Being an interior designer

 25 February 2011

Jayne Webb has been running her own successful interior design business, Southover Design, for the past 11 years.

The main focus of Jayne’s business is designing home interiors.
The main focus of Jayne’s business is designing home interiors.

After graduating with a degree in French and English, Jayne worked for several years in the business sector. After returning from maternity leave for the second time, Jayne was ready for something different. Despite the lack of any formal training, she decided to start her own interior design business, Southover Design.

Working as an interior designer

"Managing builders and sorting out problems is the main part of my job. I only spend about 20 percent of my time on actual design work”

The main focus of Jayne’s business is designing home interiors. She also takes on commercial contracts, including shops and offices. Jayne’s talents were even employed by a local dentist, where she created a calming ambience for patients: clean lines and relaxing hues of green and aqua.

“My aim is to understand the client’s personality and incorporate this into the designs. I always present several design solutions for the client to choose from. Imposing my own taste on the client would be counter-productive. I firmly believe that your home should be a reflection of you.”

A new project starts with a site meeting where Jayne establishes the client’s preferences and budget. Working from her own home, she starts work on the new designs, often using the internet and magazines for inspiration. Colour schemes, soft furnishings, lighting, flooring, furniture and accessories are all incorporated into the room plans.

Contracting workers for interior design

Jayne’s work does not begin and end with her designs. Having an experienced team of builders and trades people who can expertly execute her ideas is the key to Jayne’s success.

“I manage the decorating or renovation projects from start to finish. My fantastic team includes everyone from builders and plumbers to bespoke cabinet makers and soft furnishers.

“My reputation stands on the quality of their workmanship. Clients know they are in safe hands, and this means they can leave everything to me. Managing the day-to-day work of builders and sorting out any problems is the main part of my job. I only spend about 20 percent of my time on actual design work”

Jayne developed her people-management skills working in the business world before setting up Southover Design. Her naturally assertive and no-nonsense approach has helped her to manage and supervise her team. Jayne is normally on-site every day at 8am to make sure everyone understands the priorities for the coming day.

Risks and opportunities for interior designers

Five years ago the interior design sector was booming for Jayne. But she has not been immune to the effects of downturn. Much of her work comes from people working in commerce and the city and they have been adjusting their budgets accordingly.

“Many of my clients face two issues which directly influence their decision to employ an interior designer. The first is job insecurity and the second is the difficult market for re-mortgaging and home improvement loans.

“However, things are definitely starting to pick up and my enquiries are increasing. These days clients often decide to re-decorate, refurbish or extend rather than move house.”

Getting into interior design

"I always present several design solutions for the client to choose from. Imposing my own taste on the client would be counter-productive."

As a child Jayne loved to make things – Blue Peter style crafts rather than sewing. Before starting Southover Design she moved house several times, renovating and redecorating each property.

“Friends used to complement me on my own interior designs. However, apart from a few short one-day courses I am entirely self-taught. I have no formal training in interior design and I would not necessarily recommend this approach. It took at least two years of sheer hard work before the company really started to take off. “

Jayne has two teenage children and manages to combine a busy family life with self-employment. Establishing an effective work-life balance has taken time. In the early days, she often worked into the evening seven days a week.

“I probably work around 40 hours each week. Because I work for myself I can fit these hours around my children. Mornings are usually spent on-site, whilst in the afternoons I work from home doing the designs and administration. This means I am at home when my children get home from school. Most of my weekend is centred around the family”

Six tips for interior designers

  1. Interior design is not as glamorous as it sounds. You will not spend your whole day surrounded by fabric swatches and paint samples or going shopping with other people’s money.
  2. The ability to deal effectively with people from all walks of life is vital, from city workers to electricians.
  3. Business skills are particularly important. You will need to market your business to the right people: advertising, networking and even leaflet drops.
  4. Aim for proper qualifications in interior design.
  5. Interior designers need to be willing to take on responsibility with pressure. You will encounter lots of demanding situations, from difficult clients to projects potentially running over-budget.
  6. Initiating and developing ideas into a finished design project is really rewarding. There is a real buzz when clients give you good feedback.

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