Whilst there is no definitive answer to "how to become an interior designer", one thing that remains undisputed is that you need a strong interior design portfolio. A successful interior design portfolio should showcase your strongest design work and clearly express your style, skillset and method of working.
An interior design portfolio is a visual resume showcasing your interior design body of work to date. A stand-out portfolio can be the deciding factor in landing your first role as a junior interior designer. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to building your interior design portfolio; the most important thing is to just start building. As a junior interior designer, the best way to build your portfolio is to remain open to all opportunities and be sure to document all the work you complete with professional photographs.
All interior designers have to start somewhere. A great interior design portfolio is about quality, not quantity. Find inspiration for how to build your interior design portfolio from scratch by listening to the stories of two junior interior designers...
Can I build an interior design portfolio with no experience?
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need a wealth of experience as an interior designer in order to land your first interior design projects and begin building out your portfolio. When it comes to your interior design portfolio, sometimes less is more. In fact, according to interior designer marketing expert Justin Page Wood, "All you really need is one really good photo on a website."
To inspire you in your journey into the interior design industry, we spoke to two junior interior designers at leading interior design firms who took vastly different approaches to breaking into the interior design industry. These junior interior designers prove that whether fresh out of an interior design degree or making a career switch later in life, a great interior design portfolio is your ticket to success but that "great" is best defined in a way authentic to you and your USP as an interior designer.
I am currently working as a Junior Interior Designer. I saw the job advertised on LinkedIn, applied, and then met for an in-person interview.
My MA focused on the connection between design and emotion. I think that the moodboards I created as part of that project are the 'star pieces' in my portfolio—they showcase my knowledge of colour, fabrics and texture combinations used to promote well-being.
The initial idea for my concept 'HUIS' was born from my own experience of living and working abroad. My job involved travel throughout Europe and when I relocated to Amsterdam, I spent my first month in temporary accommodation provided by my new employer. Whilst it was in a prime location, the actual studio itself was rather dingy and isolating with no space to entertain new friends. Busy times of year meant weekly travel and strict deadlines that left little opportunity for anything in between. With irregular shift patterns and extended stays, the choice of the hotel vasty influenced my well-being whilst travelling for work.
Although many hotels offer their visitors the option of various social areas to spend time in—spas, gyms, restaurants and bars—these do not necessarily cater for guests who may not want to socialise in those sorts of spaces. I felt as though there was a missed opportunity to apply some simple but effective changes to how many hotels are currently operating. As a result, I created a project exploring four key separate spaces: Work, Play, Sleep and Bathe."
In this role, I have been able to develop my knowledge of interior design software programmes such as AutoCAD and SketchUp. If I were to make edits to my portfolio now, I would add in more bespoke pieces from independent designers.
Follow Louise Dalrymple on Instagram.
I work as a design assistant at an interior design firm in NYC. I often find myself shopping around our office, picking up items, bringing them to project sites, and helping with move-ins, deliveries and installations. I also spend a lot of time putting together concepts for clients. This usually means sourcing furniture, finding inspiration images, and creating floor plans and presentations. Now and again, I'll spend time putting together floral arrangements, styling project sites and assisting on the final photo shoots of our projects.
Before my current role, I was not working in the architecture/design field so I didn't have a massive portfolio to pull from. However, I did major in architecture and complete a few internships in design and have always had a deep love for interiors and everything 'home'. I had a few pieces in my portfolio but the one that I was interviewed on was actually my own apartment in NYC. It is very small, but I decorated it thoughtfully and I loved the way it turned out.
This project definitely shows my design personality—it is my own home after all! I had to make use of what I was already bringing into the space, as well as the small square footage, but with light tones, mixed materials, and pops of colour I created a really nice environment. Being able to spend my days around top design professionals on incredible project sites has been a game changer for me. I am super passionate about my work and I have absorbed so much in just a few short months in my job. I am much more attuned to design trends (that are not actually 'trendy'), cool furniture pieces, ideas for niche design situations, colour combinations, and styling techniques. I am excited to keep learning and creating my own spaces! Using all that I've learnt, I am in the process of rethinking the gallery wall above my couch. I want something a bit more modern and creative, and I want to make it myself! What that looks like is still to be decided but that is my next upgrade to tackle."
Follow Andie Hamm on Instagram.