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My Journey in the World of Interior Design, Plus Tips to Design Your Space

Hello, my name is Gabriella! I am in the Certificate in Interior Design Fundamentals program here at BCIT and am finishing my last class this term. 

During my time studying interior design, I learned programs such as SketchUp, AutoCAD, and Adobe InDesign, and got to do hands-on sketches of perspectives, floorplans, and elevations. 

I also explored various design styles, my favourite being japandi, a combination of Japanese and Scandinavian design elements that includes all the qualities I love about residential spaces. It has a lot of clean lines, wood with warm tones, and a natural, neutral palette. The minimalist style evokes a feeling of Zen and peace, seemingly calling us to embrace life’s impermanence, appreciate imperfection, and find beauty in patinas and aged objects. 

Certainly, I had found my niche in interior design. Originally, though, I was torn between this field and a similar one, architecture. That was because I knew that both disciplines lead to highly respected career paths—and they perfectly matched what I have always loved.

Having grown up in a close-knit family in a small household, I was really interested in improving the quality of life in a home based on the inhabitants’ budgets and needs. I was especially passionate about getting involved in solving problems related to budgets, functionalities, and sustainability, all relevant in interior design and architecture.

To determine which field to go into, I reached out to BCIT instructors working in the industry, asking them to clarify the main differences, and did some personal research.

Discovering how interior design and architecture differ—and choosing which to pursue

I soon learned that interior designers focus on the inside of an existing space, designing modifications such as window reconstructions and door placements. By contrast, architects design the exterior of buildings that have yet to be constructed. They are also builders, which means they have to think big picture as they consider how the buildings connect to both landscape and people. Understanding the internal foundations of walls, roofing, insulation, plumbing, and more is also needed.

Realizing this distinction helped dispel some of the indecision I was facing and, with more reflection and research, I decided to pursue interior design. Here are some factors I had considered:

  1. Focus of the work

I was passionate about the heart of interior design—the aesthetics and little details that make up a space—and not so much about the construction aspect, which architects are responsible for. I was drawn to how fulfilling it would be to develop a concept and see the results come to life from beginning to end.

  1. Connections with clients 

Due to the scale of design projects, interior designers get to explore a client-centred system, working closely with clients and homeowners, with the chance to give one-on-one services. I wanted to create those special connections with clients to fulfill their demands. Learning about different clients takes great attention to detail as each client has different needs. 

  1. Project style

I preferred taking on multiple smaller, quicker projects, and interior design offered this: Projects can take between two and six months or one to two years. As for architects, projects are at a considerably larger scale, typically taking five to 10 years to complete. Also, architects are generally only assigned certain segments of projects rather than their entirety.

  1. Entrance into the industry

According to my research on the industry, you only require a diploma to work in interior design. Meanwhile, a degree is needed at minimum to work in architecture, which means more years spent studying. This makes sense because architects have more responsibilities and liabilities in the actual construction aspect, leading to higher complexity and stakes within careers.

  1. Advancement within the industry 

It takes less time to become a senior interior designer than it does to become a senior architect. As someone who loves to work on projects hands-on and see them develop at entry level, I found that going into a senior position earlier was more aligned with my goals.

  1. Entrepreneurial possibilities

At many of the interior design-related jobs I have held, I learned about interior designers who had opened their businesses within three to four years of working in the field. This showed me that interior designers have a better chance at opening firms and businesses, which is my dream. I hope to open a firm that provides opportunities for junior designers and produce lifestyle and home-based furniture and accessories that are sustainable.

And that’s essentially everything I had thought about before settling on interior design. Having been in the field for some time now, it’s time I shared some tips.

Four insights on interior design

Whether you’re looking to introduce something new into your space or change its look entirely, I’ve got some advice you can consider:

  1. Find your style and avoid following trends

When designing your place, think through what you truly want and know that styles last longer than trends. Interior design styles include traditional, modern, eclectic, contemporary, minimalist, mid-century modern, and industrial—which style do you love? Avoid following fast trends as you may soon get tired of them and end up switching to new pieces every two months. 

So, be conscious about every purchase. Ask yourself: Is the product timeless? Can I see myself keeping it? Or is it just trendy?

  1. Have just one focal point

As a feature, a focal point is a piece of art that emphasizes the most important part of the space. This can be anything among lighting (chandeliers or fireplaces), a feature wall (wallpapers or finishes), and even accent furniture. It helps anchor the space in a room and create a statement, elevating the space by sprucing it up without making it look too cluttered.

Elaborating on this, I do not encourage filling your space with stock art, which may hold no true artistic value to you. However, if you do so to support local artists or it’s something from family or friends, that would be more personal, impressionable, and meaningful to you. In this case, keep it. This can make the space feel unique and match your style.

  1. Do your research

Researching can help you find alternatives that are within your budget, fulfill your needs, and cut any unnecessary labour. Look into the materials you want to use for your space, keeping in mind the costs and labour of maintaining them. Be mindful of what you intend to use the space for. This can help you in the long run when it comes to practicality. 

For example, if you live in a city like Vancouver, you would not want to use ceramic as a material for wet areas such as outdoor spaces, kitchens, and bathrooms. That’s because ceramic is porous and can result in moulding. You would have to use a ceramic coating, which is expensive and requires re-coating every two to five years. 

To find the right material for you, go to local showrooms to find design consultants for advice such as pros and cons. You can also read material specifications and research new materials that are being incorporated in the industry.

For perspective, I had learned this tip in my class on materials, fabrics, and specifications. We would collect materials from local wholesale suppliers, attend interior design shows, and speak to suppliers working in the industry.

  1. Produce a mood board 

It may be difficult to express the vision and plan you have. Making a mood board (a collage you can make digitally) can help streamline your thoughts and define the project, vision of the space, and elements you want to use. The mood board can help you think more intentionally and create a specific look for the space. 

To make a mood board, you can use programs such as Canva, Pinterest, Adobe InDesign, and Adobe Express. For success on this, don’t look at just one source of inspiration. Check out magazines, films, showrooms, and books. By doing this, you can make a cohesive space and develop a strong concept that will help maximize the awesome impacts of your project. 

In conclusion, attending the program in interior design has really been helpful for me to understand concepts and theories with a concentration on residential spaces. My growth in my knowledge of space planning, lighting, colour theory, design history, materials and fabrications, and practicing sustainability and responsible environmental methods has led me to be confident in my capabilities in the industry.

I am now moving on to the Diploma program in interior design and I hope to take on multiple projects after graduating, such as getting involved in set design for films, opening up my own design firm that will curate sustainable handmade furniture, and working on small commercial projects such as cafés, spas, and boutiques.