What Do Interior Designers Learn in School?


I was at a friend’s house recently sitting on the floor, staring at her rug trying to remember what type of weave it was (cut pile?) and what that particular type of binding was on the edge, and it got me thinking–do people have any idea the width and breadth of the stuff interior designer are taught in school? I know I had no idea going in about the vast array of things I would be taught, and certainly had I known the amount of math and science I would be required to learn, I would have been like “oh hay-ell no. Buh bye.”

My very first design professor in my Introduction to Interior Design class told us on the first day “if you think you are going to be learning how to plump pillows and pick wall colors, you are in the wrong place and you should leave now.” I had another professor a few semesters later (who was an architect) tell us that she thought interior designers are some of the smartest people around. Now that I’m on the other end of the degree, I can see why. Not only do we need to be an artist, a creative and a maker, we have to understand the science and technology behind the furniture and lighting and materials we are using and specifying in interiors. So, what do we learn? Here are some lists that I am spitballing, as all my notes and books are in storage in my parents’ basement on the other end of the country:

  • Codes codes codes: building codes, fire codes, ADA codes, local zoning ordinances… how many people are legally allowed in a space, how much distance you can have between exits, how many exits you need to have
  • Building systems: plumbing, HVAC, electrical, etc…
  • Building construction: timber frame and steel construction, all the other various methods of building construction… the anatomy of a building from the floor to the ceiling
  • History! My favorite. The development of architecture and interiors from the Egyptians to the present day. East, west, north, south… how and why people build buildings and how that has changed based on culture and time and technology and a whole host of other factors
  • Art… how to draw/paint/sketch with watercolor and marker, pens and pencils. Not only do you have to know how to functionally and aesthetically design a room, but you have to know how to render it in a way that communicates the feel of the space to a prospective client
  • CAD/BIM (Computer Aided Drafting/Building Information Modeling)… now that you know what materials and furniture you want to use, their chemical content, flammability and construction, time to draw it in 2D and 3D. And as I’ve found in my post-grad school job search, it is not enough to only know the drafting program your school taught (in my case Revit), firms are looking for someone who knows the other biggies (Sketchup and AutoCAD)
  • Business procedures! This class has been very handy in the first few months post-graduation. How to write a business plan, contract, RFP, some other acronym that I am forgetting, national licensing laws: where it is legal to practice design without having passed the NCIDQ
  • Hand drafting: drawing 2D and 3D floor plans, furniture, spaces, etc by hand. I’m still a little too traumatized by this class several years later (and still suffering from carpal tunnel), so if you want to learn more about hand drafting, check out Ching’s book.  Here’s an interesting comment thread on the hand drafting vs CAD debate.
  • The various weaves of carpet and fabric, what all the various synthetic and natural fabrics are, their construction and flammability
  • Materials… tile, wood, paint, etc… all the different materials for residential and commercial applications; when and where you should use each material
  • The different areas of design practice: residential, commercial, healthcare, education…
  • How to work with architects, engineers, contractors, sales reps and other vendors you will meet along the way
  • Green design! Sustainability, what in the heck is LEED, how and why you should pass the LEED Green Associate exam. How many gallons of water a toilet uses per flush, how and way water and light are absorbed in different materials, all the other gazillion ways to design “green” that doesn’t involve just recycling
  • Lighting. Oh geez, this was a doozy. Incandescent vs. fluorescent vs LED vs halogen vs all other various light sources. The difference between a bulb and a lamp. Here’s my notes from class if you’d like to take gander and the absurd amount of science and technology we have to learn
  • A gazillion other things I am forgetting

This is of course varies from school to school, but programs that are CIDA accredited have guidelines they have to follow, so you can expect similarities in U.S. accredited schools. Have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments.






PS… Here’s an awesome video on why interior designers matter:

Design Roundup

I’m not sure what to even call this Design Roundup… Pools and Pagodas? Idyllic water scenes?  Here are a few photos making me happy this week.

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Have a great week!


