analysts, architects and systems designers Business analyst, systems analyst, technical architect Entrants usually possess a bachelor’s degree in a related field £49,026; $87,923
    Programmers and software development professionals Database developer, a games programmer, software engineer Entrants usually possess a bachelor’s degree in a related field £31,000; $84,280
    Web design and development professionals Internet developer, web designer, user interface designer Entrants usually possess a bachelor’s degree in a related field £23,000; $48,700
    Tailors and dressmakers Fabric cutter, tailor No formal qualifications necessary, training is usually provided on the job £18, 771; $22, 160
    Artists Illustrator, portrait painter, sculptor No formal qualifications necessary, though entrants usually possess a bachelor’s degree in a related field £16,150; $55,708
    Graphic designers Graphic artist, graphic designer Entrants usually possess a bachelor’s degree in a related field £22,954; $38,882
    Mechanical engineers Aerospace engineer, automotive engineer Accredited mechanical engineering bachelor’s degree; accredited bachelor’s degree, and a license £31,515; $94,007
    Design and development engineers Design engineer, research and development engineer Accredited engineering bachelor’s degree; accredited bachelor’s degree, and a license £40,301; $77,096
    Engineering professionals not elsewhere classified* Metallurgist, project engineer Accredited engineering bachelor’s degree; accredited bachelor’s degree, and a license £35,335; $88,018 - £33,032; $69,277

    Design-intensive industries

    Design subsector Description Example design business
    Architecture and built environment Architectural activities Building design and drafting, eco-design
    Design (craft) Manufacture of ceramic household and ornamental articles Ceramic tableware
    Design (craft) Manufacture of jewellery and related articles Jewellery or watches, production of precious stones
    Design (clothing) Manufacture of other wearing apparel and accessories Accessories
    Design (digital) Publishing of computer games Computer game design and publishing
    Design (digital) Other software publishing Software publishing
    Design (digital) Computer programming activities Designing structure and content of software, user interface design
    Design (multidisciplinary) Specialized design activities Fashion design, sustainable design, industrial design
    Design (product/industrial) Manufacture of other products of wood etc. Furniture design
    Design (product/industrial) Manufacture of consumer electronics Electronic home entertainment equipment

    Section 5: Working for an Interior Designer Firm

    Small vs Large firms

    Interior designers work in a variety of different firms, and as a result, settings. The table below draws upon the main distinctions.

    Large firms Small firms
    Slow hiring process; lots of applicants Quick hiring process; fewer applicants
    Bureautic; organized; lack of flexibility Less bureautic, organized and flexible
    Impersonal relationships Personal relationships
    Less responsibility and power More responsibility and power
    Suits somebody wanting to specialize Suits a generalist
    Job security Lack of job security
    Greater opportunities and benefits Fewer opportunities and benefits

    Salary expectations

    Salaries vary according to education, experience, employee, location, and specialism. Generally, though, interior design is a well-paid industry, particularly if working for a global firm, or as a successful freelancer with a steady list of clients. The postgraduate study also usually provides candidates with a distinct salary advantage.

    Salary statistics

    Experience Average salary
    0 - 3 years (junior) £18,000 - £23,000
    3- 5 years (experienced) £25,000 - £40,000
    5 years + (senior) £45,000 - £75,000

    According to the 2019 FRAME Architecture and Interior Design Salary Survey and Employment Review, the majority of interior designers in London saw their salaries drop by nearly 7% in 2018. There was, however, a small increase for those with between three and five years experience.

    Pay rises

    The survey further shows that pay rises for interior design in the UK have decreased significantly since 2015.

    Year Received a pay rise
    2015 63%
    2016 56%
    2017 60%
    2018 40%

    Section 6: Starting an Interior Designer Business

    Entrepreneurship—an increasingly popular move for interior designers—can be invigorating and prosperous, but also daunting; it entails a significant amount of time, energy, and resources. Below is a brief step-by-step outline to starting your own business, weighing up the advantages and disadvantages, while advising on some of the most common challenges.

    Advantages and disadvantages

    To make sure you know what you’re getting into, consider the pros and cons listed below, bearing in mind your personality type.

