Ever wondered how to become an interior designer?
(No? Just me?)
I don’t have a definitive guide or handy-dandy checklist for you, but I do have my story about how I became an interior designer, including what was the most useful part along the way – and spoiler alert: it wasn’t design school.
Your story might sound similar to mine.
I’ve always had a creative streak and a knack for the aesthetic. As young as age 5, I asked my dad to rearrange my bedroom furniture since I wasn’t strong enough to push it myself! I had a clear vision for what I wanted my room to look like, and as a teenager I loved to sponge paint my ceiling, cover the walls in colorful magazine ads and Spice Girls posters (hello, this was the 90s), and shop at IKEA for new bedding and pillows for inexpensive ways to change things up frequently on my part-time movie theatre employee’s salary.
Going to school for interior design was always my plan.
When I was in high school, the TLC show Trading Spaces launched and I was HOOKED. Genevieve Gorder, one of the show’s original designers, is still a major inspiration to me. Trading Spaces only fueled my desire and made me focus even more on the arts in high school.
I was a straight-A student, except in math, which I almost failed in grade 12 and had to repeat. (Whatever, Mr. Wozniak. I had better things to do than worry about solving your dumb equations.)
I started in the interior design program at Sheridan College in 2002 and loved it. I kicked ass academically and creatively. But where I struggled was with finding friends.
Don’t get me wrong – I was friends with girls in my program, but things never fully “clicked” and I never felt like I fit the mold of the “typical interior design student”. I was more at home with the creatives in animation, illustration, and other visual fields.
Looking back – hindsight is always 20/20, isn’t it? – it was actually a blessing that I stood out. That I wasn’t the same as the others. Because nothing has served me better in my career than having a strong point of view and doing what’s true to me and my vision, instead of what’s expected. #truth
Here’s the thing about going to school for interior design.
Yes, it’s valuable to have a design degree or diploma behind you. Yes, I learned useful technical stuff that I didn’t know before. But interior design is more than just knowing the elements and principles of design. Interior design is a skill that can be honed, but I really don’t believe that it can be taught.
You either have that certain “je ne sais quoi”, or you don’t. You either have the knack for space planning, and choosing color palettes, and creating a vision for a completed space, or you don’t.
Having an interior design degree does not make you an interior designer.
If you have a passion for design, and a natural inclination towards it, you don’t need a piece of paper to tell the world you’re a good designer. You show up, you do good work, you share what you’re doing, you learn as you go, and you get better every day.
So what happened after design school?
I graduated from Sheridan with honors and was hired right out of college as a Junior Designer at Kimberley Seldon Design Group in Toronto, Canada. Working at a small design firm meant there was no hand-holding or busywork – I was thrown head-first into AutoCAD drawings, custom furniture sketches, TV set design, international trips, fabric sourcing, client meetings, and site visits. I FREAKING LOVED IT.
While the work itself was exactly what I wanted to be doing, the environment was a bit like The Devil Wears Prada. You know – high profile position, long hours, less-than-amazing pay, and a slightly demanding boss. I always knew I wanted to start my own business one day, and despite the demands of my Junior Design role I kept my eyes open and learned so much from Kimberley about how to run a business – but even more importantly, how I didn’t want to run my business one day.
It didn’t matter that I was the newest, greenest member of the team. I saw the opportunity to learn from those above me, and paid attention to the ins and outs of both interior design itself and running an interior design business.
This is the most valuable thing I can share about how to become an interior designer:
It’s not about a degree. It’s about developing your natural skills and learning from those who have come before you.
In case you’re curious,
There’s no bad juju between Kimberley and I! While professionally we had our challenges, personally she’s an awesome human and I’ve always enjoyed her company. I’m grateful for the trust she placed in me as a newbie designer and what I learned from her. In fact, I was interviewed on her podcast about what it was like to work with her “back in the day”. Check out the episode here.
So…have you been thinking about becoming an interior designer?
If you’ve just launched an interior design side hustle or have been wanting to take the plunge into running your own design business, I’d love to help. 14 years in the industry has taught me A LITERAL TON and I want to save you some of the frustrations and setbacks I encountered along the way, as well as provide you with invaluable business documents and systems you’ll need behind-the-scenes to run a kickass company.
You already have a knack for interior design –
Here’s how to turn your heart-pumping passion for interiors into a thriving design business. I’m launching a beta business coaching program for new interior designers and am accepting a limited number of one-on-one clients. Interested? Book a complimentary coaching discovery call to see if we’re a great fit.
Residential interior design is my jam (and my bread and butter! #PunIntended) but sometimes an offbeat exterior project comes my way and it’s such a cool opportunity I’ll put aside sourcing sofas and pillows.
