Career Day and Keeping Rooms Cohesive

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In this episode, I talk about pursuing a career as an interior designer and answer a question about keeping rooms cohesive. 

If you have questions for me, make sure to submit them here


This episode, we discuss…

[01:38] What an interior designer does all day

[06:03] Where interior designers can work

[06:38] Top challenges of being an interior designer

[07:54] Important personality traits of an interior designer

[11:08] The interior designer career path

[17:35]  Making a space cohesive (Renee) 

What an interior designer does all day

Most interior designers spend all day behind the desk, maybe they’re talking to clients once or twice a month in person. But for the most part, they’re behind the desk drafting. They’re in their office making selections, certainly there’s quite a bit of shopping. So that’s fun being out of the office and meeting with vendors, checking out fabrics, ordering samples, but a lot of it is just in the office grinding, preparing invoicing, spreadsheets, etc. With my job, I saw a large firm that there was a lot of that, and I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to meet people and transform spaces quickly. Seeing a lot of spaces making a big impact. But with smaller projects that didn’t take so long. So I really tailored my business to only the aspects of interior design and those daily tasks that I really love, meeting with people, online shopping, creating fun, visually compelling presentations, that kind of stuff. 

Of course, I spend a lot of time when I’m with clients, not only getting to know them, but taking measurements, creating floor plans. So you really have to like that technical aspect. You have to like intimately learning a room where the outlets are, where the light switches are, is there a scuff in the paint over here? Do we have a flickering light over there? So really getting to know intimately the space you’re going to be working on is key. And then of course presenting to the client getting everything ready.

I have a big presentation coming up this weekend and getting everything ready. I’m presenting the rooms in such a way that I think the presentation will be more compelling to the clients. Like I’ll start with a room that’s less controversial. Get them excited about that design, then I’ll move into something where maybe I took a few more risks in the dining room, I’m going to use some wallpaper and I want to kind of get that initial buy-in, oh my gosh, I love the family room, let’s keep going. So that way, they’re already feeling confident and secure by the time I throw them a little bit of a wild card. So thinking strategically about that presentation. And then of course, bringing the presentation to life with beautiful visuals and mood boards and a spreadsheet that’s easy to use and shop with. So that’s really my daily life. And of course, running a business, I have lots of tax stuff, and people management stuff. I spend a large amount of time on that each week. But that’s not something most designers have to deal with. 

Where interior designers can work

The exciting thing about this profession too, is that I can truly work from anywhere. So I can either meet my clients virtually, and then I can really work from anywhere. But of course, it’s more lucrative to meet them at their homes to go to where they are. So when I’m meeting them at their homes, I’ll have one meeting, but then that work of shopping, presenting, making spreadsheets, all of that can be done virtually, I could be on vacation, I could be in a park, I could be at home, as long as I have a quiet space with reliable WiFi, you can really take this job on the road, which I just love.


Top challenges of being an interior designer

I also love the challenge of learning people quickly. I think it’s really key to be deeply interested in people in this profession. Because I have to get to know their preferences really quickly, I have to get them to trust me, which means I have to be a little bit vulnerable, sharing the fact that sometimes I’m messy, that sometimes my dog has accidents on the floor, which limits how much I want to spend on a rug, or I watch a lot of screens so I want a TV in the bedroom. That way, they’ll be more open to telling me that they watch a lot of screens and that’s a priority for them too. So kind of building that really authentic relationship so that I can create a space that totally works for them, and then even solves some of their problems like clutter and chaos in the entryway, things like that. I also love working within a budget, not only because I see that it helps people of all means that make its interior design accessible to everyone but also because it just makes you have to think outside the box and be more creative and creates a boundary that you have to kind of work within, which helps the timeline to go faster than having the budget for anything in the whole world. 

Important personality traits of an interior designer

In terms of who should be drawn to this job, somebody who likes art. You like to stroll through museums, you like to look at pretty colors, you like to go to furniture stores, you don’t have to know how to draw, you don’t have to know how to paint. Of course, it’s a nice thing to fully immerse yourself in the world of art in order to be a designer, but it is certainly not a necessity. 

