My Life As An Online Interior Designer

It took me what felt like forever to finally be able to live this lifestyle as an online interior designer, working from wherever I want, at whatever time I want, wear whatever I want, work in the way that I want, have dream clients who appreciate me and love working with me (and who are so happy to pay me!)

When I think back to all my mates back in Australia, I am definitely a late bloomer. As I was heading towards my thirties, all my friends seemed to be having babies and getting married, whilst I was just finishing up my 7-year architecture degree and heading back over to England to work for a large international hotel design company.

Besides snowboarding, I only have one other passion in my life and that is buildings. Big, small, old, new, inside, outside – doesn’t matter. I am o.b.s.e.s.s.e.d with buildings. When I work, rest, play, travel, eat, doesn’t matter I’m thinking about or looking at buildings.

My secret obsession is perving at houses on Rightmove and Air B&B. I love seeing how people live, I’m totally fascinated by it. One thing that I have noticed over the years is that architects, designers and councils have less input into housing these days and developers and one time landlords (aka non-professional landlords) are the new decision makers in my industry – which has been hugely reflected in the very low standards seen today in the current housing stock.*

I set up an online interior design business about 5 years ago called “designmyroom” where I did the interior designs for individual rooms for a very low cost. That progressed me to start my company in 2016 called Invent Design Create Ltd and I was working as a freelance interior designer on the side whilst I still worked as an architectural designer for an architectural firm during the day.

In March 2017, I finally started working for myself full time! I started with 4 clients in March and by the end of 2017, l have worked with over 30 happy, paying clients and now, I have so many clients, I can’t take them all on. When I started, I didn’t have any previous projects or a beautiful portfolio of work, I had nothing but my passion and personality and I had to figure out a way of getting regular income and making sure I was doing everything legally as well as making sure my clients got everything they needed and I always tried to exceed their expectations.

Now, my life as an online interior designer is pretty amazing! I get to work with the most amazing clients. I am not sure how it happened, but every single one of my clients is totally rad. They are cool, interesting, kind, pleasant and they all treat me with respect. I get to design beautiful spaces for them, I get to surprise them with the most amazing designs that they never knew they could afford or even comprehend were possible. I get to completely transform their homes and show them the potential in the spaces that they hadn’t seen,, I get to see their excitement and their happiness when their dreams come true.

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The majority of the time, I am surrounded by positivity and happiness. It’s not all glam (although it’s not that bad!). The majority of issues I face are with suppliers – online websites that state that they have something in stock and then you get a phone call or email saying “oh – not sure why that is still coming up, we don’t stock that anymore” or delayed deliveries when my client has taken a day off work to collect something that doesn’t show up, or when delivery guys who can’t lift the thing they have been paid to deliver so take it back to the store and try to charge my client for redilivery!

As long as I am organised and have internet access, I can work from anywhere in the world. I have had clients from Australia, England, Egypt, The UAE, Turkey, Norway, New Zealand, Belgium, Finland and sunny California USA.

You do need to know a bit about the climate, local tastes, availability of furniture and a bit about the housing stock in the places you are designing as houses and the way people live really do vary from country to country, although the biggest issues I have come across are simply finding items of furniture that can ship to certain places, especially if we can’t source items locally within my client’s own country (this happens in Egypt, Norway and some rural areas of many large countries).

As an online interior designer, I spend a lot of time shopping for furniture and interior décor items. It is usually my choice what ends up in my client’s house and I am forever grateful that they trust me and are willing to buy things that I tell them they should buy!

It really is my dream job and I am grateful every day for my clients and also to myself for never giving up on my dream, because after what seems like forever, I finally get to do this for a living.

This year I am starting a mentorship program for women who want to follow their dreams of becoming a freelance interior designer.  If you or someone you know, want to fast track your route to becoming a freelance interior designer or just don’t want to follow the usual route of going back to uni or undertaking a low paid internship, get in touch (on m contact page) and I can send you the course breakdown and start dates or my freelance interior designer mentorship program.

*Nothing against developers, I actually worked for some excellent developers (and still do) and have also studied to become a developer myself. But in my opinion this is what happens when there is a lack of building science knowledge or little care for the life of the person having to living in a dwelling which has to meet a certain ROI. It’s just what happens when profit without care drives the standard rather than thought and passion for each project – BUT there is no reason why you can’t have a higher quality result – it just needs thought and creativity (thats what I do!)