Since 2016 I’ve been partnering with Mission Waco, an awesome local non-profit whose mission is to, “provide Christian-based, holistic, relationship-based programs that empower the poor and marginalized, mobilize middle-class Americans to become more compassionately involved among the poor, and seek ways to overcome the systemic issues of social injustice which oppress the poor and marginalized.”
Mission Waco has been taking massive action to revitalize an economically disadvantaged area of Waco. In the past few years they’ve opened a grocery store in a food desert, given their youth center a facelift, and are now turning an abandoned storefront into a thriving retail center.
The Jubliee Food Market was an abandoned grocery store with a hint of Art Deco architecture, and it was an opportunity to stand out and be incredibly bold with color and design to get attention in the neighborhood! I loved designing with the quirky combo of peach, orange, and aqua, and this facade definitely brought life and energy to an otherwise drab building.
I’m totally loving how the mural design came together. Give me ALL THE COLORS.
The next project we tackled was re-painting the tired Youth Center building. The graphic mural is an abstract “MW” (for Mission Waco, obvs) that wraps around the side of the building, and my favorite design detail is the striped pattern in between the two columns. For just the cost of paint, this building looks so much younger and fresher.
Like seriously. Check it out before:
And now…here’s what’s in the works for 2019. These four buildings (well, technically now three buildings since the walls and roof recently collapsed!) will be remodeled and turned into the Colcord Center, a new retail space in Waco’s Sanger Heights neighborhood. While the design concept isn’t as bold or exciting for this space – we’re more limited with building materials since there’s a full renovation needed – I think the kick of deep Baylor green and natural stone with green hues will set it apart from Waco’s typical beige buildings.
I know this building needs a total overhaul, but secretly, I wish this mural were staying.
If you’re in the Waco area, you can check out all three of these buildings – Jubilee, the Mission Waco Youth Center, and the Colcord Center – at the corner of Colcord Ave and 15th St.
Also, consider getting involved and supporting Mission Waco financially. They’re doing such great work to empower the poor and marginalized in Waco, and worldwide too. (If you use Amazon Smile, you can choose Mission Waco, Mission World as the charity to support and Amazon will automatically donate 0.5% of the price of your purchases at no cost to you. Total win.)
I looooove me a good project reveal! This Waco family-friendly kitchen remodel was such a blast to work on, and any time a client gives the go-ahead for a bright blue island you just KNOW the end result is going to be smashing.
If you remember the “before” photos, my client was trapped in a generic wannabe-farmhouse kitchen with a faux shiplap wall. A sledgehammer took care of our little shiplap problem lickety-split, and the custom-designed massive 11′ long island became a much-deserved focal point. This sweet family has 3 kids under 3 and a large island to seat everyone comfortably was a must-have (as was a low-maintenance quartz countertop).
Mixing metals, layering textures, and playing with color and pattern was key to bring interest to this otherwise neutral space. Black hardware and fixtures are unexpected and fresh, which meant that brass and chrome accents could layer in without being too dominating. (I’m obsessed with those black hexagon drawer pulls!)
The large reclaimed barn door was already in the home, and I love it because warms up the otherwise cool palette in the kitchen. Without warm woods, a blue and white kitchen would feel pretty sterile. Brass + wood = instant warmth and contrast.
You can never go wrong with tea towels that feature animals dressed like humans, right? Even kitchens need a little quirk factor.
And just for fun, while we were busy smashing down shiplap and busting up bad tile floors we did a little makeover of the laundry room and master closet too. The ho-hum laundry room got jazzed up with graphic concrete tiles and a fresh quartz countertop, and we designed a pretty little office nook in the master closet to create a much-needed private home workspace for mama.
I bet they’re going to have a pretty epic Thanksgiving dinner in their new super family-friendly kitchen! (And I hope they invite me, too.)
Photos: Jeff Jones Photography
If you’ve recently shopped for a sofa, I can bet you got pretty overwhelmed with all the decision-making. Sofa, or sectional? A tight upholstered back, or loose cushions? Do you need a matching ottoman? Leather, or fabric? Do you need performance fabric for a sofa? What type of arm should it have? What kind of legs, and how high? Or maybe a skirt?
“Performance fabric” is one of those buzzwords floating around, but unless you know exactly what that means, it’s hard to know if it’s something you really need or a fancy marketing gimmick. Here’s the down and dirty on what performance fabrics are, and if you need ’em:
Can’t view the embedded video above? Click here. Prefer to read? Transcript is below.
Hey everyone, I’m Lesley Myrick – your interior design partner-in-crime to help you Bust Out Of Boring. Welcome to Episode 5:
Do You Need Performance Fabric for a Sofa?
