Tuesday, March 30, 2010

10 First Steps in Starting an Interior Design Career

I made my decision to become an interior designer!  YIPPEE!  But now what? 

Here are my Top 10 first steps in starting an Interior Design career…

1)     1) RESEARCH & VISIT AN INTERIOR DESIGN SCHOOL To become a true interior designer, most people need some education.  Sure, everyone says your rooms are fabulous and you may not need one, but it sure doesn’t hurt.  It’s good to have some basic knowledge of the software tools, drafting, CAD, design boards, etc.  I looked for the schools closest to me, but knew I couldn’t go to a school which required me to “dorm it” (I have a husband and two kids).  I visited and talked to quite a few people at the Art Institute of Dallas, and ultimately decided to enroll there because of its strong program, hands-on approach, and proximity to home.   I also knew that my education there would prepare me to pass the NCIDQ test  down the road.

1)   2)MEET OTHER DESIGNERSI can’t tell you how valuable this is.  Everyone has a different story: some have degrees, some don’t; some are profitable, some aren’t.  Each phone call, lunch and email has really improved my understanding of this career path.  I even visited with Dwell with Dignity, a non-profit organization whom I plan to help very soon!  Above is one of their bedroom installs for a mom with two young kids.

1)     3) SUBSCRIBE TO BLOGS & MAGAZINES – They are everywhere.  You can see some of my blog favorites in the list to your left.  Subscribe to them and learn. You will get ideas for shops, trade ideas, new designs,  boards and more.  Emily Johnston from Material Girls, logo above, has an awesome blog.  You may already subscribe to many magazines (e.g., House Beautiful, www.housebeautiful.com, Architectural Digest, etc), but don’t forget the free trade publications out there, too. 
1)   4) VISIT WEBSITES – Go visit some of your favorite interior designers’ websites.  One of mine is Jan Showers.  Don’t you love her bedroom above? You will learn about them and their experience and take note of how they promoted themselves.  And then start thinking about your own website, even though you don’t have a whole lot to highlight just yet.  I worked with a friend of mine in designing and building my own.  Not to mention my photographer friend who helped shoot my house.  

1)   5) FIND A MENTOR – Find someone in the field you can relate to and who can give you advice going forward.  He or she may be an instructor or just a designer who is already in the business.  I lucked out and found one who is not only a designer, but had gone my school as well. 

2)   6) CREATE A WORKPLAN & BUSINESS PLAN – In my former career I was a project manager, so Excel is my friend.  I created a workplan of all the details I needed to complete and a tab for all my new resources and websites.  I also created a business plan with my expectations, including financial projections and organization, and ran it by many of my friends.

1)   7) INCORPORATE YOUR BUSINESS – This required several tedious steps including setting up my federal id, submitting my LLC paperwork to the state, obtaining business cards, getting my sales tax id, setting up Quickbooks and just getting a decent understanding of how to set up shop.  This requires a whole separate blog in itself.

8) PREPARE YOUR OFFICE & iPHONE– You need a space to work, a place to keep your sample books,  paint decks, drafting table, drawing tools, magazines, books, etc.  Find a spot that works and makes you happy.  And do that before you start school.  And I even updated my iphone with the latest design apps including…Ben Color Capture (find matching paint with Benjamin Moores), Colorsnap (Sherwin-Williams), and ColorChange.

2)   THE TRADE & DISCOUNTS – Get to know the “To the Trade” vendors in your area.  From stores, to other designers, antique shops and more.  You can also start setting up your trade discounts once you have your sales tax id, your business cards and affliliation with the ASID (in some cases).  Here is an example of Williams Sonoma’s design trade program. 

1)     10)RECRUIT FRIENDS & FAMILY – Sure, I’d start building my portfolio in school, but what about my friends?  Surely they could be my first “clients”.  I could do some work for a low price, they can give me feedback and I can test out my whole process.  It would give me the confidence and start I needed, without risking my reputation right out of the gate.  I also used various friends in my blog, to help me with my website and photograph and just to bounce ideas off of.  And I’m currently working on a nursery for my niece.  The Elle Décor picture has already inspired me!

 All in all, do as much as you can before you start school.  I took a off a month to get do all the stuff above and my company setup….but you could have called that good timing.

Best of luck!

