Too Late to Become an Interior Designer? – 10 Lessons

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I put myself through design school while living in a foreign country, working a full time job and raising two kids. 

I started learning about interior design in 2010.

-In 2012 I started a degree program online

-I made good progress at first,  completing roughly two years worth of the three-year study material over the next two and a half years

-I was close to finishing the seventh unit (out of ten, total), and midway through a test project when I dropped off the school’s radar

– My tuition payment was not renewed, but an email inquiry to the school revealed that I could pick the course back up again when it was convenient

-Due to some wildly extenuating circumstances, I ended up having to take a break for close to three years

-I finally completed the course and graduated (with distinction) in 2020

So why am I giving you my resume?

Let’s Talk About You

If you have put off learning interior design in the past, I hope that this article (that you may seemingly have stumbled on) can help you ‘get over the hump’.

While it’s true that I don’t know you personally, if you asked me if it is too late for you to learn interior design today, I would tell you my general opinion on this:

It isn’t.

Your Passion is Your Compass

Even without making this about interior design specifically, I am optimistic about the things people can do when put their minds to it.

I genuinely believe that it’s never too late for anyone to do something they truly want to do in at least some capacity that is meaningful to them.

If you want it, there’s a good reason why you want it.

Knowing this, you can know that when you follow what gives you energy and ignites your passion, you are likely headed in the right direction.

So back to Design.

If you are someone who is interested in interior design, but perhaps regrets never having had the chance to learn it earlier, this is for you

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Photo by RODNAE Productions on

If you are someone who often thinks about learning interior design, but aren’t sure if it’s worth the time commitment to get an education, this is for you, too

There are all kinds of reasons that you might not have considered interior design before.

It might be that it wasn’t available to you, for whatever reason, or you hadn’t personally discovered it earlier.

Perhaps you’ve already studied something monstrously unrelated to interior design and are wondering how the two can possibly go together.

Whatever your reason, don’t think write off the idea just yet.

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Photo by Nathan Cowley on

If you think you have been delayed on your path to work in a creative field, find the interior design industry or get into a decent school, don’t worry.

Not only is it never too late, but it’s actually easier than it’s ever been before to get a good design education, and specifically an interior design education online.

I know this because I have personally done it. Moreover, that was before we had all the new resources now available for learning interior design and decorating.

Setbacks Are Part of the Process

I’m not going to tell you that getting a degree in your own time in a distance-education program isn’t without its challenges.

I experienced them firsthand.

I actually stopped my program twice.

Once due to a broken arm, and the next time because I was going through a disruptive period in my life (which included getting a divorce in a foreign country).

On top of this, in the next several years I moved houses three times and changed jobs twice.

It’s a crazy story, and that’s only half of it. 

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Photo by James Wheeler on

I eventually got back on track and finished my final year while working an 08:30 – 1700 job with two hours of commuting downtown every day. 

I came nailbitingly close to not finishing my program (consequence of being under great time duress), but the important thing is I didn’t quit.

With the help of my fellow online students and a mentor who actually talked me out of quitting, against all the odds, I made it. 

Lessons Learned 

Here are my top lessons for getting through:

  1. Well begun is half done, but half done doesn’t count for anything
  2. You can have it if you want it
  3. If you fall off the wagon, you don’t have to stay there
  4. The hardest assignments are the ones that you help you grow
  5. Even “A” students get knocked down a peg from time to time
  6. It’s how you respond to failure that determines your future success
  7. Your harshest critics are your best teachers
  8. You get out of it what you put into it
  9. Helping others helps you too
  10. Where there is a will, a designer makes a way 

Making It Work for You

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Photo by nappy on

The first thing you have to be able to do is stop making excuses for yourself.

The stories you have been telling yourself about ‘why you can’t be a designer’ or ‘why the education isn’t attainable for you’ will have to go.


It is precisely these stories that are the only thing between you and starting to chip away at this goal.

These stories and these excuses are what will keep you from taking action.  Naturally, it makes sense that you need to take some sort of action if you want to gain forward momentum.

It takes a first step.

After you get out of your own way, The second thing I want you to do is to evaluate where you are at.

This step is is similar to how you would take stock of your financial life.  Before you can make any investments, you have to know where you stand first.  You need to know the current state of affairs.  Where are you?

  • Have you started, as I did, and stopped?
  • Our, have you been too afraid to start?
  • Have you taken action, but reached a point of discomfort and limited yourself somehow?

When evaluating and starting to think forward, try to be honest with yourself about your goal when it comes to interior design.

What is it you are getting into it for and what do you see yourself doing?

Just as importantly, why do you want to be a designer?

The third question you will need to ask yourself is, how bad do you want it?

What can you hold onto when the times are rough that will remind you not to give up?

If you haven’t been willing to be consistent in the past or even get started, what is it about this time that is going to be different?

For this you will need to find your ‘why’.

This is something that is unique to you, and which only you can answer for yourself.

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Photo by veeterzy on

Fourth, you need to commit to your future.

You can do this by picturing yourself at the finish line, but you should save this for those rare moments of pleasant daydreaming where you can bask in the idea of success.

Before than can happen, you’re going to have to do something that a lot of us are terrified of:

You will need to get comfortable with being a beginner.

When you can learn to fall in love with the process of learning and becoming, you will find that the time flies and before you know it, you are starting to think of yourself as the very thing you were only vaguely aware that you could be.

At this point, you may not even totally realize it, but you are becoming an interior designer.

General Advice for Future Interior Design Students

There’s a lot more that I could say about the journey to becoming a designer and making the decision to get a design education.

Ultimately, the bottom line is that the old saying really is true: Well begun is half done.

If you can get yourself started on the tiniest little step, and continue to take steps, you will be moving forward.

After that, my very general advice would be:

Make every project your best project and no matter how you feel, keep going

You will need to decide on the type of design you want to do

Start learning about everything and as time goes on, hone in your focus. When the time comes you will know what to do

Start practicing in small ways as soon as you can. Many aspects of interior design are best learned by doing

Good luck , my design friend.

You can follow this blog to read more in the future about:

  • Interior design as a career change
  • Interior design as a side hustle 
  • Interior design as a hobby

If you need more motivation be sure to review all the great reasons to learn interior design here:


Designer, writer & educator living in East Asia since 2001

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