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How Successful Interior Designers Got Their Start — and How You Can, Too

Image: , started apprenticing in the fashion and interior design field right out of high school.

After working as an auctioneer at high-end antique reseller Sotheby’s in Chicago, Berkus gained enough experience and confidence to launch his own design firm.

Vicente Wolf

Wolf was born in Cuba to parents in the building business. He moved to New York City at the age of 18 without completing high school. Rearranging furniture was his favorite pastime, but he never knew it could be a career until he met an interior designer.

Wolf’s first design job was a living room project, and it was published in a magazine. That was the beginning of a beautiful portfolio — and his name on the list of House Beautiful’s 10 most influential designers.

Kelly Wearstler

Wearstler is best known for her hotel designs and design books. She studied interior and graphic design at Massachusetts College of Art and decided to move to Los Angeles to break into the acting world.

Acting didn’t work out, but she was hired by a real estate developer to work on the company’s design projects, which included the Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills. She not only received great acclaim for the project, she also married the developer, Brad Korzen.

Regardless of the path that leads you to an interior design career, here are four tips to succeed in becoming a working interior designer.

1. Work for a designer.

The fastest way to earn hands-on experience is by working at a design firm or for a busy interior designer. It may be an internship, assistant position or administrative job to start, but take the opportunity to learn and work your way up.

You’ll learn how the business works, which suppliers work with the trade and important rules and procedures. Be reliable and trustworthy, and you’ll gain trust and a possible promotion. You’ll develop a list of clients as well as valuable experience working for an established designer or firm.

2. Network.

You never know who may need design help. Have business cards and contact information ready to hand out to people you meet. A simple website with some sketches or images of your work, even if it’s a room from your apartment, is a good start for a portfolio.

Reach out to related trade businesses such as architects, lighting designers and suppliers. Many architects choose or recommend preferred designers for client projects.

3. Be prepared to start small.

Your first big break may be a basement remodel or window-treatment project. Be professional; small jobs can lead to more work and client referrals. Remember that your goal is to build long-term relationships.

4. Keep up to date on products, trends and materials.

As an interior designer, you’re expected to know all the latest trends. Regardless of how busy you get, stay up to date on industry news and developments. Most interior designers swear by their copies of Architectural Digest, Elle Decor and other design publications. Of course, regular visits to Freshome are helpful, too.

If you’ve always dreamed of turning your love and talent for interior design into a career, it’s possible. The right training, good networking skills and the desire to work hard will take you far.

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