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:

Hello World


Well, hello world
How you been
Good to see you, my old friend

-Lady Antebellum

It’s been a while, due to finishing my 100+ page Masters Thesis, graduating, moving across the country, job searching and starting a new job, all of which have happened since May. With all these big changes, it’s time to shake things up on the blog.

From now on I will be blogging about design at juliedanieldesign.com. I’d really love to start more humor writing, so general nonsense & my misadventures as a single lady will stay here on this blog.

If you’d like to stay up with what’s happening in designland, sign up for email updates on juliedanieldesign.com. I’m working as an interior designer for Laurel + Wolf, as well as doing work on my own which will be launching soon. I’m also giving away free interior design advice on intdestherapy.tumblr.com, so if you have design questions, ask away there (you can do it anonymously + without a tumblr account).

Thanks everyone!




*Image is mine. Please don’t remove watermark or alter in any way to claim credit. Feel free to use, but please link to me.

Pink + White

The Cherry Blossoms reached their peak this past weekend, which means there is a lot of pink + white across the region. I’m moving to California in a few weeks, so I’m trying to savor the changing seasons + the little things I know I will miss here in metro DC. On my bucket list is: Georgetown Cupcake (the Bethesda location, because there is no way I’m dealing with the Georgetown location tourist madness), Gravelly Point (been there a gazillion times, but it’s my favorite), and to eat as much BBQ as possible because I’m scared they won’t have legit Carolina/Virginia BBQ in California (Texas BBQ does not count).

Here’s a little inspiration board of pink + white home accessories.


Pink Cacti from Artfully Walls

Pink Mosaic Wastebasket from Furbish

Pig from Stray Dog Designs

Small Rectangular Lacquer Tray from West Elm

Teak Step Stool from Serena & Lily

Poppy Floral Tea Caddy Lamp from Furbish

Chateau Rug from Anthropologie

Tini IV Accent Table in Pink from Oomph via Domino

Pink Birds from Natural Curiosities via Domino

Here are some other inspiration boards I have made. What color should I do next?


A podcast I listen to, Around the Table, has a segment called “Read, Watch, Listen, Follow.” I thought it would be a fun idea to start doing this as well at the end of posts, instead of “Best Of” posts I have previously been doing.

Read: Houzz Design Dictionary

Watch: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Hashbrown no filter)

Listen: The Lively Show (my all time favorite podcast)

Follow: I Have This Thing with Floors on Instagram


Check out my latest post, Spring Design Reads on The DC Ladies

Have a good week!


[Some links may be affiliate links]

Spring Has Sprung

Happy Monday! It’s sunny out and today is opening day for Major League Baseball which makes me a very happy lady. Here’s a rainbowy inspiration board of furniture and decorative accessories from around the web to brighten your day (not to all be used in one room [unless you want a seizure]). I love doing these collages–I already have a green one, I think I might continue making them in other colors.

(I also have a few more inspiration boards/collages on The DC Ladies. Check them out here.)


Other things I’m loving from around the interwebs: Should I Wash My Hair Today? Flowchart il_570xN.578269029_fyqk Kate Winslet Titanic Costume Test: (that phone in the second pic!)


Have a great week!


It’s the Most Wonderful Month of the Year


I have approximately 7,468 things I should be doing right now–my thesis, scanning my portfolio work to put online (Hey! Anyone want to hire me? Looking for a full time interior designer position this May post graduation). So naturally the logical thing to do right now is make a March inspiration board.

Not sure about y’all, but I am o-v-e-r winter. I am really hoping to find a job in California so that I never have to live through winter again (and be near my sister, of course). The thought that rolls around in my head all winter is “I just have to make it through February.” Being that tomorrow is March 1st, and I am tired of gray, dirty snow, I thought I would make a spring/ green themed inspiration board.

I love March for many reasons–besides the fact that it is my birthday month (and that really isn’t even a factor because I don’t like making a big deal out of my birthday), the first day of Spring is in March, daylight savings begins in March (yay!), sometimes (not this year) Easter is in March (I will never be too old for an Easter basket, no matter what my parents say).

So here is a few fun green decorative items, listed in no particular order.

Love Bird by Stray Dog Designs

J Bright Letter Throw Pillow by Land of Nod

Velvet Wingback Chair by Anthropologie

Villa Napkin by Anthropologie

Woven Raffia Frames by Serena and Lily

Jungle Diamond Cushion by Furbish

Wire Basket by Clever Spaces

Sinnlig Crisp Apple Scented Candles by IKEA

Astro Sage Wool Micro Hooked Rug by Dash & Albert

Plus some items that didn’t make it onto the board:

Epic Battle Wallpaper by Flavor Paper

Solvinden Solar Powered Light by IKEA

Flora Inlay Mirror by Anthropologie


I also made a similar board for The DC Ladies which will be posted later this week. Check the link in a few days to get the sources for all the items below.


