How You Know Interior Design is for You

library photo

The day that I found myself in a public library, crouched on my haunches and studying the titles of a row of books on the lowest shelf, I suddenly had a rush of adrenaline; the feeling that I had just struck gold.

This was the day that my obsession with interior design all started for me.


The Journey Begins with a Calling

Today I want to talk about how you can know if interior design is for you. I believe that you can figure it out for yourself the same way that I did. It all starts with a realization (oh my god, this is the best thing ever!), and it is followed by an acceptance (I think I could actually do this!).


You need to answer the call

The realization that you want to be an interior designer might not come to you the same way that it did for me.

Right now, you might just have a vague idea that you’re interested in being a designer and designing for a living. There’s nothing wrong with following a vague or general interest, because learning something new is valuable in and of itself.

However, vague ideas lack the ability to deliver on our dreams. At some point you will want to sit down and count the cost and decide how far you want to go with it.


What I learned from personal experience is that if you have even half a notion that you want to be a designer in your future, there’s only one person that can actually get you there.

That person is you.


Follow the Signs

If I’m honest, there were a lot of clues which led up to this “lightning bolt” moment for me. Even on that day, however, I didn’t know that I would end up getting an education in interior design.

I had no way of knowing how far I would end up going with it! I just felt that it was important to me in some way.

attentive woman drinking beverage while reading book

Maybe that’s something that you can relate to when it comes to your interest in interior design: it feels important to you and you don’t seem to get tired of learning more about it.


If you are passionate about architecture, home decor, 3D modeling or design I invite you to consider the “clues” which are pointing YOU toward a possible future career in interior design.


Examine Your Thinking

Now, it’s true, I don’t actually know you.

I do know that you chose to read this article, and no doubt for your own personal reasons.

If you found this post by search, there’s an excellent chance that you are one of those people who is interested in design, but not yet sure that you want to be, (or could be!), a designer.


Do you find yourself drawn to interior design, thinking about it, reading about it, but still unsure that it’s the path for you?


If this sounds like you, if you have been looking into learning interior design and are inexplicably drawn to it, there is a reason for that.

Deep down, on some level, perhaps a level so deep that you are afraid to even acknowledge right now, you are drawn to interior design because, let’s face it: you absolutely love it!

So, what’s the problem?


Get Around the Obstacles

The problem might be that learning anything new is scary.

girl writing on a black keyboard

There may be all sorts of reasons why you’ve told yourself that you can’t study design or why you could never be a designer.

I had many of these early doubts myself.

Here are a few common ones:

  • Maybe you think you’re not naturally talented enough at art or design
  • You could have had a terrible art teacher, who convinced you that you couldn’t draw
  • Perhaps art and design stuff was always someone else’s “thing”, and as much as you like design, you don’t want to seem to be copying or competing with them
  • Maybe as a guy you feel that it is emasculating in some way to care about aesthetic appearances
  • Perhaps you flopped a creative project, once
  • Maybe you’re worried about the technical aspects of the job
  • It could be that it’s just so new to you, and not like anything you’ve ever learned before

You might have told yourself that you aren’t creative, and everyone knows designers have to be creative. Right?


Embrace the Creative Process

Personally, I don’t know if I could imagine an unimaginative person being interested in interior design in the first place.

serious adult woman with open book on street against facade of old building in university

Design, by it’s very nature, is a process for creativity, so the fact that you find it appealing means that you understand the value of creativity.

I’m here to tell you that there’s a lot about creativity that can be learned.

Natural talent is great, but you know what they say: Hard work always beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.

If you have the determination, future designer, you’re good to go.


Chances are, you’ve tried your hand at being creative and been less than impressed by what you produced.

two women having conversation on stairs

Big frikkin’ deal.

Ask any architecture or design student if they liked their first project in design school. I’m willing to bet most of them would grimace with the memory.

The difference between you and them is that somewhere along the way, that individual decided that they believed in their innate “gifts” and their ability to learn new things enough to say yes to becoming a designer, then throwing everything they had into it.


That’s the only thing that separates you from that architectural or interior design student right now (or me!):

A decision.


It doesn’t matter what it is in life that you choose to make your own, I just know that you do need to choose something.

