How to become an Interior Designer. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about this career.
What does an Interior Designer do?
Interior designers plan and organise the design and decoration of the inside of both new and existing buildings. This can include private houses and buildings such as offices, hotels, restaurants and shops.
Your work as an interior designer would typically involve:
- meeting with clients to discuss their requirements and ideas (the ‘brief’)
- developing a design that suits the needs of the client, the available budget and the type of building
- preparing initial sketches for the approval of the client
- advising on colour schemes, fabrics, fittings and furniture
- working out costs and preparing estimates
- developing initial sketches into detailed drawings, usually on a computer
- sourcing fittings, furniture, fabrics and wall and floor coverings.
You may also recommend people to carry out the work on site, and supervise their progress.
You may need to work long, irregular hours, which could include evenings and weekends.
You will usually be based in a studio, but will also spend a lot of time visiting clients and sites.
As a freelance designer, you may work from home, share offices or rent a studio.
How much does an Interior Designer earn?
Salary and pay information:
- Junior designers can earn from around £15,000 to £20,000 a year.
- Experienced interior designers can earn up to, and over, £25,000.
- Senior designers can earn over £45,000.
Freelance designers set their own hourly rates.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
You will need a high level of design skill. In practice, this usually means completing an art- or design-based BTEC HND or degree. Several universities offer interior design courses – visit the British Interior Design Association (BIDA) website for a list.
- British Interior Design Association – course list
Other useful subjects include fine art, 3-D design and architecture. Entry requirements for courses vary, so you should check with colleges and universities.
You will need a portfolio of examples of your design work to show to potential employers and clients.
As a starting point, you could develop practical skills by doing qualifications such as the following:
- City & Guilds Level 1, 2 and 3 Award/Certificate/ Diploma in Creative Techniques: Interiors units (7111, 7112 and 7113)
- BTEC National Certificate and Diploma courses in Art and Design
- ABC Diploma in Interior Design.
You can also attend short courses in various aspects of interior design (such as upholstery and decorating techniques), at many colleges. The ABC Level 3 Award in CAD Skills for Interior Design is available at some colleges.
Competition is strong, and the key to finding work is to get as much experience, and make as many contacts, as possible. Unpaid work experience will give you the chance to develop your portfolio, make contacts and impress potential employers.
However, competition for work experience is also strong, so you will need to be determined and proactive. You can find contact details for design companies and agencies from the members’ lists of design organisations such as the Chartered Society of Designers, or from industry directories. See the BIDA website for details of specialist recruitment agencies.
Attending trade fairs and joining professional organisations are also useful ways of making contacts and keeping up to date with industry developments.
Training and Development
Once you are working as an interior designer, you could develop your skills and progress in your career by completing further training. You may be able to attend relevant short courses at colleges or with private providers. You could also complete a postgraduate degree or diploma in a related subject.
It will be useful to join professional bodies such as the British Interior Design Association and the Chartered Society of Designers, as membership will give you access to advice, opportunities for continuing professional development (CPD), and industry contacts.
Skills and Knowledge
- practical skills
- excellent organisational skills
- project management skills
- drawing, computer-aided design (CAD) and model-making skills
- an understanding of building and safety regulations
- knowledge of products, properties of materials, and architectural history
- effective communication skills, for working with suppliers, contractors and clients
- the ability to find practical solutions to problems
- the ability to work out costs and keep within budgets
- business skills if self-employed.
You could be employed by retail outlets, interior design consultancies or architectural practices. However, many interior designers are freelance (either completely self-sufficient or under contract to a design agency).
You could use your experience in interior design to move into other related work, such as theatre set design, visual merchandising or exhibition design.