Career as an interior designer

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Emma Banks runs her own interior design business. She re-styles people's homes and manages the work from start to finish – which often includes organising crews of joiners, plumbers and decorators.

What is involved in your job?

We design mainly for people's homes, but are looking to branch out into shops, offices and restaurants in the future. Some customers want me to simply come up with a design for a single room, while others want me to re-model their whole house.

Others want to hand over the whole job and I then manage the project, organising people like plumbers and joiners and buying all the required materials like lighting, flooring, wallpaper, paint, soft furnishings and so on.

How do you come up with a design?

First of all, I visit the client in their home. This first consultation takes about an hour.

I take along folders of different types of interiors and build up a picture of what they like. I take photos of the room they want to change and also take measurements. I then decide what I want to do to the room and source the things needed. I discuss the shortlist of designs with the client and we agree a final design.

What happens after this initial design stage?

I prepare a presentation board with handdrawn pictures of the room, perspective drawings, plans and samples of fabrics, wallpapers or paints. I present these to the client. If they want me to manage the job for them, I start to get quotes for the work that is needed. Then, I draw up a project timescale and start to buy all the materials.

What do you enjoy most and least like about the job?

When you present a design or finish a project and the clients are absolutely thrilled with it. However, the worst part is trying to anticipate problems – which never turn out how you expect.

What skills do you need?

You need to be calm and able to cope with the occasional crisis. You have to be an excellent planner, and you have to think about function as well as how something looks. Creativity is essential. You have to put pen to paper and get your ideas across to a customer in a visual way. Also, you need to be persuasive and able to get on with people, as you will be dealing with a variety of suppliers, tradespeople and customers.

Emma's route to her career as an interior designer

  • A levels in fine art and textiles.
  • BTEC National Diploma in Interior Design.

Emma's interior designer tips

  • Get a professional qualification and join a professional body such as the British Interior Designers Association.
  • Learn as much as you can about trades such as joinery and electrics.

Interior designer related jobs












  • Architect
  • Architectural technician/technologist
  • Display designer/visual merchandiser
  • Exhibition designer
  • Painter and decorator
  • Stage/set designer
  • Textile designer

Salary of an interior designer

  • New designers can expect to earn between £12,500 to £16,500 a year, rising to £25,000 with experience.
  • Freelance hourly rates can vary from around £9 to £22 – much higher for designers with a good reputation.

Becoming an interior designer

  • Most interior designers have an HND or degree and may have started on an art and design Foundation course.
  • Some designers, though, may have moved across from painting and decorating or one of the craft trades, such as joinery.
  • There are lots of courses at colleges and universities – some of them specialising in areas like commercial interior design or exhibition design.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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