It may end up being what shapes your life, or you may go on to pursue something entirely different later.

It doesn’t really matter.

If you get serious about what you love today, you are headed in the best possible direction any person could be: Headed toward what makes you feel alive and what makes you want to learn everything you can about it.


Now the only thing standing between you and an unimaginably good career as a designer is you.


Who Should Study Design?

photo of a man sitting near the windoww

I’m going to ruin the punchline to my own title by making an impossibly broad statement, saying that I actually think everyone should learn design thinking.

Why?

The reason is that the process of design teaches you how to think and how to solve creative problems, and we all come across these types of problems eventually.


A linear problem can be solved with linear logic.

A creative problem is so open ended that it’s hard to know where to begin.

But I’ll be the first to admit that design thinking is separate from an actual interior design education. Learning design thinking is an exercise, the education is a journey.


Before I get into whether or not the subject of design may be a good fit for you, it might be helpful to know how I found out for myself.


My Personal Design Journey

Before I embarked on my design education, I had never really been exposed to the world of design nor considered it something I would necessarily be interested in.

-In hindsight I think this is mostly because I’d never had access to it.

I had always had a natural ‘bent’ for art and drawing, but I also had broad interests across many subjects outside of art.

Music, and dancing, for example.


Childhood Breadcrumbs

When I was a kid, basically, if I came across something new, I wanted to learn it.

Living in communes with families from diverse geographical backgrounds and ethnicities had a role in broadening my scope of the world and the possibilities within it.

It was the eighties and nineties, and due to constantly moving from country to country in my formative years there were always new kids to get to know who were into different things and families with varying pastimes to learn from.


Thus, like many creatives, in my childhood I dabbled in everything from french knitting to fort building. I enjoyed each one of these new pastimes because I would throw myself into the process and became utterly absorbed by it.


This, until I reached a certain level of understanding, and then I’d tend to lose interest in that hobby because of a newfound one, a physical move to yet another location, or sometimes simply because I thought I had the gist of it and had gotten bored.

I was certainly on my way to becoming a “jack of all trades, master of none”.


Some professionals give us labels and medication, but in my personal opinion many ADD/ ADHD labels are doled out to people who could alternatively just be described as creative types.


Discovering Creative Drive

As odd as it can appear to others on the outside (I have been criticized for my “lack of focus or direction”, for example) creatives often pleasantly discover a little further down the road that the constant need and hunger to learn only serves to better sharpen themselves as artists.

In the end, everything we learn, though totally unrelated and seemingly unimportant, has a way of coming back and meeting together further down the road.

As Steve Jobs famously said,You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”

a family playing connect game at home

I didn’t know it then, but I firmly believe now that almost nothing learned in life is actually wasted.

Not because you will necessarily use it the way you thought you would, but because it shapes you into who you will later become.


I once had someone tell me that you should learn everything you can, because there will come a time in your life when you come to understand why it is you needed to know that very thing.

It sounded ominous at the time, but the longer I live, the more I can see that it’s true.


Coming back to the topic of design, I actually stumbled into interior design completely by accident.

And by accident, I mean it was an actual motorcycle accident that was responsible for me discovering my love for architectural design.


The Accident

A day which could be seen as one of my worst actually planted the seed to a much more interesting future.

I was a young mother living in Taiwan and working as an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher at a private kindergarten which happened to be in the neighborhood of the elementary school I was sending my two young daughters to at the time.

As is so common in this part of the world, I rode a scooter to and from work, about a ten to fifteen minute ride each way.


(Fun random fact: Taiwan boasts the highest ratio of scooters per capita anywhere in the world.)


I’ve always enjoyed the mode of transportation and actually still ride a scooter today.

On this particular day, while on an ambitious errand to a far and unfamiliar part of town, I found myself behind a mechanic who was taking a client’s car out for a test drive.

This driver pulled an illegal U-turn and crossed across two lanes into my lane without indicating, in order to make a unmarked turn into his shop-front garage.

I was not able to pull the brakes fully before making impact with the left rear of his car.


I slammed into his trunk at 65 kilometers/hour, both hands still braced against the steering and flipped up and over his trunk before hitting the ground and making a desperate roll out of the way of oncoming traffic.

