Do your friends turn to you when redecorating their homes or shopping for new furniture? If so, starting an interior design business might sound like a great option—especially if you’re a military spouse who needs the flexibility to work from anywhere at (almost) anytime! But before you turn your passion into your profession, learn what it takes to become an interior designer.
Skills Needed for Interior Design
Interior designers help corporate and organizational clients breathe new life into their spaces. They assist realtors in staging homes and apartments for sale. They also work with homeowners to find storage and style solutions that meet their needs. Designers need more than natural style and taste to run a profitable business. Successful interior designers set themselves apart with specialized education and skills such as:
1. Creativity and Attention to Detail
Design is an artistic career choice. Unlike many artists, you won’t necessarily develop your own style. Instead, you'll adapt your vision to your clients' needs and preferences. You will need creativity to solve problems less creative people can’t! For example, you might need to find solutions that work with small spaces, unusual color palettes, and even complicated renovations.
Many interior designers are visual thinkers. They can see potential in outdated, dysfunctional, and even empty spaces. They see the big picture where others see blueprints! To be a successful interior designer, you'll need to develop your spatial awareness and observational skills.
3. Communication Skills
Even if you have a strong sense of vision, your clients may not. Accordingly, you need to be an active listener to understand their needs. You also need communication skills to translate concepts into approval-worthy proposals. Plus, consider that you may work alongside architects, contractors, and engineers. Effectively listening to and communicating with them is essential to meeting clients’ expectations.
4. Knowledge of Design Trends and Styles
Whether your clients are looking for a mid-century modern look or a French country aesthetic, you must be able to meet their needs. That means keeping up with design trends and classic styling elements. As an interior designer, you’ll need to “speak the language.” That means being fluent in furniture art, sustainability, and even design history! The key is to never stop learning so your interior design knowledge is always up-to-date.
5. Color Basics Knowledge
Color has transformative powers. It can make or break a space. Great interior designers know how to use it in their favor. Knowledge of the color wheel, hues, and complementary shades can help you find crowd-pleasing palettes for all kinds of clients. Developing a mastery of color theory is not as easy as it sounds, but it can help you set yourself apart from competing interior designers in your area.
6. Understanding of Spatial Balance
Have you ever entered a room and been immediately stressed for no apparent reason? Perhaps you went to renew your license, only to find an all-beige DMV with uncomfortable desk chairs packed side-by-side. If you understand what we’re talking about, you’ve witnessed spatial imbalance. The way a room is set up can create harmony and change visitors’ moods. As an interior designer, you must balance lighting, furniture layout, and finishings to set the tone for your clients’ spaces. For example, according to a study by Comelite Architecture, many fast food joints use designs that discourage people from staying too long. Also, many of them red and yellow in their color schemes—tones that stimulate the appetite. If you create designs with balance and harmony in mind, you’ll boost a space’s form and function—whether that’s a fast food joint or a spa-inspired master bathroom!
7. Budgeting Skills
Many clients will come to you with an idea and a budget. Often cases, the cost of the former will far exceed the latter. You'll have to find creative solutions to financial and design limitations! Clients expect you to get the most bang for their buck. Budgeting skills will help you give them a realistic idea of what their money can buy. This includes accounting for furnishings, labor, and even hidden costs when delivering a proposal. Additionally, for the sake of transparency, you must be a good recordkeeper and honest negotiator.
8. Time Management Skills
In most fields of work, delivering work on time and under budget is a surefire way to make a great impression. The interior design industry is no exception. When you negotiate a project you not only have to present a budget, but also a realistic timeline. You’ll need organizational skills to give yourself and your clients a reasonable due date. You will also need to be able to solve problems on the fly to avoid being late.
Like lawyers, doctors, and construction workers—interior designers need specialized education. Most interior designers have bachelor’s degrees in related fields. If you don’t, look into certificates and programs that can help kickstart your career. Find a comprehensive interior design course that covers everything from color theory to how to set up your interior design business. Also make sure the course you pick fits well with your lifestyle, offering flexibility such as online and self-paced classes!
Ready to take the leap?
Flexibility? Check. Part-time options? Check. Good side-job? CHECK! If you’re a military spouse, interior design could be the ideal career choice for your busy lifestyle. Check out our online interior design course to get the knowledge and skills to help you succeed. If you’re not ready to take the leap yet contact an academic advisor for more info on our creative arts programs.