Have a happy March!

What Makes a Good Coffee Shop?

“I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy coffee shop, asking him the design team to love her for dim lighting, over-sized, comfy couches by a roaring fire that I can curl up in.” -Notting Hill/ Julie

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I’ve been spending a lot of time recently in coffee shops since my main focus for this semester is writing my thesis. I quit working full-time last spring and have just been doing very part-time design work and consulting for a few other designers since then, so I don’t have a real office. I do have a desk in my room, but I have a hard time working in there–I don’t like my sleeping and working spaces to be one and the same. So on most days, you can find me at my local Starbucks.

Living in the DC suburbs, there aren’t a plethora of locally owned, small coffee shops that don’t mind you sitting in them for 17 hours on end mooching off their wifi, so unfortunately I have to continue to feed the beast of chain coffee shops.

I’ve been listening to a the Around the Table podcast a lot in the past few weeks, and on a recent episode they talked about their ideas on what makes a good coffee shop. Here are my two cents, with more of a design view of things.

A good coffee shop can be your third place. A few definitions of third place, from around the web:

“In community building, the third place (or third space) is the social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of home and the workplace.” –Wikipedia

“Oldenburg identifies third places, or “great good places,” as the public places on neutral ground where people can gather and interact. In contrast to first places (home) and second places (work), third places allow people to put aside their concerns and simply enjoy the company and conversation around them. Third places “host the regular, voluntary, informal, and happily anticipated gatherings of individuals beyond the realms of home and work.”” –Ray Oldenburg, Ph.D.

A third place is where you can feel relaxed, not rushed, a place where you feel at home.

My main haunt is a Starbucks about 10 minutes away from me–there are two closer Starbucks and two other coffee shops along the way, but this particular one is worth the drive for a few reasons, mostly all related to the ambiance, layout and design of the building.

A good coffee shop is warm and welcoming.

One of my favorite parts of my Starbucks is the fireplace, as you can see pictured above. I am a huge proponent of fireplaces–I think they are appropriate in just about every space. (Doctor’s office? DMV? Sure why not!) If I were to design my dream home there would be a fireplace in every room. I think they are fine in warmer weather regions–you can buy ones that don’t emit heat. They give off the impression of “home” that just automatically makes you feel welcome.

Another coffee chain, Caribou, which had several locations throughout metro DC was taken over by Peet’s several months ago. I was super bummed Caribou and their amaaaazing milk chocolate hot chocolate went away, but excited for Peet’s to come to the area because I’ve heard great things about their coffee, but… THEY GOT RID OF THE FIREPLACE. I just want to sit down and talk to their design time and ask them “why… how could you do this to me.” I understand Peet’s has their own brand and design they implement in all their stores, but if there is already a beautifully designed fireplace in a store, you keep the dang fireplace. (Rant over.)

Another must is temperature–they talked about this in the ATT podcast, but freezing cold coffee shops are, in the words of Liz Lemon, a deal breaker. I don’t expect coffee shops to be as warm as I’d like them, roughly the temperature of the inside of a space heater on full blast, but if I am chilly even with a sweater on, sorry coffee shop, it’s not happening.

LLimage source

A good coffee shop has dim lighting.

…But also spaces that are not so dim, because normal people need normal people lighting to see/ talk/ interact/ work. I like spaces with little overhead lighting and lots of ambient and task lighting, but I know that is not for everyone. However, there is absolutely, without a doubt, no reason or need for tube fluorescent lighting in a coffee shop (or anywhere, it’s the worst, but that’s my irrational issue). While the light that human brains are used to and drawn to–incandescent is quickly being phased out, LED lighting is becoming the norm is just about every space, residential and commercial. LED lighting, and lighting design in general is changing so fast, that there have been huge improvements since I took my lighting design course a year and a half ago. LED lighting is constantly being tweaked and made better so that it not only is super energy-efficient, it also puts out a really soft light. (I am really passionate about lighting in commercial spaces. Have an hour or 57? I will talk your ear off about good lighting.)

A good coffee shop is quiet, but not too quiet.

I’m not sure if someone fell in the and hit the volume button at my favorite Starbucks, but the music has gotten really loud, making it harder to concentrate while here. Which is another reason that spurred on this post, I’ve been thinking about breaking up with my bestie Starbucks in search of a quieter one.

