How to Become a Residential Interior Designer

HBAI04If you are interested in home style, have a great eye for detail, and understand the importance of texture, color and space, then you may want to consider a career as an interior designer for residential places. Designing a room to be both beautiful and effective is a difficult task, but with the right planning, networking and education, you will be well on your way toward becoming a professional interior residential designer.



Considerations in the Field

Bachelor's Degree
Find Related CareersSOURCE: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

If you think you might want to become a residentially focused interior designer, then here are a few things you may want to consider before making a final decision on your career path:

  1. Are you personable? You will be working with a lot of people—and invading their living space. You have to be good at working with clients and naturally drawing people to you to succeed in this industry. Charm and positive energy will go a long way toward selling your designs and making your clients happy.
  2. Are you accessible? Flexible hours and ease of contact are a must for this industry. When a client wants to know how a project is going, or has some kind of question, you have to be available to answer and give peace of mind—at all hours—cheerfully.
  3. Do you notice detail? Even the smallest things in a design have relevance in the over-all outcome. You should be able to walk into a room and notice the things you love and things you would change in a design. Textures, colors, fabrics, style references, furniture, lighting, flooring—you should be aware of all factors that go into the design of a room.
  4. Do you understand clients? Are you good at understanding what someone will need in practicality? Sure, it may look good, but if your design doesn’t stand up to the needs of the client, then you will quickly be blacklisted for poorly planned designs.
  5. Will you be able to run a business? Your long hours are not going to be spent in just designing a room, but in the billing, follow-ups, meetings, networking, researching, and taxing kind of tasks a self-employed worker faces. You have to be organized and disciplined to stay on track and make this a  serious career.

Requirements and Education

The difference between an interior decorator and an interior designer is in pay, expertise and education. While interior decorators can arrange a room without an education, interior designers are trained in the science and art of design. A degree with a major in interior design, or in art or design with a focus in interior design, is an important part of gaining the knowledge and professional training needed for the design industry.

Many states require not only obtaining a post-secondary degree, but also passing an exam from the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ).

A strong portfolio showcasing your work should be compiled to show homeowners looking for design renovation why you would be able to work for them. It can be hard to get a start without any previous work, so often designers will intern or apprentice for an established designer to build their portfolios.

Salary and Job Outlook

The US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports 40,750 interior designers (not counting those self-employed, and including those who focus on commercial interior design) with an average salary of $52,970. The interior design industry is expected to grow at a rate of 19 percent (about average for all industries) as projected by the BLS as homeowners continue to seek designers to update their homes and outfit them with the latest trends or conveniences.

The highest paid industries are commercial. Most residential designers work free-lance and their salaries fluctuate based on reputation and clientele.


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