Interior Designer  What They Do

Just the Facts

Interior Designers Career Video

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dotInterior designers make private homes, offices, restaurants, hospitals, hotels and theaters attractive and functional. They design the interior spaces for additions, renovations and new construction.

dotInterior designers don't start their work with a can of paint and some new fabric swatches. The job of designing an interior can be a long process.

First, the designer meets with the client to figure out their wants and needs. Then, the designer combines this input with design expertise to produce preliminary concepts "that are esthetic, appropriate and functional, and in accordance with codes and standards," says the National Council for Interior Design Qualification.

The designer then produces the final recommendations using paint and material samples to show the intended effect. The designer must also produce working drawings and specifications regarding the required construction, hardware like lighting, and products like finishing materials and furniture.

During this process, the interior designer may consult with other experts in matters of mechanical, electrical and load-bearing design. The designer acts on behalf of the client to prepare and accept bids. They oversee the work done by painters and others to ensure it meets various codes. At the end of it all, the designer reviews and evaluates the whole project.

dot Interior designers are using computers to create numerous versions of space designs. Images can be inserted, edited or replaced -- making it possible for a client to see and choose from several designs.

dotInterior designers need creativity, imagination and persistence. Styles and fashions can change quickly, so they need to be open to new ideas and influences. People in this field need self-discipline to start projects on their own, budget their time and meet deadlines and production schedules.

Business savvy and sales ability are important for those who are freelancers or run their own business.

dotArchitectural firms, department stores, home furnishing stores, hotels and restaurant chains all employ interior designers. Freelance work -- either full time or part time -- is common.

"My sincerest advice is to be sure you have patience and enthusiasm for this work, because it's very difficult," says Judith Greenwood, a West Virginia-based interior designer. "You depend on thousands of people, from United Parcel Service to plumbers. If any one of them fails, you fail. It doesn't pay well for years -- if ever."

dotDeadlines and overtime are common for interior designers.

All designers face frustration at times when their designs are rejected or when they can't be as creative as they would like. Independent consultants -- who are paid by the assignment -- are under pressure to please clients and to find new ones to maintain their incomes.

"When I'm in the middle of a project, I will easily spend 80-plus hours a week [working]," says Patty Hinshaw, a Virginia designer. "When you have someone's bathroom or kitchen gutted, you have to work hard and as quickly as possible. People need those two spaces most of all!"

Just the Facts

Want a quick overview of what this career is about?Check out Just the Facts for simple lists of characteristics.

At a Glance

Give personality to walls and space

  • Designers can work up to 80 hours a week
  • You will have to produce a portfolio
  • You'll need a college education