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Qualified Interior Designers in the Spotlight

Television shows like Trading Spaces and Extreme Home Makeover have put a spotlight on interior designers. Home renovation and decoration is one of the fastest growing market segments in North America. More and more people are turning to interior designers for help in making their homes stand out.

Interior designers create functional, efficient and safe environments.

Some tasks for interior design professionals include:

  • Consulting with clients to help determine project goals and objectives
  • Creating illustrations and renderings
  • Developing documents and specifications to comply with building and safety codes
  • Organizing and arranging a space

Barbara Hyde Evans is the owner of a residential interior design firm with offices in Seattle and Palm Springs. She specializes in new construction and remodels, including kitchens and baths. She also redecorates existing rooms.

"On remodel and new construction projects, room configuration and every interior surface is my responsibility. I work with my client to help them select everything from plumbing fixtures to door hardware to wall colors to counter tops to flooring, etc. And then I order it all and oversee its installation," explains Hyde Evans.

"In room decorating, I design the furniture arrangement, select all furnishings and fabric with my client and then oversee all ordering and fabrication of everything that is put in the room."

Do You Have What it Takes?

Interior design is a creative and people-oriented profession. Since so much of the job involves working with people and getting your vision across, excellent communication skills are essential.

You should be comfortable working independently, have good research, planning and time-management skills, and be able to work under pressure or to tight deadlines. This is especially important when things go wrong or project requirements change.

Many designers work as contractors or with smaller design firms. This makes top-notch business and marketing skills and the ability to multi-task also a necessity.

Shows like Trading Spaces show interior design as slapdash and glamorous. But according to Hyde Evans, "...only a small portion of business is the designing part. The rest is ordering, buying, dealing with fabricators, builders, furniture makers, shippers, schedules, billing, taxes, etc.!"

Training and Education

With the growing popularity of interior design, the profession has brought in stricter licensing and higher standards of education. Twenty-four jurisdictions in the United States (including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) have registration, certification or licensing requirements for interior designers.

Designers must pass an examination set by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) before they can refer to themselves as "certified interior designers." The NCIDQ also administers the Interior Design Experience Program (IDEP). This is a monitored, documented work experience program for graduates of interior design programs.

The Foundation for Interior Design Education Research in Michigan sets specific standards for interior design education. These standards describe what students must learn to become professional interior designers. A number of colleges and universities offer qualifying interior design programs for students.

"I have a BA in art, a minor in art history, an associate's degree in graphic design and another in interior design. I studied all types of design and art," says Hyde Evans.

"You also must have a rudimentary understanding of architecture and building construction. You must understand fabrics right down to the fiber. You must have an adequate knowledge of business principles and practices. And you must have the patience of a saint!

"I'd suggest at least a three-year degree from a good, solid interior design program. To be truly competitive, I'd suggest further study beyond that. I'd also suggest educating yourself on all areas of design -- it all interrelates."

What to Expect

Work environments, stress levels and salaries for interior designers vary widely. There are many different areas of interior design, and a number of ways to get into the business and work your way up.

Many students start by working at a design center, department or furniture store, or an existing design firm. Interior designers might work independently or with an architectural firm, an established interior design company, a retail store or hotel firm.

Debra Gould is the owner of a firm specializing in "home staging" -- decorating homes to help them sell. She started her business in a few years ago and has been wildly successful.

"After buying, decorating and selling six of my own homes, I decided to take my 20 years of marketing experience, eye for design and passion for real estate and turn it into a new career as a professional home stager/house fluffer," says Gould.

"I launched my new company...and within two years had decorated over $20 million worth of real estate. My clients were so happy with what I did with their homes that they were selling that they asked me to continue working with them and do their new homes."

Gould also offers a series of teleclasses on home staging, under the name Staging Diva, to students all over North America.

"I love inspiring my students. So many of them have gone on to successfully start their own home staging/house fluffing businesses with the practical hands-on tools they gained in the Staging Diva program," she says.

"I also love decorating a house from top to bottom according to my vision of what will sell to prospective home buyers."

Salaries range widely depending on the type of work you are doing and the area you're in. Urban areas like Los Angles, San Francisco, Miami and other large cities tend to have higher rates because the average income level is higher.

According to the Monster Salary Center surveys, a low-level interior designer in the U.S. might earn $29,569. A highly experienced, accredited interior designer might earn as much as $75,586.

Future Prospects

Increased focus on home improvements and a hot real estate market across North America continue to improve prospects for this career path. Interior designers used to be seen as a service for the wealthy. But more and more people are now looking at hiring a professional to make their home or office an inviting place to live or work.


American Society of Interior Designers
Check out the Become a Designer section

Council for Interior Design Qualification
Find answers to frequently asked questions about the NCIDQ exam

Careers in Interior Design
Determine whether the career is right for you

Starting an Interior Design Business
Lists factors to consider when running your own design business

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