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The Dish on Being an Interior Decorator

In this post, we catch up with Design School graduate Jacqueline Curtis and get the skinny on what it’s like to be an interior decorator.

What exactly does an interior decorator do?

There’s a lot going on in the media with a job like this, and it changes so much over the years with trends, styles, responsibilities, etc. An interior decorator is not just the person that puts the room together anymore. You’re in charge of space planning, lighting planning, and plumbing planning. You are a project manager and you’re going to be ordering from and working with many vendors and clients. There is a huge element of customer service and networking to the job, for sure.

What does it take to be an interior decorator? Any particular skill sets or education?

You really have to have to have an undying passion for interior decorating. When you have a passion for something, it is easy to take it to the next level. Things like training your eye to focus on design, studying the skill of movement and how people relate to space are vitally important for this career. It’s easy to walk into a room and dictate to someone how you think it should be done, but you need to get to know your clients on a personal level before you know what’s really best for them. Observing how people interact with the space is a great way to get a feel for how a room should be. It is important to practice ongoing training for your eye and it never really stops! Once you take a course, you must constantly educate yourself, always aiming to learn.

Being an interior decorator and what it means

What are some career paths an interior decorator could take?

I finished design school and decided to work in a big box store for a year. I learned a lot of different trade skills from there! By talking and relating to customers, you are testing customer service skills and at the same time, picking up knowledge from plumbers, electricians and other trades people. It gives you some appreciation and respect for what else is going on in the room.

Working in a paint store is a great way to hone your colour skills. Working in a textile and decor store can offer a huge range of experience in the field. Once you have that kind of knowledge, you can develop your skills further. It is great to test yourself in this way with a secure environment. You also have to learn how to tell someone they are wrong.

What is the average salary of an interior decorator (if known?)

You know, that’s something that is really based on experience and it depends on the service you are providing. Your pay will be different if you are doing a large job or a small job, for example. If you are a published designer, you will be making more money as this sets the precedent for you.

What are the regular duties of an interior decorator?

Regularly it is about colour, accents and harmonizing; everyone wants their house or space to flow. You have to know what is and isn’t working in a room and how to make things work when they aren’t. You need to be able to transform a space! Organization in this industry is huge, so it is important that you are organized. Also, remember that customer service is a very important aspect of the job.

jacqueline curtis brush

Do you have any advice for someone looking to get started in the field?

If something in your gut says that this is something you would like to do, go with it! Never second-guess yourself! Even in a client situation, if you are presenting an option and the person can’t decide, urge them to go with the one they like. If you have a passion about something in the industry, investigate it, look into it, get to know that community and make sure you love it.

A happy person will have that reflected in their work and then your clients will be happy as well!


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Jacqueline grew up on the West Coast and has a foundation in Fine Arts and Sculpture and Design. She’s also a graduate of QC Design School! Check out her website to see what she’s up to now.