I’m delighted to have just celebrated Rethink Interiors 8th anniversary, and as I often get asked how I started out in interior design, I thought now was a good time to reflect on my journey. I hope it inspires anyone that is looking to start a career in interior design and tells you more about my experience in the industry.
In the beginning:
I knew that I wanted to be an architect or interior designer at the age of 14, and following work experience at a local architects office I was definitely drawn more towards the creative role of interior design.
Surprisingly, my school careers adviser suggested that I leave school after GCSEs to go to college. I really hadn’t expected my parents to be on board with the idea of foregoing A-levels and leaving school at 16, but they were supportive and I enrolled at Plymouth College of Art and Design to study a BTEC National Diploma in Interior Design.
Art College was an extremely stimulating and curious time in which I seemed to flourish. We learnt surveying and hand drawing skills as well as practical interior décor skills such as wallpaper hanging, decoupage, and painting. I passed my two-year diploma and applied to do a degree in Interior Design.
I was accepted into Manchester Metropolitan University to study BA (Hons) Interior Design – a three-year course. Here I developed my design skills to include CAD (computer-aided design) more in-depth space planning for commercial projects, and 3D model making skills. We had one lecture a week, which to most students sounds like a dream, but it took dedication and discipline to keep on developing ideas under my own steam.
My degree is equivalent to Part 1 Architecture, so it is ingrained in me to always think about the practicalities of finishes, and how designs can be built and maintained long term. This sort of thinking makes your designs feasible, but also encourages you to push the boundaries.
I don’t think anything can fully prepare you for the reality of working in interior design (especially hospitality design). It is not until you graduate and find yourself in your first role that you fully realise what it entails. It is such an eye opener when you suddenly realise you have to take into account the Client’s wishes, budget and time constraints, as well as the architectural elements, that then have to flow with the interiors, for a harmonious holistic design.
Just before graduating I was offered a job back in Devon at an architects practice. I worked on residential and commercial properties, producing both architectural drawings and interior design details. One of my first projects was a Grade II listed building in a Conservation Area. I remember meeting with the Conservation Officer to talk him through my design proposal and I was rather delighted when he responded positively and thought the project “exciting”. Afterwards the Architect (who was with me) said he’d never known a Conservation Officer to have such an enthusiastic response to proposed alterations – it was a great start to my career!
Ultimately I knew I wanted to live in a larger city and the lights of London beckoned me. I made the move with just six months career experience and I landed a role as an Architectural Interior Designer with an architects practice near London Bridge. I worked on various projects including residential, commercial, retail and offices. A few years later I was headhunted to join a practice that specialised in hospitality projects and that’s where I found my forte.
Since setting up my own company, Rethink Interiors Ltd, in 2009 we have continued to specialise in hospitality projects and now work worldwide. I have a strong passion and enthusiasm for design and creativity. My love of travel, architecture, and colour provide a blend of inspirations that continue to shape my designs, and coupled with my drive, ambition and experience, allow me to grow and develop as a designer.
Interior design is definitely an exciting and rewarding career – it has its challenges, but those are what make us continue to grow as designers. The more you can deconstruct the design handbook the further you can push the boundaries and come up with thought-provoking, inspiring spaces for people to experience and enjoy. I wouldn’t change my job for the world!
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