Lisa Ferguson gets JobShadowed. Lisa and her full scope interior design services can be found at www.lisafergusoninteriordesign.com. You can also follow her on her Twitter feed in the sidebar.
What do you do for a living?
I am a, 11 years and counting, residential designer of over 350 interiors that are equally functional as beautiful!
How would you describe what you do?
I manage renovations and design spaces from concept to magazine worthy completion that are as unique as each client. Form always follows function and optimal space planning.
What does your work entail?
Discovery meetings with a clients, site documentation visits, organization and function planning, design concept development, creation of floor and electrical plans, elevation and millwork drawings, sourcing and specification of all colours, finishes and furnishings including designs of custom furniture and kitchens. Meetings with trades and suppliers, paperwork, sourcing, overseeing trades for renovation and decoration projects from concept to completion.
What’s a typical work week like?
There is no typical work week. As you can imagine offering all of the above services means no two days are ever alike. And, when you think you will be doing one thing, your day can change on a dime! This is big part of what I love about running my own design business!
How did you get started?
At twelve I was building furniture in my parents basement. I spent twelve years doing sales, marketing for home decor companies while going to design school part time. I also worked in product development and made several trips to China with major brands, to put my designs in to production. For the last 11 years I have used the incredible experience of the first twelve years in the industry, to catapult my career in interior design after appearing in The Toronto Star, Style at Home and The National Post.
What do you like about what you do?
I love meeting people, discovering who they uniquely are, and giving them a space uniquely them often gleaned through unspoken cues. One that will be beautiful, but will also change the way they function in their space. For example, recently I found a french antique chair that converts into a ladder so my client can easily access the top of her built-in closet. I love presenting furnishings that clients can’t believe are beyond perfect for them and would have never thought of on their own or known where to acquire. Taking the not so fun part of renovating out of my clients hands is also what I oddly live for!
What do you dislike?
The business side of things, the long hours, the liability of having my own business are the not so fun pieces for me.
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
I charge by the hour [ with project totals estimated at the beginning of a project ] and have a markup on net wholesale goods [ often resale is below regular retails ]!
How much money do you make as an interior designer?
This year will be six figures, but I have had the odd year where I was essentially making minimum wage.
How much money do interior decorators and designers make starting out?
Starting out working for a firm you can expect to make $18 hr as a junior designer. What most are surprised to learn is that the junior designer role doesn’t include any designing but ordering items chosen by a senior designer [ with seven plus years experience ] and inspecting all orders when they come in. Also meeting clients and being involved in the actual design process often comes in year five.
What education, schooling, or skills are needed to become a decorator or designer?
A few people manage to be fantastic successful designers without a related education. Typical education is 3 years and I would strongly encourage it. It gives you credibility of important design principles, opens more doors and helps you to understand what you don’t know- preventing costly mistakes down the road. Very important skills are strong ability to organize, high level of attention to detail, ability to work on a team and be a self starter at the same time. The ability to think out of the box and problem solve will take you far. If you plan to start your own business eventually, an understanding of how to run a business is the biggest part of the equation.
What is most challenging about what you do?
The most challenging thing about what I do is running a business. You have to have a good business sense, good marketing plan and all the other things necessary to run a good business. You need to market yourself as an expert, nurture the business side of things and carry the burden of resolving big challenges even in supposedly off hours all while providing a great finished result to my clients.
What is most rewarding?
It’s most rewarding to have a business based mostly on referrals. To have clients rave to their friends that I delivered a beautiful space beyond their imagination and uniquely them…. and fundamentally changed how they interact in their space.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
Please job shadow at least two design professionals before you commit to school. Discover what the real world is like and if this career path is best fit for you. Also, complete the Strengthsfinder 2.0 assessment by Tom Rath. If your strengths are a good fit for this career, you will be very clear on what you uniquely bring to the table, and be able to articulate precisely to prospective employers where you may intern what your strengths are. Also consider taking some courses on running a business, marketing and administration.
How much time off do you get/take?
I work 6 days a week and take one week of vacation a year with a monthly day at the spa, but am working at a much more balanced work week.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
The most common misconception that people have is that designing is glamourous. It’s ten percent glamourous and ninety percentage very very hard work. Clients often think great work can be done very quickly and cheaply if they haven’t attempted a project themselves. In fact, a great project with a satisfied client and a magazine worthy finished result requires a high level of attention to detail and more than a few pieces of furniture!
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
I am passionate about inspiring and elevating others. Especially those with less. www.decormentor.com , which I launched this year, offers insight into the interior design world of top designers, collaboration opportunities for home decor brands and is based on a business model that will allow us to work on philanthropic projects.
What else would you like people to know about your job/career?
Up until recently I have found have found being a designer and entrepreneur was a very lonely endeavour. Thankfully, the walls of interior design secrecy are coming down and I am finding peers who are very open to engaging, collaborating, sharing, inspiring and elevating each other.