Focusing Your Career on Home Interior Design

Find out more about a career in residential design or home interior design.
woman painting blue wall with roller brush

Translating your client's personality into a tasteful and inviting home environment is both the challenge and the privilege of doing home interior design. If you have excellent communication skills, a talent for working with a range of people, and a passion for helping people turn their homes into attractive and useful spaces, there's no more rewarding field.

Home interior design is an increasingly popular area of interior design, especially for those who work for large design firms or those who are willing to relocate to areas with booming residential markets.

Residential designers often work with individual homeowners. As a result, they must have outstanding negotiation and communication skills, as well as creativity and innovation, in order to translate the client's desires into a workable project.

The Basics of the Career

The residential design field is not without its challenges, however. One obstacle to building up a successful business is the perception that home interior design is somehow frivolous or excessive. Interior designers battle these perceptions by offering services of real and tangible value to their customers—customers with a variety of tastes from the sophisticated to the utilitarian, and needs that range from redecoration to architectural detailing.

Home Interior Design Specialties

Many residential designers specialize in a particular area of home interior design, working with a specific type of space or design element. Also increasingly popular are trends such as green or sustainable design, ergonomic design and elder design, which optimizes living environments for the elderly or disabled. Other specialty areas for residential designers include:

  • Apartment design
  • Model homes
  • Historic preservation
  • Home theater spaces
  • Home offices
  • Patios and gardens
  • Guest houses and vacation homes
  • Workout rooms
  • Retirement living spaces
  • Private aircraft and watercraft

Residential Design vs. Commercial Design

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics current Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates that about 19 percent of interior designers are self-employed and work in specialized services, such as one of the areas above. So, why would you choose to work as a residential designer instead of for a large architectural or engineering firm in a commercial designer capacity?

Your decision may largely rest upon your needs. Some things to consider:

  • Can you sustain and survive in a small or individual business setting?
  • Do you like the one-on-one approach to clients as opposed to the large infrastructure of commercial, government or educational environments?
  • Are you hands-on and do you prefer to do it yourself rather than manage a team?
  • Do you enjoy the smaller scope of the work rather than having to plan, budget, spec, purchase and install on a grand scale?

Home interior design offers exciting and varied opportunities for the creative interior designer. If you're interested in the field, be aware that you'll need to complete an interior design education at the associate's or bachelor's degree level. Combine that training with interpersonal skills and business savvy, and a residential design career may be within your grasp.