It may seem that all you need to be a good interior designer is a sense of aesthetics and a flair for design. That is a good start, yes, but it gets you about five feet forward in terms of your career. The first thing to do is to turn a latent, in-born talent into an effective tool. Just because you can figure out what looks nice and what doesn't does not make you a good designer or decorator. You may know how to use light and colour, how to synthesize architectural elements with design details and how to integrate space and design, but that is about five percent of the work. Most of the real work begins when you come to the execution.
Some formal education in the basic concepts of interior design is absolutely essential. There are many schools, which will give you a basic background course, and most of them are diplomas, but they are all very elementary in terms of the knowledge and the skills they provide you with. You could either pursue a full-fledged course at a reputed institute, preferably one with accreditation; or you could learn by working with someone who is a storehouse of talent. Work with the best, work for free if you have to, because it will be worth it. But regardless of where you get the education and for how long, the one thing an interior designer must always remember is that one is a lifelong student. Every day gives you an opportunity to learn something new about the trade and explore another aspect of its limitless potential.
If you have an eye for design, make sure that is turned into an artful skill, by practicing at every opportunity. Read everything you can, observe design aspects wherever you go...make mental notes and if possible keep a journal with points you pick up along the way. There is no substitute for hands on experience so get into it as early as possible. If you aren't paid for it, don't worry...learn all you can and explore every opportunity to test your know-how. Because it will tell you all you don't-know-how-to. Use your home and any space that is offered to you as a guinea pig. Work out your concepts and present your vision. Explore the dimensions of your own creativity before you ask others to entrust their money ,time and space to you.
Create a portfolio of your work. Try to do as many varied projects as possible. It will teach you all you need to know first-hand and also work as a showcase for your talent. Interior design or decor is about space planning, conceptual genius and a lot of hard work. While design is a major aspect, if you don't have fundamental business skills, you will never be able to succeed independently. When you strip it of the design and glamour accoutrements, what you have left is a lot of planning and time-management skills, labour management, client handling, costing analyses and execution abilities. If you cannot transform what is in your head into something that is concrete, you are perhaps better suited to the drawing board.
Research every aspect of your trade. Find suppliers, understand products and build relationships. These people will be your backbone. The stronger they are, the more upright your standing will be professionally. They can get you better deals, which means you can offer clients a better deal, and that is one way a new kid on the block gets business. Once you are familiar with different styles, concepts in flooring, wall coverings, soft furnishings, accessories and art you must find the suppliers who will actually deliver the goods.
While you are meeting clients, learn to do one thing. It will determine your success as an interior designer. It is not your ability to design. It is your ability to LISTEN. Understand your client. Find out what their lifestyle is. Discover what their likes and dislikes are. Find out what they need and desire. You will find that it may not necessarily coincide with what you would instinctively recommend. Which leaves you with two choices. If you can find a point of convergence, try to assimilate their wants into your presentation as much as possible. If you find no meeting ground, you are better off recommending someone who can deliver the goods rather than work on a project where you will derive no satisfaction, and the client will offer no appreciation. At the end of the day your designing style and their requirements have to meet halfway. For it to be a worthwhile enterprise.
A smart thing to do while you train to become an interior designer is to specialize. You could always diversify later, but initially it is a good idea to find a niche for yourself. If you would like to do residential interiors focus on that for a few years. If commercial spaces are your cup of tea, gain experience in such contracts. If you think you want to be left only to design and stay away from the rest of the madness, then stick to just designing. If organizational skills are your forte, turn to project management. Find out what your skills are and then start honing them. Until you reach a stage when you can start honing another skill.
A good interior designer should be able to work well with anyone from the architect to the civil contractor. If you just want to do your own thing regardless of their suggestions or requirements, the simplest project will turn into a nightmare. At the end of the day, if you, along with all the others involved in the project, including your client, cannot be a cohesive team, the whole thing will fall apart.
If your creative genius can be coupled with practical ability, you are well on your way to becoming a successful interior designer.
Learn the ABC of being a good designer
--Integrate concepts and styles to give a unified décor
--Maintain a sense of equilibrium. Balance is the key.
--Know your field. Know your client. Never presume to be bigger than either.
--Never stop learning--Never stop listening
--Innovate. Don't get trapped into predictable design.
--Never underestimate the value of good service. It tends to pay higher dividends than design.
--Time management and scheduling skills. Plan and execute.
--Coordination skills and being a team worker.
--Business expertise. Do an MBA if you have to but get your business concepts right.
--Patience--Eye for detail--Design Skills--Style
--Knowing the latest trends. Information keeps you ten steps ahead.
--Understanding different decorating styles, their uses and limitations