To The Interior Design Student Who's Not Sure She's Got What It Takes...
When I was a girl, I loved to design imaginary homes for Barbie and Ken out of my Grandmother's Montgomery Ward catalog. As I grew up, these inclinations became more sophisticated. I began to appreciate beautiful buildings and interiors. A profession in interior design began to emerge in my sights. My Daddy, being a building contractor, encouraged this notion. I wish I could remember who the person was who discouraged me by telling me that this course of study was harder than I imagined. That information got me off track for a bit, because I wasn't confident that I had the ability.
It turns out that person was correct. Interior design college was difficult, but my natural aptitude for the study got me through. I wish today's me could go back and tell little timid student me a few little tidbits that I've come to know in my 30 years in the business.
Yes, The Fundamentals Are Essential
Did you ever plow through a really difficult course, and the entire time thinking "Why am I doing this? I'll never need this knowledge"? High school algebra for me. Loved my instructor, Mr. Brice, hated the course. He might as well have been trying to teach me to speak Martian.
Interior design college is HARD. I don't mind saying. it - you need to hear it because it's the truth. Whatever your ideas of studying interior design are, they may be sadly underestimated, as were mine. I LOVED, and still love, architecture, antiques, furniture, color, fabrics, etc, and so this career called me, but college was a struggle. There was SO much to learn. Drafting, codes, lighting, textiles, standards for everything involved, designing for the handicapped, the history of furniture and architecture, on and on... So very little of it was selecting pretty colors and fabrics. It was hard work, long hours, lack of sleep, lack of any other life, a trip to the emergency room at 2 a.m. because I almost cut my finger off getting my presentation boards finished on time. But unlike algebra, this was all making sense to me. I loved every bit of it and pushed on, and guess what, the information I was learning is still today absolutely essential for my day to day job and now comes second-nature. So I'd tell myself, hang in there, this is important stuff.
You Will Remember Certain Details Forever
Although college was hard, what I learned was so essential, I use it every day. I soaked it up like a sponge and squeeze it out all the time. Some examples of what was drilled into and planted into my brain are never to leave.
- Color basics. A book written on all there is to know about color would rival the length of War And Peace but certain basics (once learned) are second nature. Almost everyone has seen an image of the color wheel - a circular diagram originally designed by Isaac Newton, arranging the color spectrum based on the primary colors of red, yellow and blue. Color temperature, the warmth or coolness of a color and how those temperatures can be effectively used to create the desired ambiance of a space. Color schemes are complementary (colors opposite each other on the wheel), triadic (three colors evenly spaced on the wheel), analogous (colors next to each other), monochromatic (different shades of the same color), and SO much more about color is now in my blood.
- History of furniture, architecture, and art. These were classes that then, seemed a little tedious, but now comes right out. I can identify a Savonarola chair as easily as a Bertoia chair. I would be happy to recite the history of the Barcelona chair for you anytime you'd like to hear it. I can tell you seemingly useless information such as who invented the flush toilet and the elevator. I can easily identify the styles of famous architects and artists.
- Drafting and space planning. Again, second nature. I can wield an architectural scale as masterfully as Paul Mitchell could wield a pair of scissors. The basics are in my brain, such as what distance the coffee table should be from the sofa, how much space it takes a wheelchair to make a 360-degree turn or at what height your chandelier should be over your dining table.
These are just a smattering of what those tedious studies drilled into my cerebellum. The student me wouldn't have believed as I struggled to stay awake during art history when they turned out the lights right after lunch, that all the facts were indeed sinking in and becoming part of who I would always be.
Stray From The Rules
My instructors were hammering in all of the rules and the importance of sticking to them. I was being trained into a strict discipline. What I have learned in the 30 years since graduation, though, is that as important as the rules are, straying from them is equally as important. A design will be just that much more exciting if the paint color doesn't exactly match the drapes. Not every situation calls for a picture to be hung at exactly eye-level. One item or color in a design that is completely random, makes for a room to remember. These are among the things that the by-the-books student me would have been aghast to hear.
I'm naturally shy. The student me didn't realize that just knowing all of these facts wasn't going to be enough. I remember one of my first clients pointing out to me to not be afraid to boldly express my opinion. You can't just spout the facts to a client. You have to say it with confidence or the client won't have confidence in your well thought out design.
Some Of The Most Important Things You'll Learn Won't Be In The Classroom
The young student me thought that all of the hard work that I was putting in at school was all that I was going to be to be the next Dorothy Draper. Not so. The information you learn in the school of hard knocks is equally as important.
You must have some business know-how. Hey, doing bookkeeping isn't my favorite part of my job, but must be done. The only kind of papers I love is wallpapers, but unfortunately, invoices are just as necessary.
The people skills necessary to execute this profession will never be fully learned. Every client is unique in their own lovely way. And thus, my relationship with each is equally unique. And they are all treasured in my heart.
The most important thing that I could tell my exhausted interior design student me, is to keep plugging away and to relax and enjoy the process, it will all be worth it. Interior design is a worthy and rewarding profession because of the positive effect you will be making on the lives of the exceptional people you will come to know.
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