    • Control: You’re your own boss, which can be incredibly liberating; you have the freedom to make work-related decisions, as well as lifestyle ones, too.

    • Creative freedom: You have the power to focus your time inventing and developing original ideas within your interests, which is likely to lead to a much greater sense of satisfaction and fulfilment.

    • Setting your profits: You will retain full ownership of the business, and be entitled to 100 per cent of future profits. Some business owners do very well financially.

    • Hours: Expect long hours, particularly when starting out. Small business owners are thought to work twice as much as regular employees, according to a survey from the New York Enterprise Report.

    • Money risk: A large proportion of early-stage businesses face the risk of failing due to lack of profits or growth. In such cases, it is highly likely that you will lose some, if not all, of your investment.

    • Knowledge of local laws and regulations: Entrepreneurs are subject to various national and local laws and regulations generally determined by the type and scope of their business. A savvy business person should be familiar or seek professional advice.

    Step 1: Selecting the right form of ownership

    Sole proprietorship

    A sole proprietorship, the most common form of ownership, is a business owned by only one person. It is the simplest type to form and regulate: you just need a license, business name, and adhere to government rules. However, there are pitfalls to be aware of.

    Advantages Disadvantages
    Maintain full control Unlimited liability for any losses incurred
    Profit retention Entirely responsible for financing the business; may struggle to expand
    No special income taxes The business dissolves when you die
    Easy and inexpensive to form Sole decision-maker


    A partnership is a business owned by two or more people. Though more complex than setting up a sole proprietorship, it is still relatively easy and inexpensive and has its advantages.

    Advantages Disadvantages
    Share of managerial responsibilities Unlimited liability for any losses incurred, including that of a partners fault
    Financing the business may be shared Profits must be shared
    Partners can agree legally to allow the business to survive if one or more partners die Limited access to capital; banks less willing to lend because a partnership is deemed a higher-risk
    No special income taxes Reduction in control
    Easy and inexpensive to form Potential for differences and conflict

    Types of partnership (UK)

    • Conventional: Not a separate legal entity from its owners.

    • Limited partnership: Made up of a mixture of ordinary and limited partners.

    • Limited Liability Partnership: A corporate version of a partnership.


    A corporation is a legal entity that is separate and distinct from its owners. It can enter into binding contracts, buy and sell property, sue and be sued, be held responsible for its actions, and be taxed.

    Advantages Disadvantages
    Personal liability protection Further reduction in control; have to consider the goals of corporate managers, who may not own shares or work for the company
    Readily available access to financing Costly and time-consuming to set up
    Exists beyond the life of its owners Subject to strict government regulations
    Room for development; more likely to attract skilled and talented employees Potentially liable for “double taxation”

    Formulating a business plan

    Writing a plan is the crucial first step to bringing a business idea to fruition. Answering the questions in the template below will help you to formulate your decisions and articulate a strategy, providing greater clarity. In total, it should take about 20-30 hours to complete.

    A snapshot of your business

    • What type of design service or business do you intend to establish? Any specific sector?

    • What type of design service or business do you intend to develop? Do you intend to stay small or is the dream to go global?

    • Who will be your anticipated clients? Homeowners or corporate?

    • How much will you be charging?


    Interior design is an extremely broad industry, with lots of different services. Think deeply about what you want to sell. Is it residential interior design consulting, for example? Or perhaps you would like to specialize in sustainability?

    Once you’ve decided, you may want to choose to provide additional services. Many firms, for instance, sell merchandise (either outsourcing or via a physical or online shop); designers in smaller communities also typically need to provide such services due to lack of access.

    It is, however, advisable to start small and work your way up; and to lead with your passion and skill set.

    Marketing plans

    There are lots of ways to market your interior design business. From sending a newsletter via email to optimizing social media accounts, you must devise a diverse and wide-reaching strategy targeted at your specific audience.


    Identifying who your competitors are and keeping up to date with their successes and failures is crucial for any business. The research will be invaluable in improving your product, and identifying gaps in the market, particularly if just starting out.

    Revenue expectations

    Forecasting your revenue is arguably the most difficult part of a business plan. Spend time researching the economic environment and estimate how much the company expects to generate, minus the costs of generating the revenues and operating the business, to arrive at profits. To save financial trouble, make sure to be realistic.