Interior Lighting Design 101

100% of my clients request guidance with lighting when we start on their project. It hadn’t occurred to me before I started working for myself that this was something people didn’t really know about.

Lighting is one of those things you definitely need to consider at the earliest stages of your design, this is because how you visualise the end result plays a vital role in what elements you actually see, and the ambience you create, but also because lighting control and automation and the technical requirements to fit specific types of lighting, need a lot of thought and design, “behind the scenes”.

So if you love DIY or want to give your home a lighting makeover here is the information you need to start:

Detail & Continuity

Think of each room separately but the whole house as a whole idea. For example, you know that you want a lit up wall behind the TV as a feature in the evening to create a mood in the living room, but if you walk out of the living room to the hall or into another room, how does that idea carry through? Perhaps just having the option of dimmers in the other rooms means that during the times where you like to have some mood, you have the choice to dim some of the other lights around the create an ambience in the entertaining areas of your home.

Wired Or Wireless Control

Most of the lighting you see is invisible, so consider how your lighting will function. I wish I could say that every electrician my clients have used got the lighting design right 100% of the time (first time). Currently, my stats are way below that. LED technology has changed a lot in the last few years and things like the specific type of drivers and or loadings can confuse the average sparky if they aren’t used to doing more than old-school wiring. Even the best electricians that I have worked with have gotten things terribly wrong and have had to come back to fix up the lighting on a job. This doesn’t really come down to complexity or your design either, it comes down to specific products and the availability of information to install the products correctly. If your electrician has priced your job on supply and installation, remind your electrician that it is his responsibility to purchase the correct drivers and pay for any work associated with re-doing parts of the project (including removing a whole ceiling and re-plastering once he has re-wired) and make sure you have that in your contract (especially for larger jobs). I’m talking 100% get something wrong…

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Luminosity & Brightness

Understandably this is a little harder (only for now) as we change over from WATTS to Lumens. My rule of thumb, for now, is to stick with the WATTAGE for the old school Tungsten bulbs, mainly because we all understood the language of a 25 WATT and a 100 WATT bulb. So my rule of thumb with LED is that anything under 500 will be relatively dark and anything over 500 will give you the amount of light you were used to with anything above a 60WATT bulb and aim for over 1000 Lumens if you want something as bright as a 100WATT. (That is just my rule of thumb if that doesn’t make sense to you the helpful chart below from thelightbulb.co.uk might be better for you):

And this helpful chart from https://www.thelightbulb.co.uk/resources/lumens_watts/

Size & Scale of Your Light Fitting & Lighting Direction / Effect

This is where newbies get it really wrong. Usually, the complexities of associating or imagining the scale and or space mean that things look wrong when they are installed or don’t look or work the way you had hoped. This is where good old-fashioned facts come in and they help you get it right every time. Just measure the space, measure the light fitting and understand how the light emits from a chosen fitting. A lampshade has different shapes and diffusers to soften and adjust the light, so play around with the specific effects and variations.

Bulb Type & Colour

There are lots of different light fittings and bulbs and the type you choose will depend not only on the application but also on the mood you wanted to create when you designed the space.

The height of your ceilings will affect how much light you see at the human level and different light types have different colours of light. I have had lighting manufacturers and even lighting designers change the lighting specification behind my back (or throw in another colour because they ran out of the one we needed on an order). Get your builder to check every single bulb and light fitting that you buy (especially if they are LED) and ensure they match your specification. You WILL notice that one light or two lights are different, if not straight away, further down the line when its too late to ask about it.

My rule of thumb for now is use a 3000Kelvin colour bulb for the most natural looking LED light. Its whiter than the yellow bulbs we were used to, but the colour rendering (the correctness of the colour you are seeing under the artificial light, is more accurate and less yellow) and we are starting to get used to the light not being so yellow these days (and even though I was hatin’ at first, I have smoothly transitioned into the less yellow world myself).

How to Create a Sophisticated but inviting Living Room

Have you spent ages designing your living room, meticulously choosing pieces, mulling over colours, styles, Pinterest and Houzz photos, then stood back and instead of an “ahhhh” got a “hmmm”?