I myself have an extensive art background, I don’t use any of that in terms of drawing, painting those techniques. You also want to be friendly. Because as I mentioned before, you want to get clients on your side, you want them to know, like and trust you so they refer their friends and you just want to have a great working relationship in this somewhat personal environment. You also want to have kind of an excited personality when I’m presenting to my clients, if I don’t wholeheartedly get behind the presentation and really sell it. They’re not going to be into my ideas, either. 

So if I say, you know, here’s the presentation, I just sent it to you in an email, look it over, let me know what you think I worked really hard on it versus let me guide you through my presentation. I can’t wait to show you what I found. There’s some really exciting things and I want to show you some different options. So let’s dig in. That’s a totally different experience and it’s going to have different outcomes. You also have to be really practical. A lot of new designers or designers who are just curious about the profession, love picking up the pretty stuff, love immersing themselves in art and fancy items and things like this but they don’t enjoy staying within that budget. They don’t enjoy finding fabrics that are quite durable. They want that cream sofa because it’s going to look best in the room, but they’re not thinking of how it’s going to work best for that family. So you really do need to be practical in order to be successful in my opinion. 

You also need to love math. People are always so surprised that half my job is math, spatial geometry in terms of determining what shapes, things need to be in a space, how those shapes work together. If I’ve entered a room and I’ve used a lot of circles in terms of tables and ottomans, then I want to bring in some rectangles in terms of a boxy sectional or a media console that has those right angles. So I’m constantly thinking, do I have enough curves? Do I have enough straight lines? Do I have enough light colors? 

Do I have enough dark colors? I am constantly thinking about shapes, contrast, and measurements. You’ve got to know English because I have to communicate really well. If I have errors in not only my speaking, but also in my emails, the clients are gonna think I’m not very professional. Then I do need to have an interest in technology. In this day and age, you must know floor planning software, ideally, a mood board creation software to create those, presentations that are amazing, and also a spreadsheet software so that you can project manage what comes first, what comes second, but also build that shopping list and stay within a budget.


The interior designer career path

These are really key components that you have to be open to learning, which we teach in my Academy, or you have to already know in order to be a good interior designer, in terms of that career path. I mean, you need an interest in art, as I mentioned before, and you do need, you know, if you’re a high school or middle school or looking to go into interior design, I highly recommend going and getting either a four year degree or a two year degree because I also think that’s just a learning process in terms of personal development but if you’ve already been to college, if you’ve already been to a two or four year program in any field, you probably don’t want to do that again and you’re not going to learn the skills that it takes to take clients. You may learn about the history of interior design, some principles and theory of interior design but in terms of that practical application, oftentimes, it’s not actually taught, I got my practical education first by having an internship with a famous designer. 

 Then by opening my own firm, and making lots of errors, and figuring out sort of my methodology and turning it into a clear program that I can follow each time with success. That then became my training program for my company for all the designers who came to me and then ultimately the Academy. Now I have this amazing program where I can teach anyone, and it’s relatively quick. And it’s really fun, if you can be an entrepreneur, as a designer, not everybody wants to be an entrepreneur, some people just want the steady paycheck and they want to be immersed in the world, but not necessarily fully responsible for the designs they create. I get that because being an entrepreneur has a lot of different parts in terms of invoicing your clients, creating your business structure, thinking about what packages you’ll offer, versus working at a different firm, or all of that is kind of given to you. The joys of being an entrepreneur are that, when I worked at that large firm for that famous designer from Queer Eye, I saw the aspects of the job that I liked, I loved the creativity, I loved going to furniture stores, I loved being creative and selecting things but I really hated being behind a desk all day. 

I really hated that at a large firm, typically, you’re not going to make any creative choices for many, many years, that lead designer wants to do all that and you will execute these things. I didn’t like working on one project for six years, and emailing with the same client multiple times a week, I liked meeting new people and having fresh projects rather than just focusing on one project for a long, long time. So that’s why I highly recommend an internship or some kind of way to view the industry if you’re not going to become an entrepreneur, if you’re not going to do your own thing. Because you need to understand exactly how much we’ll be creative.