    Expense projections

    Operational costs, an important part of estimating revenue expectations, may include rent, wages, legal fees, insurances, marketing, advertising, accounting, and employee training. Again, it’s advisable to base your forecast on industry research and always ease on the side of caution.

    Downloadable business plan templates:

    Example one Example two Example three

    How to attract clients

    Your customers should be at the centre of your business. After all, they have the buying power. But to attract them, you need to better understand them; conduct surveys, host events, leverage social media, and challenge assumptions. Here are seven tactics for building brand loyalty and ultimately, driving business.

    Word of mouth

    Word of mouth marketing is an effective and inexpensive way to attract customers. In today’s hyper-connected society, a single positive recommendation can have a far greater impact than an inauthentic paid for billboard poster.

    Maintaining a portfolio Publically showcasing your previous work is a great way to demonstrate your relevant skills and abilities. It also helps to build brand recognition and trust that lead to sales.

    Blogging Frequently publishing informative well-written articles can help grow online traffic, keeping customers engaged, and nurturing new ones. This tactic also portrays your firm as knowledgeable.

    Industry publications By placing industry news articles and features in other publications, companies can put themselves directly in front of the relevant target audience—invaluable in raising brand awareness, particularly on a global scale.

    LinkedIn The social media platform, specifically designed for professional networking, provides the tools to find, connect and then build relationships with leads, clients and sales in an un-gated business environment.

    Networking by co-working One of the most underrated benefits of working in a coworking space is the opportunity to interact with other professionals. Connections are vital for driving a business forward.

    Speaking at conferences Speaking engagements are a very effective way of generating publicity and positive exposure from others in your industry, as well as potential clients. They also prove useful in gaining insider industry knowledge.

    Section 7: Setting up a design studio

    Design studios can be a great asset to an interior design business. They create the perfect setting to hold client meetings and can be a fantastic opportunity to show off your skills firsthand. A designated space is also helpful for ensuring employees feel invested in the company and encouraging team collaboration.

    The right location

    A central well-populated location can significantly boost a company’s performance. It can play a huge role in attracting customers due to convenience and brand exposure; as well as employees, who generally prioritize workplace accessibility.

    Questions for evaluating a location

    Is it close to my market? You need to appeal to the local demographic to drive revenue
    Are there sufficient potential clients with adequate income levels to support a design firm? Interior design can be expensive; if most residents cannot afford your service, traffic will suffer
    How much competition is there? Being near to competitors has its advantages (for example, increased demand and business insights) but too much can lead to a decrease in sales
    How do I feel about making this area my home for the next ten years? Moving a business can be extremely time-consuming and costly. Think carefully about your long-term plans
    What is the quality of the area’s schools and cultural community? This may impact your personal life and also usually reflects cultural capital and financial resources, which are both fundamental in securing high profits
    Is there good police and fire protection? It is important that you, as well as your clients and employees, feel safe and secure when inside your business area
    Is there affordable housing available for both management and staff? Employees often prioritize working close to home; it can have a huge impact on work-life balance
    What is the quality of the available staffing? Staff are the foundation of any business. You’ll likely have access to an increased number of quality candidates in a highly-populated area
    What will be the cost of employees? Wages will vary depending on the living costs of an area (an employee in central London, for example, will expect to be paid more than an employee in central Manchester). Where costs are higher, however, product prices tend to be too.
    What is the quality of the business climate? A stable climate—considering clients, suppliers, competition, technology, and local, as well as national, politics—creates a precondition for efficient, sustainable growth
    Does my business conform to the zoning within this area? Before committing to an area, it’s worth researching the municipal or local zoning laws, referring to regulations that dictate how property can and cannot be used
    What are the taxes? Taxes can vary significantly according to city, state or country, potentially impacting your revenue
    Are merchandise and materials readily available? Access to required resources, at a reasonable price, is essential for any business to run smoothly
    Can I get the contractors I need to perform the tasks required? Interior design is an industry of multiple parts. Contractors need to be readily available for specific jobs, particularly as a small company
    Am I able to get the warehousing I need, or can I supply it for myself? Warehouses are usually located in industrial districts or zones, such as the outskirts of a city. You can act as your own supplier but bear in mind the time, organization and storage space that is required
    How will I be able to process the jobs in this location? Think about the logistics of where your main clients will be before settling on a studio
    Do I have the appropriate traffic flow? New businesses, in particular, depend on the traffic created by surrounding stores
    Is this a good neighbourhood in which to be seen? Brand reputation is very important, increasing customer loyalty and helping to position you as an industry leader

