Setting up an Interior Design Business

by Luisa Barnes

I completed the Part Time Certificate in Residential Interior Design with KLC in June 2017. I loved the course! It was intense, demanding, and pressured but I learned so much and it gave me the confidence and skills to set up my own business.

Setting Up My Own Interior Design Business 
I procrastinated. I toyed with the idea of an internship or a full time job but ultimately I decided I wanted the freedom and flexibility of being my own boss.  

I have a degree in Business Administration from Aston University and am a qualified Chartered Accountant and so I guess I felt comfortable that I could manage the finance and administration side of running your own business.

Small Steps
It's daunting wondering where and how to start. I remembered Fiona at KLC advising that you just need to do something to get started and then things will flow. So just over a year after I had completed the course, I took my first steps.

One of the first things I did was to organise business cards. I got professional help designing a logo. It was a worthwhile investment - first impressions are key!

I then emailed my contacts with a view to finding one or two volunteers on a pro-bono basis to build my portfolio. A number of people came forward asking for help with small things and ultimately this led to my first paid project.

First Project
My client wanted a makeover for her master bedroom. The brief was to give the room a five star hotel feel: a new bed and headboard, bedside tables, lamps and a chair, a blind or curtains, cushions and throws.

We opted for a calm, coordinated colour scheme of blues and greys and added some contrast with touches of burnt orange.

The range of different materials used in the scheme provided texture, comfort and a feeling of luxury: velvets, wools, dark walnut, silk/viscose and cotton blends and ceramics.

Interior design is a collaborative process. You have to listen to your client and be prepared to make changes. I substituted my initial choice of a Phillip Jeffries wallcovering for a textured wallpaper from Harlequin to reduce costs. My client’s husband didn’t like my initial suggestion for the blinds so I came up with some alternatives.

I enjoyed collaborating with my client during the design process; this ultimately led to a scheme that neither of us could have produced on our own. 

Things that went well

  • I was delighted that my client agreed to invest in Porta Romana bedside lights. The ceramic Bouble base and Chutney velvet shade ooze texture. They are a real stand out item and bring a touch of luxury to the scheme.
  • My client had initially intended to buy a new bedroom chair. I suggested that we could recover the existing chair. This saved money and was a more environmentally friendly choice.
  • I suggested taking the false wall behind the bed all the way up to the ceiling whilst keeping the storage shelf in place behind the wall. It created a more streamlined look and facilitated a taller headboard to provide a focal point.
  • The size of the bedroom provided limited opportunity for space planning. However, I was careful to get the bed company to make a site access check before placing the order. As a result the bed was made up in four pieces and the headboard in two. Both were assembled on site. I remember our tutor at KLC emphasising the importance of checking access and this was good advice!

Going Forward
I really enjoyed working on my first project! It was undoubtedly stressful but increased my confidence and enabled me to open trade accounts with suppliers.

I’ve subsequently done work a variety of work: a new kitchen/ dining room, a living room makeover, a bathroom and a teenager’s bedroom in a variety of locations across West London. I’ve also had a client recently ask me to come back and do another job for them – a vote of confidence!

My Instagram and website are now finally up and running.

My goal for 2020 is to do a whole house or flat for a client. #dreambig.