Careers in Interior Design: Designing Beautiful and Functional Spaces

Are you someone who loves turning personal spaces into oases of creativity? Do your friends seek your advice on how to decorate their homes? If so, a career in interior design might be perfect for...

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Are you someone who loves turning personal spaces into oases of creativity? Do your friends seek your advice on how to decorate their homes? If so, a career in interior design might be perfect for you. The interior design services market is projected to reach $24 billion by 2025, making it an ideal time to pursue your passion and embark on a new career.

I spoke with Devin Shaffer, the Lead Sales Designer at Decorilla, an interior design platform, to discuss his journey and gain insight into what it takes to succeed in the industry. With over 300 designers on his team, Decorilla aims to make quality home design accessible to everyone. Shaffer has helped thousands of clients create custom design solutions for various projects, including retail, commercial, hospitality, industrial, and residential spaces.

If you're considering a career in interior design, keep reading to learn how you can utilize your skills to design beautiful and functional interior spaces.

What is interior design?

Interior designers are creative professionals who introduce design elements into indoor spaces to enhance their utility and aesthetic value. According to Shaffer, "Design elements surround us everywhere we go, from the kitchens in our homes to the cabins of the airplanes we fly in."

In general, an interior designer's role is to transform their client's requirements into design concepts that match the desired style and ambiance. They may work with private clients in their homes, businesses, restaurants, or hotels that want to revamp their spaces.

Interior design career paths

There are various career paths within the interior design industry, depending on your interests. Shaffer explains, "If you love creating ensembles with decor or holiday decorating, you should consider becoming an interior decorator. If you have a passion for designing all-encompassing spaces with exciting finishes and materials, interior designing is for you. And if you enjoy demolishing walls and constructing custom architectural features, interior architecture is your path."

Let's take a closer look at some popular career paths in interior design:

Residential Interior Design

When you think about jobs in interior design, residential design probably comes to mind first. Residential interior designers work with clients in their homes or apartments to create functional living spaces. If you choose to specialize in residential design, you could further focus on specific areas such as the kitchen.

Residential designers collaborate with clients on various aspects, from initial floor plans to placing the final decorative accents. In the United States, becoming a residential interior designer typically involves obtaining a bachelor's degree from an accredited program. Some states may also require working under a certified interior designer to obtain a license.

Interior Decorator

Residential interior design and interior decorating professionals are often confused due to the popularity of home makeover shows. Interior decorators typically hold a diploma or certificate in interior decoration, although it is not always necessary to work in this field.

Unlike interior designers, decorators do not participate in renovations or structural planning. Their primary focus revolves around furnishings, paint, floor coverings, and fabrics to curate the aesthetics of a room.

Commercial Interior Designer

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Commercial interior designers collaborate with businesses to design retail outlets, restaurants, offices, hotels, and more. This field requires in-depth knowledge of building materials, spatial planning, and considerations of health, safety, and human behavior within a space.

The educational requirements for becoming a commercial interior designer are similar to residential design. Many designers transition between both areas throughout their careers.

Interior Architect

An interior architect combines art and science to build interiors with a strong focus on spatial planning. They can either plan new building structures from scratch or adapt existing buildings to make them more functional.

Interior architects work at a more technical level and closely collaborate with builders, contractors, and technicians. They draft design plans, including the placement of windows, doors, walls, electrical systems, and other structural features. They oversee projects from initial drafts to construction and completion.

To become an interior architect in the United States, you must earn a five-year architecture degree from a college or university. Additionally, architects usually complete a three-year internship under a professional architect to obtain a license.

Transitioning into a career in interior design

Embarking on a career change can be both exciting and daunting, especially when transitioning from a desk job to a creative field like interior design. However, keep in mind that interior design is a business, and your background may provide you with an advantage in a creative role.

According to Shaffer, the key to successfully transitioning into a career in interior design is to remain flexible. "Interior design can be both a science and an art form," he says. "When entering the profession, it's important to have an open mind and schedule."

What skills does an interior designer need?

Most people who choose interior design as a career are naturally artistic and creative. You must have a keen eye for detail and the ability to combine textures and colors in an appealing way. Visualizing the possibilities of a space is crucial, which is both an art and a skill that develops with experience.

While many hard skills can be learned through certificate or degree programs, professional interior designers believe that some of the most important lessons come from on-the-job training. Additionally, strong interpersonal skills are vital. Building connections with clients is essential, as you may be working closely with them to design their homes or businesses.

What obstacles do interior designers face?

Although a career in interior design can be extremely rewarding, it's important to recognize the challenges that come with the job. One of the biggest obstacles for aspiring designers is aligning their artistic vision with their clients' wants and needs.

Shaffer advises, "Designers often get overly focused on building their portfolios and projecting their style onto every project. It's crucial to approach each project as a unique case study and understand the client's vision."

Selling your "big idea" for a space can sometimes be challenging. Interior designers often use tools like fabric samples and mood boards to convey their vision, which may not always translate to clients. Flexibility and adaptability are key to finding success in this field.

Time management and working with fast turnaround times can also be obstacles. The interior design industry is competitive, and most designers work hard to meet deadlines. Remember to take breaks and practice self-care.

Interior design is a fulfilling career

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Interior design offers a fulfilling career path where you can apply your creative skills and help people live their best lives. Shaffer's most impactful design experience involved working on an accessible design project that embraced inclusivity for individuals with disabilities. This experience opened his eyes to universal design principles and shaped his client-centric approach to every project.

Shaffer loves that his career makes a lasting impression on people's lives. "Every day, I help people make decisions that will impact them for years to come, probably decades," he says. "Through this, I feel like I've fulfilled my mission of helping people express themselves through their homes."

Keep the kitchen running smoothly

Kitchen appliances are crucial design elements in any home. Interior designers carefully select appliances to meet their clients' specific needs. To ensure these appliances continue to run smoothly, a home warranty from American Home Shield can provide peace of mind. With fast and reliable local service providers, AHS will support your clients, allowing them to enjoy their appliances for years to come.

Keep in mind that a career in interior design requires a combination of talent, hard work, and interpersonal skills. With the right mindset and dedication, you can turn your passion into a successful profession. So don't hold back—unleash your creativity and embark on an exciting journey in the world of interior design!

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