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5 myths about a Career In Interior Design and Decoration

by Carlene Duffy
Posted: February 19, 2016

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Think a career in Interior Design and Decoration is full of glamour, rich clients and martinis? Think again. Our interior design and decoration expert, Carlene Duffy reveals the truth.

I completely understand the thoughts people have about a career in interior design and decoration because before I entered the industry, I thought them too.

Sure, some of the notions related to the job are true, but generally, there is more to the story. On starting out you will certainly be surprised by certain elements associated with the role and you may not necessarily enjoy these unexpected tasks but you will also quickly discover there are elements to the reality of the job that are better than the image. 

1.    It’s a glamourous job

glamorous career in interior design

If there is a belief that Interior designers and decorators sit around in stylish studios, in their stylish clothes, scrolling Pinterest and Instagram, flicking through interiors magazines, and putting together mood boards, I can tell you first hand that that image is false.

For starters, I am rarely sitting at all unless it is in the car. Even emails I do on the go. Let’s not also forget that the role of an interior designer/decorator involves frequent site visits and there is nothing glamourous about work boots. When doing installs I am generally trucking around in a Ute couriering furniture and bits and bobs and can be seen hauling bags of potting mix through Bunnings. One day at Ikea I had to do four trips to the car because my trolley could only carry so much at a time and again, I looked anything but glamourous. 

There is also is a lot of pressure on a consultant to make the right decisions. In building, mistakes can cost you extravagantly. Sometimes those decisions also need to be fast in order to stay one step ahead of the trades. You don’t want to be the one holding up progress. Time is money.

2.    It’s all creative

Myths about a career in interior design and decoration

Much of an interior consultant’s time is spent conceptualising, visualising and researching. Days are filled stewing over fabric, materials and paint swatches, visiting furniture showrooms, measuring, looking, thinking, looking, thinking etc. but what I learned quickly on the job is that there is also an unbelievable amount of administration involved.

Quoting, invoicing, liaising with trades, coordinating deliveries, actioning emails is probably more than 50% of the job. And as much as administrative duties are not my thing, sometimes it is good to be able to switch off the creative brain, which can get overwhelmed and drained, and do mindless tasks instead.

3.    Interior consultants are unaffordable for the layman

Expensive interior consultant - huge piggybank

I think the belief that Interior consultants are expensive goes hand in hand with the notion that interior professionals only take on big budget jobs. While I have consulted on many impressive homes, I also work on many homes with more modest budgets. A good interior consultant is going to work to your budget (no matter the size) with the objective to help you achieve the best outcome within your means.

There are, of course, some interior designers who call themselves “boutique” and put themselves in a category that for many is unaffordable but even for those with cash to splash, hiring a designer is not frivolous, it is smart. As I have said, building is an expensive exercise and interior professionals are paid to make educated decisions so that the layman is not making decisions they regret and being forced to spend more money on rectifying mistakes.

Industry professionals also have access to wholesalers and trade discounts and while a consultant is not obliged to pass on their discount to the client, they do want the best outcome for their clients so they will if they want a certain product in the space and its retail price is over budget.

4.    An interior decorator only does what people don’t have time to do themselves

Interior tough decisions

While it is true that an interior consultant will do most of the legwork in a design project, people generally don’t engage a designer or decorator because they are simply time poor, they engage a professional because they are not otherwise equipped with the knowledge and creative know-how to pull together a functional, visually balanced, and effective space

Like a builder will advise a client on what can and can’t be done from a structural perspective, an interior consultant will provide advice on what should and shouldn’t be done in terms of colours, space layout, material combinations, lighting etc. They will impart information about products and materials based on their training, experience and innate design ability that there is no way the layman could know without training or experience.  

5.    An interior decorator/designer makes all the design decisions 

Mean teacher

An interior designer is engaged to help a client with their build, renovation or makeover based on a specific brief and the relationship is a collaborative one but at the end of the day, the person paying the bills makes the final decision. A consultant will present the client with their concepts accompanied with their logic behind the concepts and the client will voice their concerns or agreement. 

I recently did my best to talk a client out of using the same white stone on their kitchen splashback as used on their benchtop. My advice was that the overall effect will look clinical and stale rather than sleek and crisp (which is what the client was aiming for). I suggested a white brick-laid subway tile would provide just the right amount of texture and visual interest without pulling too much focus. The client went with the white stone and it does bring down the space but it’s also not my house and I don’t have to live with it. We are advisers, not dictators.

If you are entertaining the idea of a career in interiors, do it. You will love it. Yes, like all jobs, there will be days where you might hate it, at which point you may start fantasising about what career you might otherwise enjoy, but I promise you will come up blank. Because at the end of the day, there is nothing more you would rather be doing.

Have a strong sense of interior style? Discover the endless career options available in the Interior Design portfolio here.

Enrol in a Diploma of Interior Design to get started in this industry. 


Carlene Duffy

Carlene is best known as one half of Michael and Carlene Duffy; the down to earth Gold Coast couple who shared their highs and lows with Australia on 9’s series The Block ‘Glasshouse’. The dynamic duo also featured in Renovation Rumble, and have together established their business ‘Cedar & Suede’.

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