Love, C

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Finding Kelly

Kelly Wearstler’s Viceroy Santa Monica

Ive heard that when something comes in groups of 3 that it’s important and you should pay attention to that.  Keeping that in mind, I decided to figure out why “Kelly”s are some important in my life.  First there is my brother Kelly (who actually hates his name -sorry Mom). Former “little” brother turned football player turned manly firefighter, this is the guy you definitely want in a serious crisis – think getting lost in the woods for 3 days. When are you moving to Texas, already, little brother?  We would make a great business team.  Check out the lakehouse he built from scratch!  I’m looking for an installation guy….

Kelly #2 is my mentor.  Kelly is an interior designer who received her degree from the Art Institute of Dallas – soon to be my alma mater as well. I get to meet with her once a month (or whenever I just need an answer).  A mutual acquaintance introduced us and the rest, they say, is history. She’s my rolodex of interior design.  From drapery workrooms to stinky professors, Kelly #2 gives me the skinny on it all – making it so much easier to get ahead in the design world.

Finally, there is Kelly #3 - Kelly Wearstler. THE designer.  THE big kahuna. THE woman of the hour --- you get the picture. If you’re into interior design, you know exactly who I’m talking about.  She’s an author, hotel designer, interior designer and on top of being drop dead gorgeous.  Just ask my husband.  Below are some of her books on design:
HueModern Glamour: The Art of Unexpected StyleDomicilium Decoratus

Last week was our spring break trip to Los Angeles.  Besides dragging the kids to John Wayne Airport to see where mommy and daddy first met, everyone had their own personal requests regarding the trip:  boys to LegoLand, Matt to Ojai and me to the Viceroy hotel. The Viceroy hotel in Santa Monica is one of Kelly Wearstler’s hotel designs. Kelly Wearstler is one of my favorite designers. Thus the need for the pilgrimage!

Being Sunday, I figured the hotel would probably be low key which I why I picked this day to go.  Oh, how wrong I was!  It was actually the day of the Santa Monica Marathon and the marathon had just ended- leaving a celebratory mess. So much for just checking out the place incognito.  But having come this far and not being one to be easily deterred by my lack of clothing preparation, I dove in head first to see my hero’s creation.

Check out the green chairs at the check-in desk! Amazing work with the layers of mirrors.

This is the concierge desk – complete with a nubby shag rug underfoot and an oversized wooden chair!  Doesn’t it look just like you are sitting in your parent’s  home office asking for a raise in allowance?   I had anticipated asking for a room tour, but there was not enough time.

This poetic scene literally took my breath away.  I caught myself wishing for good friends and sipping leisurely on a yummy cocktail.  The immaculately manicured design exudes a certain peaceful calm.  Did I mention the beautiful people?

Tucked into one of the areas, was this perfectly lovely sitting area – complete with a wall full of exquisitely arranged plates. This was one of the few areas still open at the Viceroy that day.

Inside at the bar area, the jade jumbo vases are truly admirable in contrast to the black and white décor.  Wonder if the scanners at the airport will pick up these in my suitcases?? Of course, I’m crazy for the chandelier as I have a similar one in my own home.

My shots of the restaurant were abruptly interrupted by frantic texts from the rest of the family that I had almost forgotten about!  Apparently, the fam is  being re-routed in front of the Viceroy in the rental car while I am taking my interior design pilgrimage. 

A quick swing by the library brings a breath of fresh air – sunshine yellow!  The yellow was an unexpected surprise. 

Thinking that I would get lucky, I hopped on the elevator with the hopes of getting a peek into one of the guest rooms.  All I get is a bad shot of a beautiful door (Drew, I need your expertise with photography my friend).  To get a much more professional view of the rooms, check out the Viceroy website.  I have three words for you : wallpaper, empire suite.  Check it out on virtual tours.

Text number 2 from the family and they have worn out their welcome in 15 minute parking. Heading towards the elevators, I catch a glimpse of a classic Kelly Wearstler accessory – a whimsical life size porcelain dog. She incorporates these light hearted items in all of her designs. 