Design Roundup: Shingled Houses

“Shingle Style” houses, according to A Field Guide to American Houses, is a Victorian style home built between 1880-1910 featuring “Wall cladding and roofing of continuous wood shingles… shingled walls without interruption at corners (no corner boards); asymmetrical facade with irregular, steeply pitched roof line; roofs usually have intersecting cross gables and multi-level eaves; commonly with extensive porches…” (McAlester p. 373).

I don’t want to dissect all the houses below architecturally, but most of them appear to be new construction, and while they have singles on them, they aren’t traditional shingle style according to McAlester’s definition, or I guess even shingle style revival.  The second one appears to be Federal Style, as for the other three, I’m trying to figure out what you would call their architectural style.  I’m still learning.  Any architecturally savvy people want to weigh in? #NotAnArchitect.  Point is, they are houses with shingles applied to them, and I like them.

S  H  O  P  E       R  E  N  O      W  H  A  R  T  O  NImage Source: Found on Tumblr, and according to the source, this is Cedar Shake style. Designed by Shope Reno Wharton Architecture

markdsikes.comImage Source

traditionalhomeImage Source

traditionalhome2Image Source

More pictures to awe over of shingled houses on Houzz.

Happy Monday!

The Tremont Grand- Baltimore, Maryland

I was recently in Baltimore for the Association of Bridal Consultants annual conference- we stayed at The Tremont Grand Hotel.  It was a beautiful hotel which was actually slated for demolition a few years back.  It was originally built as a Masonic temple in the 1800’s and there is a lot of the original architecture left.  I snapped a ton of iPhone pics…. by far the most impressive space was the ladies lounge.

Beautiful, right?

Black Steel Framed Windows

I love black steel framed windows… they seem so European and elegant.  This photo is from this blog post which is chock full of other beautiful examples of black windows.

Oatlands Plantation- Leesburg, VA

Oatlands Plantation in Leesburg is one of my favorite spots in Northern Virginia and one of the reasons I love living in Virginia!  When I was little we would cut down our Christmas tree from a farm down the road and then walk around Oatlands… it is beautiful at Christmas.  Next month I am going to have Holiday Tea at Oatlands, I am very excited!  My cousin had her wedding at Oatlands and it was beautiful, the gardens are stunning.  Below are some photos I stole of their website… enjoy! 






Try and make it out to Oatlands if you have a chance!

Final Presentation Today

I have not had a free minute in the past week- between going up to NYC for my sister’s graduation and working day and night on my final presentation that is tonight for my Interior Design class.  Here is a SMALL glimpse of what I have been working on:

Kitchen Plan:kitchenplan

Power Plan for the Kitchen: (yeah a little crooked, I’m gonna fix that before tonight)

powerplanThey are part of a house that I have been designing all semester and have to present tonight.  I would put up the entire floor plan but I don’t have it scanned right now.

I’ll be back posting like crazy this weekend! (BTW, I also just got a HUGE client that I am organizing, I think I mentioned it a few posts back…. she is a hoarder and we are are completely packing up here entire life…. it is taking up a lot of time and energy).

My Favorite Place on Earth

Kiawah Island, SC, a private Island off the coast of Charleston, SC.












Some day I WILL own a house here.  It is my favorite place on earth, I would be perfectly content to never leave the island if I could.

Me Quoted In The Post

Today to my surprise I noticed I was quoted in the Washington Post Home Section.  In last week’s addition they had a small blurb on great movie decor, which inspired me to post some pictures on the great decor in the movie “Somethings Gotta Give.” {Here is the post.}

They asked readers to email in talking about what other movies have great decor.  I immediately emailed them to tell how I loved the house from the Father of the Bride movie.  You may or may not recall I have talked about my fascination with the FOTB house before {here is a post about it.}

I had forgotten I had emailed them until I was flipping through the home section today and say my name.  I was like “Oh, that’s me… {long pause…} HOLY COW, THAT’S ME!!”  I was very excited to say the least.

You can view the article here.