On the other end of the spectrum, you don’t want a shop so quiet that it is uncomfortable and you can hear the customer on the other end of the store chewing. Soft music in the background is a necessity.

Not helping the noise level at all at my favorite ‘bucks is the fact that there are very little soft surfaces in this store. Lots of tile and wood combined with the fact that this Starbucks is two stories means that sounds aren’t absorbed but rather amplified and echo. Which leads me to…

A good coffee shop is designed using a variety of materials.

Wood, tile, upholstered surfaces, window treatments… use them all. If you are going to use hard surfaces on the floor, as opposed to carpet–there needs to be ample soft surfaces to absorb noise as well as create a softness to the space.

A good coffee shop has a variety of seating options.

An important part of any well-designed space is the ability for the user to make adjustments to their environment. Adjustable height desks are a huge trend in office design (and one that is here to stay I’m guessing), and it’s because we are recognizing that we all are shaped differently, work differently and need varying options for seating in order to be productive. I would be happy with a coffee shop full of oversized sofas, but that’s not for everyone. Communal tables, two tops, four tops, round tables, square tables…. BANQUETTE seating, oh my, let’s not forget banquette/ booth seating. Customers need to have a variety of seating (upholstered/ non-upholstered) and table options.

A good coffee shop has a well designed ceiling.

Really any well designed space should have a carefully thought out ceiling design. In a coffee shop, really tall ceilings are not the best idea. If a space has high ceilings, a well designed coffee shop would drop the ceiling in various locations. Lowered ceilings make a space feel more comfortable and safe. A space with high ceilings gives the impression of awe and grandeur (e.g. Cathedrals, museums, etc…). Since we humans spend the first 9 months of our existence comfy cozy inside our mom, we naturally feel more comfortable in cozier spaces. A really tall ceiling can feel very daunting and intimidating, which does not lend itself well to having a cup of coffee with a friend.

A good coffee shop has many, many outlets.

This was another thing the girls (I say as if they are my BFF) mentioned in their podcast. Coffee shops need quad outlets at least every four feet in the walls, and several locations on the floor. And really coffee shops designed today need to have outlets with USB ports in them.

And last but not least… A good coffee shop has fast wifi. And free wifi. Amen.

 PS- Coffee shop chains, if you are reading this, you have GOT to get on the coworking train. Shops with rentable by the day/ week/ month, secure office spaces….I (and start-up businesses/ freelancers) would be ALL OVER THAT. I will design them for you!

Over and out.

Oh, and… I’ve decided to close comments on my posts for a plethora of reasons (maybe I’ll write a post on this…). Feel free to drop me a line on twitter or via the contact page above if you have a comment. Thanks!

Best Of

BestOfLogoHey all!

Here’s what I’m loving this week–going to share it in non-collage format. Makes it a little more straightforward to comment on each thing:


Joan’s Corn Toaster Muffins– The other day at Whole Foods I met Joan herself, who was handing out samples of her gluten free toaster muffins. I was about to say no immediately upon hearing the words ‘gluten free’, because I love me my gluten, y’all. I’m naturally a little wary of gluten free products, but YUM these are good corn muffins.  I ended up buying a pack, and they don’t disappoint. Not a paid advertisement, I just really liked them! And I love supporting a woman-owned, small business!

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Clear Clinic Laboratories Vanished Clear Spot Treatment– The other day when out to drinks with a friend at a dimly lit restaurant, she let me know I had something on my face, food she thought. T’was actually a big fat zit, thanks for pointing that out. I have to admit, taking off my makeup at the end of the day and properly moisturizing/ tonerizing it (I know I made that word up), is such a drag, so sometimes I just do the bare minimum and end up zitty.  I like this spot treatment, it’s better than any I’ve tried so far. I found out about it through my Ipsy membership. I’m finding that with each monthly box, both Ipsy and Birchbox, I find one product I really love, which makes it worth it to keep up the subscriptions even though I have beauty samples coming out my ears. Again, not getting any money for plugging this (or any product on here).

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 Jack Rogers Wedges– I saw a girl wearing a similar pair of Jack Rogers wedges the other day, and gosh darn it they were cute. Definitely going on my wish list.

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Gap Ultra Skinny Pants– These pants are my jam, y’all. I heard about them from Nicole at Making it Lovely, and man are they a great pair of pants. Just an overall great fit, and I always get tons of compliments when I wear them. Great wardrobe basic.

My sister has a new foster dog, Bagel. If you live in the Los Angeles area and are interested in adopting him, check out his profile page. Here is a cute video she put together of him!