Five minutes later, dazed and in some shock, I sat on the side of the road, my right arm searing with pain, making a phone call.

Ten minutes later the cops arrived and I got into an ambulance.

Twenty minutes after that the X-ray revealed my arm to have torn ligaments, but no breaks.

I had been incredibly lucky.


With my bike and myself out of commission for a few weeks, I had to switch my primary mode of transportation to and from work to a local community shuttle bus.

Before this, I used to use my lunch break to drive home and clean my house, so as not to have to do it in the evening.

Evenings were when I would usually work-out before making dinner for my in-laws, my husband and kids.

This automobile accident threw my entire schedule into disarray.

I quickly discovered that waiting a half-hour for the bus back home and again back out to the workplace was wildly inconvenient and didn’t make much sense either monetarily or time-wise.

I had to bite the bullet and find something else halfway productive to do with my lunch break.


Necessity is the Mother of Discovery

There was a local library near the elementary school where I occasionally borrowed books for my kids, and it was only a short walk from my workplace.

I decided one day to see if they had any English books for adults.

I followed the signs up to the fourth floor and found several aisles of books.

Looking back, I’m not sure why, but the largest section, by far, was the architecture and interior design section.

I picked up “A Crash Course in Architecture” and “101 Things I learned in Architecture School”, and the rest, I can say now, is history.

The outside of the actual library in Taipei where I first got interested in the broad topic of design and got started on my design journey.

The interior design section was right next to architecture, and when I found it, that was the first time that I really was aware that interior design as a profession existed.


I should mention here that I had never been one of those kids that decorated for the holidays or enjoyed pushing furniture about a room and rearranging stuff.

So there were very few of the obvious sorts of clues that could point to my eventual interest in studying interior design.


But if I look back far enough back, it was likely thanks to the general interest in architecture first sparked in me by the example of my grandfather.

He was an intelligent and proudly self-made man who began as a teenage drafting apprentice who didn’t even finish high school, in a company that he eventually became the managing director of.

The company actually made vehicles for the military, and my grandad designed several anti-mine vehicles.


Upon his retirement, my grandfather moved to a tiny coastal town where where he built a contemporary three-floor brick house of his own design.

This very modern home ended up serving as a calling card for neighbors who were looking to build homes of their own.

In all, I think my grandfather built 3-4 houses in the neighborhood. As kids we got to go to many of his housing and construction sites.

My grandfather also ran a boatyard where I spent a few summer afternoons.

I was particularly fascinated by my grandfather’s large drafting table and the architectural models he kept in the workshop.

Funny how those things stick with you from childhood.


Joining the dots

Back in Taiwan:

On the other side of the world, and a seeming million miles away from where this spark might first have kindled, I sat in front of entire shelf full of architecture books.

After spending a few days on architecture I started browsing the interior design section.

Like many people, I had heard of decorating before, but never really understood what an interior designer was .

I spent the next six months pulling out book after book, reading everything I could get my hands on the topic.

a white bathtub near green plants

It was this discovery that opened up an entirely new world of possibility to me.


In interior design, I seemed to have discovered that mysterious meeting point between art and technical skill.

The profession offered a practical venture for an aspiring artist that also had the potential for paying out the kind of dividends that many artists could only wish for.


Could it be what I had always hoped to find?

The more I read on the topic, the more intrigued I became.

And deep down I knew that I had found out what I wanted to study.

But how was the part I had to figure out next.


How Do You Know Interior Design is for You?

There’s a part in the movie Sister Act 2 where Whoopi Goldberg’s character is talking to Lauren Hill’s character, who is her music student.

The student’s mom is not supportive of her daughter’s musical leanings, but the girl can’t give up her desire to be a singer.

Whoopi’s character, Sister Mary Clarence, tells her,

“You know you are a singer if when you wake up in the morning, that is the only thing on your mind. Singing. Then you are a singer.”

If you find yourself thinking about interior design a lot (and I’m willing to bet that’s how you found this blog) I would encourage you to find out how much further you’d like to take it.

How did you discover interior design?

How have you started pursuing your interest?

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vonsassy

Designer, writer & educator living in East Asia since 2001

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