I had a recent graduate of interior design school reach out this week for some pre-graduation advice. She was excited about her future and curious how she could further market herself to potential firms. As someone who usually gives unsolicited advice (usually to the dismay of polite family, friends and pets), I was more than happy to answer her questions and share what I tell any entry level interviewee. If you too are looking to enter the exciting field of interior design, read on… 

 

THE STUDYING NEVER STOPS

Literally read everything you can get your hands on. I once shamelessly grabbed 10 different issues of Luxe Interiors and Design from the lobby of a private airport. They were so heavy they ripped through the bag I was carrying them in and I had to hold them against my chest.  But I came home and combed through them, ripping out any page that inspired me. It was well worth the effort.

I currently subscribe to and read cover to cover Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, Mountain Living, Veranda, House Beautiful, Traditional Home, Southern Living and Coastal Living

As an interior designer, knowing what the industry news and trends are and seeing the work of other top designers will fuel your creativity and help you determine what catches your eye.

NARROW DOWN INTERIOR DESIGN STYLE

Start curating looks either through Pinterest or a binder of pulled pages from magazines rooms that you love. Then, determine if there’s a pattern. Are you more excited about clean lines and geometrics? Perhaps your style is more modern? Do you go crazy for pattern plays and more delicate pieces? You might be more of a traditional/transitional designer. Maybe mid century modern is what really gets your heart pumping. Either way, start collecting and you’ll start identifying your true niche and which firms would be a fit for it.

START PLAYING

Now that you have pieces you love, start mixing them and matching them to create sample concepts. Using either Photoshop, Powerpoint or Keynote, create slides for hypothetical rooms and just have fun with it. What pieces feel right together? Add some screen grabs of wallpaper or fabrics. How do those layer in? What floor lamp or table lamp would add the right touch? Or some books or candles? Compare your concepts with the instagram feed or website of the firms you’re interested in? What do they do differently? How can you elevate what you’ve put together?

Try the same exercise with hard finishes by picking tile options for a bathroom, cabinetry stain colors, countertops, hardwood and carpet options. Add plumbing and light fixtures and sort out what works well together visually. You’ve now freshened up an intriguing portfolio that is marketable to the firms you’re excited to work for.

APPROACH FIRMS WITH PASSION AND CONFIDENCE

99% of the reason why a client hires an interior designer is because of their ability to make decisions. Any firm looking to invest in an entry level designer is looking for that confidence or a passion for design that will blossom into that confidence. 

Let your interviewer know exactly why you want to work there and back that up with a knowledge of their company history, style, and how you would fit into their team and culture. Share your best sample concepts but also express your excitement to learn and grow from the more seasoned designers at the firm. 

Above all, STAY HUMBLE – While your education and portfolio might be impressive, chances are you are still a year to several years from taking on your own clients and will probably assist at first. Plan to learn from the strengths of your designer and keep careful notes of everything you observe – how to keep a budget, lines to work with, how to speak with clients, how to work with contractors and sub-contractors, and how to handle an install and keep those AutoCAD and Revit skills sharp.

While designing is obviously the end goal, as someone just starting out in the field, focus on being the best assistant for the time being. Work on winning the trust and respect of your designer first, and chances are they will eventually start giving you small projects to work on with their supervision. Pretend they are your client and listen and incorporate their feedback, showing complete respect and a desire to learn, and I promise you, your own clients will not be far off.

 

STAY POSITIVE

Finally, HAVE FUN – The design world can be stressful with financial limits, deadlines and constant fire drills. Sometimes it might be tough, but remember you’re achieving your dream! Stick with it, learn all you can, and your hard work will definitely pay off!

Want to get further inspired? Take a look at our interiors gallery!