There is nothing more frustrating when you have an image in your mind when creating your dream space, for it to turn out different to the way it was in your mind. If this has happened to you, you are not alone. The hardest task for any home decorating project is finishing it to a point where you can sit down and enjoy it whilst in the space, rather than looking around and thinking, “something just isn’t right”.

If your brain won’t rest whilst in your space, here is a checklist of things to try which I hope will help you achieve your “ahhhh”.

Have your End Goal In Mind

Whether this is a style, feeling or theme, the first key is to keep every decision in line with your end goal. In the living room example here, my reader had set out to achieve an industrial look but ended up with something quite different. She has now decided on “sophisticated but inviting”. (Which I just fell in love with as a description!)

Be Confident With Your Story

Using this room as an example, you can see that all the pieces are telling a story individually, but they aren’t really communicating together to create one story.

So if we then take the brown leather Chesterfield sofa and the modern light grey sofa and use these as the main pieces to tell our story (I chose these because they are likely to be the most expensive investment pieces here) then they are definitely (in my opinion) speaking the same language of sophisticated. So what is missing?

Create A Focal Point

At the moment there isn’t a main focal point, it could be the artwork, or it could be the Chesterfield, or the gorgeous window, or it could be the fireplace. Ask yourself “where do I want my eyes to rest”? Because the sofas are already achieving my end goal, I would, in this instance for a cost-effective and quick fix, make the sitting space the focal point.

Balance The Colour

The colours already used in the main pieces that tell our story are brown leather, light grey, white and tan. So why did I introduce taupe? Taupe can be used as a neutral and here I used it as a backdrop to the focal point, which creates warmth and hopefully creates something inviting.

Taupe is also a very sophisticated colour, especially the regal undertone of purple, gives it a little bit of a luxurious feeling too. I also know that a “cold” taupe, will play off the existing grey, brown and tan and so I used the white and taupe as the backdrop (not the feature – the sofas and sitting space are the feature).

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Balance The Materials

I used the dimples of the Chesterfield to bring in a new item of furniture to replace the wicker chair. The leather in the Chesterfield has a reflective quality and the grey sofa is soft and light which means they are quite contrasting, even if they are telling the same story.

The imaginary piece of furniture I put in to replace the wicker chair was my idea for a piece that would tie these two pieces of furniture together whilst balancing the materials in the room. The dimples play off the Chesterfield, and the colour ties the grey and brown together (it’s a “cold” red undertone). I tried to stay consistent with the language of the style so it is still sophisticated and inviting.

I also added the metallic sisal rug for texture underfoot and the reflective high gloss table to bounce the light around the room. I also added sheer “cold” brown curtains for softness.

Balance The Furniture

The hardest thing to do, in my opinion, is to balance the furniture and house décor to tie it all together. I replaced the coffee table as it was still part of the urban industrial phase and brought in an inviting but sophisticated table instead. The finish as described above helped bounce the light and the white colour was to balance the white backdrop and bring its elements into the focal point.

I also added artwork with the same tones now in the room (cold purples, browns and reds), a white mother of pearl mirror and the Kelly Hoppen house jewellery on the coffee table to bounce the colours around.

What do you think? What would you have done differently? Do you think it is now sophisticated and inviting? Let’s wait and see what my reader will do (hopefully we will get an update soon!)

Home Office Interior Design – Step 7

STEP 7 – TIE IT TOGETHER WITH A STORY

I hope you are starting to really get a picture of your space and your room is coming together.

Step 6 was about your personality and giving soul to your space.

Step 7 is the last step of this course and I’m going to give away my decorating secrets that help you put everything together and also, get it right… every time!

The first thing to remember about any design project is to imagine the larger whole and then focus on the details but ALWAYS ensure the decisions you make refer to the larger idea.