Aah! I don’t know! We’re about to find out today.
We talked a little bit last week about my epic sofa failure and how getting a sofa with vinyl was not a good choice. It just deteriorated after a few years.
But the conversation I want to have today is about specific fabrics for a sofa – mainly, do you need Performance fabric for a sofa?
Now, you might not be familiar with the term “performance”.
Basically, Performance fabric is the kind of stuff that was used in restaurants and hospitals and – you know – fabric that’s plastic-y and resists stains and dirt and you can be pretty rough to it and it still holds up.
I will have you know that things have come a long, long way since then and there’s lots of fabrics available on the residential market that are “Performance”, meaning they have those stain-repellent qualities, they have treatments done to them and even woven into them that’s going to make them easy to clean, resistant to stains, really durable, but it’s not that old, stiff, commercial fabric you might be thinking of.
Now, do you need it for a sofa?
The short answer is, no – but yes.
I think Performance fabrics are an awesome option for a sofa in two really specific instances. The first one is if you have kids or pets (because those things make messes!) and the second is if you want a light-colored sofa, like a light linen color, white, a light grey, or something like that.
I see all these really cute inexpensive sofas on the market that are upholstered in beige linen or grey linen and, girlfriend, you pour one little bit of water or, heaven forbid, a little bit of red wine on that and you’re toast.
That sofa is never going to look like it did when it came to your home for the first time.
The benefits of performance fabrics are
that when you spill red wine on them, on a good performance fabric that stuff will bead up and roll right off.
Now, it doesn’t mean you can be super mean to them and just throw crap all over them! But it buys you time to clean them properly and it resists stains and it’s going to work really well.
So having little kids, having small pets or big pets, I think it’s a great great idea.
Think about that plastic sheeting on grandma’s couch back in the day. Grandma’s couch probably did need plastic sheeting because that fabric was way too delicate. But now, you don’t need itg – you can just get a really great fabric on your sofa and it kinda has the plastic secretly built in to the fibers which makes it super, super durable.
The other time you’re going to want a performance fabric specifically is if you’re doing a very light color.
A white couch – guys, you can do a white couch! If it’s your dream to have this pristine white couch you can actually do it with a performance fabric and get a really awesome result and have something that’s really going to serve you and function well, even though it’s white.
I show clients samples and they look at me like I’ve lost my mind when I’m proposing something that’s a really light color for upholstery, but with the right material it’s a really, really great fit for a project.
Now, I will say –
I mentioned last week that we just got our new sectional and I’ve got kids, and those kids can be dirty, and we did not do a performance fabric.
I did a teal sofa (obviously – I love teal!) and I didn’t like the options that were available in performance fabric in that color. So we chose to do a beautiful soft, silky velvet fabric. We also know how to clean it properly, we know it’s a darker color so it’s a bit more forgiving, and the kids now know they do NOT eat on our new sofa!
So that’s one way we’ve made it work.
But overall, do I recommend doing a performance fabric for a sofa? Yes.
It is just something that’s going to make your life a heck of a lot easier. You won’t be thinking and worrying about all the things spilling on your sofa, all that kind of stuff. I think it’s a worthy investment to look into it.
A lot of ready-made sofas have the option of performance but not that many. But if you look to a company that does custom, or semi-custom usually they’re starting to roll out some really great lines of fabric that do have performance characteristics like Crypton or Teflon. Sometimes the fabric is treated on top or underneath (sometimes both), and other times it’s actually woven into the fibers so they’re stain and soil repellant all the way through.
So – YES to performance fabrics if you want a sofa that’s going to last and look great and be easy to clean.
But here’s something to note…
I’ve heard stories of people complaining because they had a performance fabric and their sofa got dirty. Well yeah – you still have to clean it if anything happens to it and you spill on it! It’s not the plastic-covered sofas from the 70s you might remember your parents or grandparents having. It is still fabric, it is still a fiber with little pores that you can get stuff in – but it’s a lot easier to clean, maintain, and keep looking beautiful if you do invest in a performance fabric.
I hope you’re enjoying these weekly Bust Out Of Boring – or, BOOB – videos.
If you’re finding value in them I would be so honored if you’d click “Share” and pass this along to a friend. Let someone know that might be interested in design advice that I am here every Wednesday at noon to answer your questions and to chat about all things design and cool and sofas and fabrics and yellow cabinets and all that good stuff!
If you’ve not already gotten my FREE ebook
on how to bring personality to a boring space, you can text the word BORED to 444999 and you’re going to get a happy little automated message from me and a link to download this awesome ebook.