Why I decided to work at an Interior Design Studio VS Studying for a Degree

Hello, today’s blog post is about

Why I decided to work at an interior design studio as opposed to study an interior design diploma.

How did I get here in the first place?

Let’s not beat around the bush. This is a very contemporary issue. I had two work burnouts that lead me to reconsider if what I was doing was making me happy. Because one won’t make you consider a career change but two definitely will. Turns out for me the combo High Salary/High-stress job is not for me. It was driving me mad to the point of having skin rashes every other month, having anxiety every day going to work, and dreading coworking events.

I asked myself if every day you aren’t having any fun, what is the point? Moreover, after 7 years of working and renting in London, I questioned the whole rat race. Was it really worth it, where did I see myself in the future etc. Yes, you could call it an early mid-life crisis if you will. I worked really hard at it but felt frustrated over it.

I was pushed further in my last job and I was tired to act like someone I was not. It took some time to realise the problem wasn’t me but the job I was asked to do and the environment I was in.

I am not outspoken, I am not loud, I am not cut-throat, I am not a bully, I expect senior managers to give directions or at least not be so defensive against new thinking.

What I like is talking about ideas, making a plan, I am usually quiet and calm, an analyst, a product manager, a team player. Eventually, I realised I don’t want to work with people who expect me to have a cut-throat behaviour and who make me feel bad constantly about being different.

What happened next

My energy was drained. No matter what I did, it wasn’t good enough. Something had to change.

I can’t say too much about what happened at work (for legal reasons) but I decided to try a route of contract/freelance work to offer my services on Product, Digital Marketing, Copywriting, Translation. while keeping an eye at the right work opportunity. And do more of what made me happy.

A couple of months before that sudden change, we bought our first property. I thought about using this blank canvas to start this blog. (Needless to say, it has been quite a stressful couple of years)

white grey living room wall panels
Our living room designed by me!

Then while I was learning to blog, I questioned myself about what makes me happy and what I am good at. And, designing 3D spaces, calm interiors, delivering projects, helping companies with my Marketing & Tech skills make me happy. And above all, the idea of setting my own rules and be financially independent is important for me.

Simple Moodboard created for a blog post

So I learned “by-doing” new skills, from scratch, to earn my new career. I focus on space planning, CAD Software SketchUp, sample mood boards, Digital Marketing, create a project planning schedule. Eventually, I figured, if I wanted people to hire me for Interior Styling and Design; I would need “traditional” experience either a diploma or work experience at an architect or interior design studio/practice.

I’ve been loving decorating my home
The option of studying full-time again

Considering the reality of going back to school when you are in your early thirties is brutal.

Being financially independent at 23y old also meant that sitting in a classroom for 8 hours a day for a year or two wasn’t going to be an option solely for my mental health. What time would have I had to work as a freelancer and bring money to pay the bills?

Not to mention that the cost of studies is crippling. Depending on what you want to study. But after buying our London fixer-upper with my partner I had no spare cash to pay for a shiny degree.

With a masters degree in project management from a reputable Parisian University, I knew I could handle that side of interior design projects. What I was missing I think was space planning and creative skills about hard and soft furnishing.

Our Kitchen Breakfast Corner
Analysing the Academic Options

I must admit after googling for Interior Design certificates, diploma, courses, I was surprised by the huge number of options. Sure, I understand it is popular.

It sounds like a glamorous job, but after doing my own house renovation, I knew most of it wasn’t pretty at all.

Besides an Adobe Indesign BTEC evening course and PRINCE2 Found. & Practitioner Project Management, I didn’t study in the UK’s educational system. I had to understand the difference between High Degree Diploma, Certificate, Bachelor, Bachelor (Hons), undergraduate, Level 3, 4, 5 on the RQF, classroom, distance learning etc. And they all seem to be in the area of £1000-£15000+.

I concluded that studying wasn’t going to be an option at least not for now.

Our Small Garden entirely designed by me!
Work vs Studying

Later, I met with someone who had a career change in his late twenties. From being a school teacher to working as a graphic designer at a reputable communication agency. Doing an internship helped to get first experiences that later got him a full-time job in his newfound career. It opened my mind to consider going that route.

White Monochrome Moodboard I created while working using their many samples
Finding the Right Interior Design Studio

Considering doing the same approach, I started looking at practices looking for interns or graduates. I was happy to do it just for a few months. I wanted to actually see if the role of a professional Interior Designer was really for me!

Autumn and neutrals Moodboard I created while working using their many samples

I emailed a few with my CV and what I could do and to my surprised quickly found a great interior design studio specialised in High-end Residential Design & Build Projects that would take me on board! My role was to shadow the Senior Interior Designer and at the same time, I would provide support for various Marketing activities and blogging content which I was happy to do (check my work with me page for the links).

Pink Glamour Moodboard I created while working using their many samples
What do Interior Designer think ?

One of the first questions I asked at the start of my work placement was what education/degree would they recommend? And to my surprise, they said what matters most is your portfolio and what you can do rather than which degree you did. I was told that the previous interior designer formally trained at UAL said that you can learn better on the job “by-doing”. And that what she took from the school were contacts, relationships and a good networking environment. Interesting I thought!

This experience gave me confidence in my interior decorator skills. It was actually for the first time I was told I had a good eye for design (outside of social media, my immediate friends and a couple of clients, thanks guys!). HOW COOL

Conclusion

As a conclusion, I would recommend any 30 something at a career cross-road to consider doing an internship vs spending years on the educational route unless you want to be a doctor :). Interior Design as I learned is a self-regulated market and many successful Interior Designers actually do not have a formal qualification.

Finally, I will write more about this experience which has definitely been eye-opening regarding a possible career in Interior Design so stay tuned!

SHARE