This might sound a little outrageous (or not), but simply put, if I wanted a clean, minimal, bright and contemporary space – I would chose colours that inspired me, but probably wouldn’t purchase open shelving to display my crystal collection (well not unless it looked like a piece of art…

  1. The easiest way to tie your room together as a whole is to unify something… anything… just unify 1 thing and make it obvious. For Example, you might have lots of bright colours that show off your eclectic and arty style, but you have one colour that is repeated constantly that ties it all together and makes it look whole.
  2. Now without too many Big Lebowski Quotes coming up the main things interior designers use to tie a room together are: colour, a rug, a central painting, collectables and fabrics. If in doubt, just test your ideas, swap one item at a time and take a photograph so that you can see your room as though someone else is looking at it.
  3. You might of heard about layering. This is the main way interior designers tie a room together to tell a story. You can tell a story about you and how far you have come, you can tell a story about the season, a point A to B. Just think about any really great story, there is also a bit of drama. Ask yourself what is the story in this room and ask someone else what they see as the story too.
  4. And Finally, how to Feng Shui your office for success. You might be wondering why I put this last in the challenge? Well It comes down to what you believe… If you believe that you must put your desk in the north Eastern corner to gain success then that is what you must do. If you believe that having a lucky crimson bird in the South is the anchor you need to know you are on a path to success, then that will work too. It comes down to whether you believe you are attracting success or not. I don’t hinder myself with superstition, but I do believe that anchoring in certain things helps remind you each day what you are working towards. I also like to use Feng Shui for “styling”. I like the practical aspects such as using mirrors to deflect unwanted flows of energy, but that is for another challenge!

I believe Feng Shui is a practical tool as well as a fantastic way to anchor in your desires. “It always seems impossible until its done”  Nelson Mandella.

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Quick Links to the rest of the challenge:

STEP 7 – TIE IT TOGETHER WITH A STORY

STEP 6 – SHOW-OFF YOUR PERSONALITY & STYLE

STEP 5 –DEFINE YOUR THEME & MOOD, THEY ARE THE KEY TO ALL OF YOUR DECISIONS

STEP 4 – INVEST IN PIECES YOU LOVE, THEY WILL INSPIRE & MOTIVATE YOU

STEP 3 – DESIGN STORAGE. HIDE WHAT YOU DON’T WANT TO SEE AND SHOW OFF THE REST

STEP 2 – BE CREATIVE, DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT FIRST AND THEN MAKE IT PRACTICAL

STEP 1 – BE INSPIRED, HAVE VISION AND DECIDE ON WHAT KIND OF  SPACE YOU WANT

Home Office Interior Design – Step 6

Step 6 – Show-off Your Personality & Style

Step 5 was about defining a theme and mood because these give you a tool to filter out the items you don’t need to buy, show or even include in your home office space.

This is where we are going to talk about you!

Domestic interior design wouldn’t exist if there were no people willing to express their personality and style. What do you like or what are drawn to and what sets you apart from others?

Are you drawn to beautiful photographs?  Do you like hot pink or are you a sucker for gorgeous sculptural plants?

Whatever floats your boat, embrace it, because the only person who needs to enjoy this space is you.

Here are my tips on how to personalise your home office and give it some heart:

  1. Stand back and ask yourself, what in this room is missing a bit of me? Is the wall colour too murky or could the curtains have more zig zag?  This is where you accept that you love tribal art or that actually you need way more black than white.  What colours light you up, inspire you and bring you joy and why haven’t you included them?  There is no point in creating a gorgeous minimalist grey and white interior, when you have a colourful personality that is energized by colour.  Accept who you are and don’t be afraid to include your personality into your design, this is what makes it real.
  2. Now that you have thought about the overall room, what about the smaller items?  Do you like to collect quotes?  How about displaying them in a way that is very you?  If you aren’t confident with expressing too much of your own personality yet, start with smaller items, such as picture frames, rugs, pot plants, crystals or cushions.
  3. This is my favourite!  Use what you already have… Instinctively we collect items that we like, a piece of paper that you picked up from your travels, a gift that means so much to you, a photo of someone you love.  These things define you, so don’t be afraid to use them.  If the photo needs to be reprinted, however, because it’s faded or needs a new way of being displayed, then now is the time to do it.  Look around at the things you have collected, make them special again and use them to be inspired and show off your personality.

Did you realise how important you are in this process?  Make sure you write down at least 5 things that define your personality or style.