We moved into this 1980-era condo almost a year ago and I’m still struggling with the layout of the living room-dining room-entry space. I have a too-large TV that dominates one wall and I don’t know how to design around it, or should i just get rid of it?

To keep the space calmer, should I have fewer furniture pieces? I like midcentury design and also have inherited traditional pieces. Tips for making them work together? Thanks!


There’s a lot going on here and there’s a lot of different styles. I see both the MCM and traditional and I think this room is suffering from a lack of two word phrase. We want both a style word and feeling word that’s clear. I’m not saying traditional furniture, which has ornate carvings, detailing, tends to be more of an older style, sometimes utilizes antiques, and mixing these clean lines, simple shapes from mid century modern, I’m not saying they can never work together, but they need a really cohesive vision. 

For instance, you might want the feeling word to be ornate or opulent or you might want it to feel old world and then your style word might be mid century modern. So that will allow you to bring in these traditional touches and incorporate these more sort of filigreed pieces with the simplistic Mid Century Modern framework. 

Now, you talked about your TV being too large for the room. There’s a simple way that you can measure to ensure that that’s an accurate statement for your room. You take the measurement from the front of the screen to where your eyeballs are on the sofa, take that measurement in inches divided by two and that’s the size of your TV so if from the front of the screen to where you’re sitting on the couch is 100 inches you divide it by two and you need a 50 inch TV. Now as we know TVs are measured on the diagonal so you want the 50 inch diagonal TV, right? So I can’t be sure that this is too big, what I can be sure of is that it’s too high. 

When you’re sitting on the couch, you want the TV to be at eye level. This is not the center of the TV unless I’m standing up, maybe even on my tiptoes, it looks really high, which is making it look quite imposing. Now it’s underneath this traditional secretary desk, which is causing it to be high so this is definitely the wrong piece of furniture. Also, if I’m going to have a piece of furniture under the TV, not only do I like it to be lowered so that my TV can be at eye level, I like it to be longer than the TV or as long as the TV so it doesn’t look top heavy. Right now the secretary desk is about two thirds the length or maybe three quarters the length of the TV so the TV’s looking all the more big all the more disproportionate because it’s so much larger than the piece it’s above. If you actually watch the TV, and it makes this room more functional for you and you find that it’s one of the big draws in the room, then you need to keep it but you need to find a way to have it look less imposing by lowering it and putting it above a more appropriate piece of furniture and measuring that it is the right distance from the sofa. 

If it’s not the right distance from the sofa, you can move that sofa back. Rene, I know that’s a lot to take in. First things first, solidify this floorplan and make sure that the sofa is the right distance, make sure that the pieces are in the right place and then I think we need to really curate. By curate, I mean get rid of some things that aren’t aligning with the overall vision for the room. There’s definitely some missteps here. There’s definitely some places where I think it’s a little bit cluttered and that’s detracting from any two word phrase you might create. 

Now, you might remember from previous episodes, we are talking about my new house. I want to incorporate antiques and ornate things because that goes well with the architecture, the architecture from the Victorian era that has a lot of carvings and things like that but I actually love mid century modern. So how do I fuse the two? How I have done it is that my style word is mid century modern, because that’s what I really want to focus on more but my feeling word is fancy. Fancy allows me to play with the time period, they don’t necessarily have to be traditional pieces, anything that feels a little bit gilded, a little bit more ornate, a little elevated, even if it’s playfully elevated, like really not expensive. 

I just bought this kind of silly ornate gold filigree coffee table at an auction for 35 bucks. It’s really not expensive, but it kind of elevates and plays with this idea of locks in front of a standard mid century modern sofa so layering these ideas really works but I have to be quite specific on what fancy means to me. You’re gonna have to be very specific on what this word that encapsulates these traditional pieces is to you so if ornate doesn’t light you up, keep digging for that perfect adjective, so that you can make the space more cohesive, and get rid of things that don’t align with those two words. 




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