    [Further downloadable content below]

    • Standard form of agreement for interior designer services

    • Contract template for designer services

    • Design master sheet - to keep the details for each room to be designed in one place

    • Room specs sheet - facilitating review and approval of room specifications by the client and contractor

    • Project master sheet document - to see at a glance everything that has been ordered for the client

    • Reupholstery checklist - a document outlining all project details involving reupholstery

    • Client follow-up summary checklist - for post-occupancy review and additional follow-ups

    Questions answered by Amara interior designers

    Sam Brine interior designer at Amara
    Sam Brine

    What has been your greatest challenge as an interior designer?

    • Handling self-promotion, for sure. Social media is essentially an interior designer’s portfolio. It needs to be constantly updated and consistently styled, which requires time, as well as a deep understanding of different platforms.

    • Remembering to take a break! It’s mostly all go, go, go. I love my job and feel very grateful that I get to do this every day, but we all need a rest and it can be easy to forget that sometimes.

    • The numbers side of things. Unfortunately, it’s not all designing. Managing costs and accounts are also part of the deal.

    How important is interior design education in today’s industry?

    • It’s becoming increasingly important. It’s a tough, competitive industry to crack and so, to stand out from the crowd, you need to have a solid education. I’d recommend starting with an undergraduate degree, if possible.

    • I’d say in terms of knowledge and understanding, gaining experience is more valuable. Internships can be a great way to develop your practical skills, from planning a real-life project to learning how to budget—it’s probably the best way to get a taste of being an interior designer.

    What led you to enter your design speciality?

    • Furniture: After selecting the furniture for my own home, I knew I wanted, and needed to, experience the satisfaction of transforming a living space again and again.

    • Sustainability: I studied a sustainability module during my master’s degree, and then looked for work experience within the sector.

    • Residential: I quickly realized that I excelled working in a team. I also wanted a broad, diverse specialism that I wouldn’t feel restricted by.

    What are your primary responsibilities and duties?

    Working to a brief; researching and drawing up plans; negotiating fees; developing designs using CAD software; choosing materials; and supervising projects.

    What is the most satisfying part of your job?

    • Seeing the finished product. I make sure to keep in contact with the client; I love seeing the space in action.

    • Securing the deal and coming up with grand, dream-like ideas. At that point, anything can happen. That’s incredibly exciting, and satisfying, to me.

    • Figuring out a solution to a particularly tricky design problem using my creativity and experience. Innovation feels good.

    What is the least satisfying part of your job?

    • Negotiating fees.

    • Having to sacrifice my style or vision in a project. The client should always have the final say but this can be difficult to accept sometimes.

    • Plans falling through, or people dropping out. There’s a lot that can go wrong but that’s all part of it. I like a challenge, and it’s usually worth it in the end.

    What is the most important quality or skill of a designer in your speciality?

    • Furniture: Creativity.

    • Sustainability: Knowledge.

    • Residential: Cooperation.

    What advice would you give someone who wants to be an interior designer?

    • Specialize early. It gives you a niche and a place of expertise, which makes you far more employable. Also: Don’t worry, you can always change your specialism further down the line!

    • Spend time researching and creating, figuring out your style.

    • Build a portfolio; look for continuing education opportunities; take up a pro bono project. Work hard.

    Who or what experience has been a major influence on your career?

    • Designing my own home. It gave me a better understanding of what it’s like to be a client. I always ask myself: What if this were my money?

    • Alberto Pinto. He created spaces that were grand but unfussy, and entertaining was always the priority. In any project, entertaining is always at the forefront of my mind.

    • A trip to Switzerland in 2012. I was blown away by their experimental and efficient design approaches, which made me think about utilizing space in a different way.