Have a great Thursday, all!

Design Critique: Chick-fil-A Tysons West


Hey! I’m going to start posting design critiques of recently opened/ renovated local commercial spaces. After having my designs critiqued in class for the past few years, I thought it would be fun to turn the tables and share my thoughts on the design of area establishments. As an (almost–May 2015) interior designer, whenever I walk into a space, I am naturally critiquing the design. So I thought, heck, why don’t I share my thoughts. Maybe two or three people out there will care. Here goes! (In a rambling, ranting, stream-of-consciousness writing style, so bear with me.)

Let me start by saying I am so frickin excited we FINALLY got a Chick-fil-A in Tysons. It’s about time. Currently the closest one is in Devil’s Armpit, Virginia (whoops, I mean Seven Corners. I loath Seven Corners, Virginia). Would have been nice if this new location a was drive-thru, but I guess it’s not hurting anyone to get off their tushes and walk inside. I’ve been saying for years (well, to myself, so no wonder no one was listening) that whoever puts a Chick-fil-A in Tysons is going to make bank. From the two times I have been there since it opened, it is clear that they are not hurting for business–there was a steady stream of customers both times. (And Tysons NEEDS more walkable lunch spots for the gazillions of people that work in the area. Tysons was designed as such an anti-pedestrian friendly neighborhood, so I’m glad that with the metro opening and therefore more businesses coming to the area, people are out walking more. Rant over.)


I was nervous before going in that the space would follow suit with most fast food restaurants and have harsh, fluorescent lighting. Fast food restaurants do this on purpose–to get you in and out the door quick so the next person can take your spot (and therefore they make more money). I was happy to see that it was nicely lit–not McDonald’s bright, but not Starbucks soft. Great lighting for eating and conversation, but also if you want to chill and do some work and take advantage of their wifi.


The bar height seating and the Tolix style bar stools were a nice touch. Various seating options (heights, configurations, etc) are great in restaurant design. Not only does it help a restaurant design not seem static, it’s just nice to have options.


The countertops were a marble lookalike. Loved them, trying to figure out what material they are. I THINK they are Silestone, could be wrong though. The two times I have been in there I have been rubbing and knocking on the counters to see what it was, and I’m sure I looked like total freak.


A subway tile backsplash always gets an A+ in my book. Brushed stainless is a good option for restaurant because duh, clean-ability. The larger white subway tile throughout the restaurant is nice as well. Plus they have a dark grout, which is always a good idea. I never understand why restaurants use a light colored grout–besides the fact that it tends to yellow with age, it just gets dirty.


Wish I had a better picture of these lights, again I was trying to not look like a freak while snapping pictures. They added a vintage touch which was a nice contrast to the other more industrial fixtures.


I loved this seating area. I’ve been seeing table height ‘bars’ (or maybe more appropriately a benching type of seating), more and more in cafe style restaurant design and I like it. Regular chair height seating (18″) is my preference above bar stools as not only am I short, I have freakishly short legs, so even regular height chairs often feel like high chairs. Again, love the Tolix style stools, and they look nice against the reddish-brownish Terrazzo counters. I’m always a fan of surfaces made from recycled materials. LEED points for sure (don’t know if they were going for LEED certification, but if so, recycled material countertops would count for credit).

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This wood-wrapped wall was a nice touch–it broke up the space and added visual interest. Not sure if they were going for the look of reclaimed wood throughout the space, that’s what it appeared to be between this wall and the bar height table. I doubt it was actually reclaimed, as wood used in commercial spaced has to be have proper fire resistance. (If you do use reclaimed wood in a commercial setting, make sure to get it treated for fire resistance.) Throughout the restaurant was laminate wood wainscoting in a gray-blue color, which I thought was lovely.

I didn’t snap a picture of the ceilings, but in addition to a dropped 2×2 ceiling they also had a lowered gypsum (drywall) ceiling above the middle of the restaurant. Changes in ceiling height help a space feel comfy and help zone off seating areas. If there is one thing I have learned in design school it is don’t forget about the ceilings! I’ve heard you loud and clear prof’s, and ceilings are always something I notice in spaces.

All in all, I think the designer did an awesome job! A nice blend of vintage and industrial FF&E. Welcome to Tysons, Chick-fil-A!

Psst–Chick-fil-A, would love it if you would open up another location closer to McLean and on 123–just a thought! Any location you put inside the beltway is going to make major bucks!

Thanks for reading! I hope I didn’t use too much designery jargon and the lay person will be understand this! Going to critique new Peet’s Coffee and Sweetgreen locations in my area next. Stay tuned!