Television shows like Trading Spaces and Extreme Home Makeover have
put a spotlight on interior designers. Home renovation and decoration is one
of the fastest growing market segments in North America. More and more people
are turning to interior designers for help in making their homes stand out.
Interior designers create functional, efficient and safe environments.
Some tasks for interior design professionals include:
- Consulting with clients to help determine project goals and objectives
- Creating illustrations and renderings
- Developing documents and specifications to comply with building and safety
- Organizing and arranging a space
Barbara Hyde Evans is the owner of a residential interior design firm with
offices in Seattle and Palm Springs. She specializes in new construction and
remodels, including kitchens and baths. She also redecorates existing rooms.
"On remodel and new construction projects, room configuration and every
interior surface is my responsibility. I work with my client to help them
select everything from plumbing fixtures to door hardware to wall colors to
counter tops to flooring, etc. And then I order it all and oversee its installation,"
explains Hyde Evans.
"In room decorating, I design the furniture arrangement, select all furnishings
and fabric with my client and then oversee all ordering and fabrication of
everything that is put in the room."
Do You Have What it Takes?
Interior design is a creative and people-oriented profession. Since so
much of the job involves working with people and getting your vision across,
excellent communication skills are essential.
You should be comfortable working independently, have good research, planning
and time-management skills, and be able to work under pressure or to tight
deadlines. This is especially important when things go wrong or project requirements
Many designers work as contractors or with smaller design firms. This makes
top-notch business and marketing skills and the ability to multi-task also
Shows like Trading Spaces show interior design as slapdash and glamorous.
But according to Hyde Evans, "...only a small portion of business is the designing
part. The rest is ordering, buying, dealing with fabricators, builders, furniture
makers, shippers, schedules, billing, taxes, etc.!"
Training and Education
With the growing popularity of interior design, the profession has brought
in stricter licensing and higher standards of education. Twenty-four jurisdictions
in the United States (including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico)
have registration, certification or licensing requirements for interior designers.
Designers must pass an examination set by the National Council for Interior
Design Qualification (NCIDQ) before they can refer to themselves as "certified
interior designers." The NCIDQ also administers the Interior Design Experience
Program (IDEP). This is a monitored, documented work experience program for
graduates of interior design programs.
The Foundation for Interior Design Education Research in Michigan sets
specific standards for interior design education. These standards describe
what students must learn to become professional interior designers. A number
of colleges and universities offer qualifying interior design programs for
"I have a BA in art, a minor in art history, an associate's degree in graphic
design and another in interior design. I studied all types of design and art,"
says Hyde Evans.
"You also must have a rudimentary understanding of architecture and building
construction. You must understand fabrics right down to the fiber. You must
have an adequate knowledge of business principles and practices. And you must
have the patience of a saint!
"I'd suggest at least a three-year degree from a good, solid interior design
program. To be truly competitive, I'd suggest further study beyond that. I'd
also suggest educating yourself on all areas of design -- it all interrelates."
What to Expect
Work environments, stress levels and salaries for interior designers vary
widely. There are many different areas of interior design, and a number of
ways to get into the business and work your way up.
Many students start by working at a design center, department or furniture
store, or an existing design firm. Interior designers might work independently
or with an architectural firm, an established interior design company, a retail
store or hotel firm.
Debra Gould is the owner of a firm specializing in "home staging" -- decorating
homes to help them sell. She started her business in a few years ago and has
been wildly successful.
"After buying, decorating and selling six of my own homes, I decided to
take my 20 years of marketing experience, eye for design and passion for real
estate and turn it into a new career as a professional home stager/house fluffer,"
"I launched my new company...and within two years had decorated over $20
million worth of real estate. My clients were so happy with what I did with
their homes that they were selling that they asked me to continue working
with them and do their new homes."
Gould also offers a series of teleclasses on home staging, under the name
Staging Diva, to students all over North America.
"I love inspiring my students. So many of them have gone on to successfully
start their own home staging/house fluffing businesses with the practical
hands-on tools they gained in the Staging Diva program," she says.
"I also love decorating a house from top to bottom according to my vision
of what will sell to prospective home buyers."
Salaries range widely depending on the type of work you are doing and the
area you're in. Urban areas like Los Angles, San Francisco, Miami and other
large cities tend to have higher rates because the average income level is
According to the Monster Salary Center surveys, a low-level interior designer
in the U.S. might earn $29,569. A highly experienced, accredited interior
designer might earn as much as $75,586.
Increased focus on home improvements and a hot real estate market across
North America continue to improve prospects for this career path. Interior
designers used to be seen as a service for the wealthy. But more and more
people are now looking at hiring a professional to make their home or office
an inviting place to live or work.
American Society of Interior Designers
Check out the Become a Designer section
Council for Interior Design Qualification
Find answers to frequently asked questions about the NCIDQ exam
Careers in Interior Design
Determine whether the career is right for you
Starting an Interior Design Business
Lists factors to consider when running your own design business