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Quick Links to the rest of the challenge:

STEP 7 – TIE IT TOGETHER WITH A STORY

STEP 6 – SHOW-OFF YOUR PERSONALITY & STYLE

STEP 5 –DEFINE YOUR THEME & MOOD, THEY ARE THE KEY TO ALL OF YOUR DECISIONS

STEP 4 – INVEST IN PIECES YOU LOVE, THEY WILL INSPIRE & MOTIVATE YOU

STEP 3 – DESIGN STORAGE. HIDE WHAT YOU DON’T WANT TO SEE AND SHOW OFF THE REST

STEP 2 – BE CREATIVE, DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT FIRST AND THEN MAKE IT PRACTICAL

STEP 1 – BE INSPIRED, HAVE VISION AND DECIDE ON WHAT KIND OF  SPACE YOU WANT

Home Office Interior Design – Step 5

DEFINE YOUR THEME & MOOD, THEY ARE THE KEY TO ALL OF YOUR DECISIONS

I always feel like I am up-levelling my life and business by anchoring in my success every time I do something to my home office.

Step 4 is about choosing furniture that makes you want to use it and items you love that are incorporated as investments rather than just another flippant purchase.

Step 5 is about digging a little bit deeper into the hidden secrets of decorating.

One of the questions I get asked by people as an architectural designer is “how do I know what items to buy?”

The first main step to decorating, now that you understand your space, limitations, budget and have a vision, you need to have a….wait for it…

THEME

What? Like for a party, play or movie? Yep!  The key to success with decorating is to have a theme and until you understand the key elements of the existing themes in design, interiors and decor, I would usually stick with one of the existing ones before getting so outlandish that you create a theme that no-one understands or appreciates. You might be at the stage where you are confident with themes, but may need some guidance on what they are and how to achieve them more confidently.

A theme is also a style. So choosing your “theme” is also confirming and making a decision on what style you are going to design this room in.

Because you now have a lot of information about your room, its boundaries, limitations and opportunities, you are ready to decide on your own style.

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So here are my decorating secrets:

  1. Decide on your theme (style) for your home office. To start off with, list whether you are drawn to any of the following styles: Rustic, country, modern, colonial, industrial, mid century modern, British Colonial, minimalist, contemporary, traditional, art deco, south western, Shabby chic, Asian, Hamptons, Moroccan, Spanish, French, Victorian, Art Nouveau, Arts & Crafts, Tuscan, Shaker, Scandinavian, Classical, Italian, Rococo, Baroque, European Traditional, eclectic, transitional… you get my point? Search images and collect ones that inspire you. Try to figure out which theme they are, then decide on the style you want to decorate your room.
  2. Once you have a collection of images that represent your style, try to see which elements in those images will work with the space you have for your home office. For example, lets say your style is Country and you have found a few different images that all have some kind of country feel. (Don’t get hung up on whether you are french country , country cottage, Scottish country, or alpine country just yet). Write down what makes it look or feel “country” to you. Is it the curtain material, the exposed beams, colours or the patterns and items associated with the country in the pictures (or is it just the view out the window?)
  3. Now this next part won’t be so difficult that you have a guide, because with a list of crucial elements you can work on bringing your theme into your home office. Start collecting materials and colour samples, timber finishes, fabrics, and relate them back to your theme as well as to each other. The only final element you need to really consider here is the overall mood you want to create, because you can have a cosy country feel or a bright country feel or even a fresh and healthy country feel. So whilst putting together your theme, think of the mood you want to create and create a “mood” board to help you to purchase the right items and use this to make decisions when purchasing items.

To be honest in almost 20 years working with design, art and architecture, I know of a million different ways to start designing a room and for most, this technique I just shared with you, is usually the best way to get a great end result, even without any design knowledge or talent.

Designers are always referencing the past and being inspired by nature, culture, travel, art… The best way to develop this skill within yourself is to start by looking at what others have already done and learning from their success.

Quick Links to the rest of the challenge:

STEP 7 – TIE IT TOGETHER WITH A STORY

STEP 6 – SHOW-OFF YOUR PERSONALITY & STYLE

STEP 5 –DEFINE YOUR THEME & MOOD, THEY ARE THE KEY TO ALL OF YOUR DECISIONS

STEP 4 – INVEST IN PIECES YOU LOVE, THEY WILL INSPIRE & MOTIVATE YOU

STEP 3 – DESIGN STORAGE. HIDE WHAT YOU DON’T WANT TO SEE AND SHOW OFF THE REST

STEP 2 – BE CREATIVE, DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT FIRST AND THEN MAKE IT PRACTICAL

STEP 1 – BE INSPIRED, HAVE VISION AND DECIDE ON WHAT KIND OF  SPACE YOU WANT