So, it’s off to LegoLand and onto reality. Looking back over these last few months, I realize how blessed I am to have my three “Kelly”s in my life. Each “Kelly” plays a different role in developing me into a designer in my own right.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Ok, I’m officially a student at the Art Institute of Dallas. I will be getting an IDBFA (that’s an Interior Design Bachelor of Fine Arts degree for those of you who aren’t in the “biz”.) Remember when we used to make fun of the Fine Arts Department at college?  Now, that’s me…interesting. Anyway, I have an ID, a schedule, and a newly slapped parking lot warning; seems that I already parked on the wrong level.  

“Sabby” (youngest of the Moss crew) posing at mom’s soon-to-be alma mater.

This is my husband, who stopped by on his lunch break to congratulate me on my official registration, wave goodbye to all the money we spent on my first quarter, and join me for lunch.  I was hoping we could dine at the culinary institute right next door, but turns out they are not open on Mondays.   Typical new student move! We will have to do it on another day, like Tuesday when classes start.

Here is what the 12 quarters of curriculum looks like.  And luckily some of them are waived due to my BSBA from Saint Louis University – more possibly could have been waived if SLU had an interior design department.  Still waiting on the verdict.

Mondays 1 – 4p            Textiles
Mondays 6 -10p           Drafting I
Tuesdays 6 -10p          History of Architecture I

 Above is my schedule for the first quarter (April 5 – June 12).   Despite being one of the first new students to register, I didn’t get the prime-time classes as all the existing students got priority.   Was I up for a Friday night 6-10 class? Or how about a Saturday 8AM class? No, not really.   

I decided on 3 classes, 9 hours, and got a signature to go part-time.  I am launching a new firm, have a handsome husband and two young boys… and frankly I am still not sure what to expect as far as homework goes.  Plus, I didn’t want to load up on weekend classes to hit the FT status, when my husband works all week.  Maybe I’ll be surprised and will be chomping at the bit to sign up for 5 classes next quarter, and God will grant me get some decent class times.  But for this quarter, I’m getting my feet wet and we shall see how it this all develops.

Here is my supply kit…aka all the tools you need to have as an interior design major.  It comes with this big trendy carrier and inside you can find:

Off to Step 2: ordering my books.  After chatting with the fully tattooed graphic design major in the bookstore, I figured out that amazon was the way to go.  Saved me several hundred of dollars, after all I can afford the wait time since I have a few weeks to spare before I need to books anyway!  What a cool dude. Here are my textbooks for my Textiles class, looks very interesting….

Fabric Kit with cool samples inside that I’ll put to use:

Fabric Science Textbook, with the girl in zebra print on the cover, I wonder how the guys will like carrying around this one:

Step 3 – Bill pay.  Yep, they actually take VISA and no, you don’t have to pay anything extra like the 2% transaction fee.  Good thing that I can actually get some hotel points out of all this. 

Step 4 – vacation….and then Orientation begins on April 1st (no this is NOT a joke that I’m playing on you fools) and then classes begin on Monday, April 5th.

See you next week!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Decision


The decision was nearly made over dinner and wine in Las Vegas. I say nearly because even though I knew that change was around the corner, I still needed to come full circle on some things first.

I was lamenting to two of my dearest friends the tiresome politics of my current job and jokingly added that I really just wanted to be an interior designer.   Both of my friends nodded in agreement, “Really? Honestly?” they said.”You’ve always wanted to do that? What’s stopping you?  Just go ahead and do it.”

“But I’d have to go back to school, and its not for a year.  I would have to get another bachelors degree if I’m going to take it seriously.  And I would have to get clients and start my own company.”

“Yeah, and so?” they asked.

It wasn’t hard to imagine making such a switch sitting in that restaurant.  You would have felt the same lure that the wine had on me that night in that magnificent place – Joel Robuchon’s restaurant The Mansion on the Vegas Strip. It was one amazing pick for a birthday celebration if I do say so myself….

The restaurant’s grand entrance – see what I mean?

Simply gorgeous and enveloping.

Not always a first choice for me, this purple dining room bring new appreciation for the color.

Pictured here with my two wise advisors flanking me on either side.   Lisa (left) whom  I have known since 2nd grade and Tracy (right)  from my corporate stint at Accenture.

Not only was the food as yummy as our surroundings but the service was spectacular!

After many bottles and many more calories, my dilemma was becoming more exciting and less frightening.  With the sandman stepping lightly on my pillow, I drifted off to an “I’ll think about it.”

And the rest is history….