Asked on Jan 1, 2012

Good resources for beginning interior designer

Culpepper Carpets and Interiors, Inc.Donna McCrummenWallsTreat Studio/ Kass Wilson


I am starting out as an interior designer and would like to know if there are any books/magazines/web sites that you can recommend for useful design ideas.
All of the resources that I've seen are only showing pictures of lavish, very fancy homes and extremely expensive products. I am looking for something more down-to-earth,. My clientele is not wealthy. They are the normal folk, looking to make some nice improvements in their normal homes.
I want to learn useful information – good tips for beginners. For example, ideas for maximizing space, working with light, understanding colors, etc...
Would really appreciate your suggestions!
25 answers
  • Tonia Bozeman
    on Jan 1, 2012

    Interior design blogs are a great place to start. Most often times they show their own homes. Though when looking at the lavish interiors you should take inspiration from it and make it your own.

  • Pamela, I provide design service to similar clientele and I take inspiration from magazines and books that show these lavish picture. That itself is a great marketing tool for you. You can tell your client I can make your space look like this but for much lesser!!! 1. As a beginner one of the things you should do is find a mentor in the field, HT is a great place to learn teach and get inspired. You can ask a question here and get free answers and you don't even have to take anyone out for lunch! As Tonia said blogs are a great way to keep in touch with the happening in the industry, read "Cococozy" (Blog) This lady inspires me because she is not even in the design industry but started her blog in 2009 and now has a million followers, she writes about the latest in the design industry and also has her own furnishings product. 2. Create a brand, since you are doing cost effective design make sure your brand says just that. Creating a brand can be difficult, but take help from somebody for website development, marketing and branding. It costs money to do all this so take it step by step. My website has been in the making since 2 years and I think it is still not ready. (www.urbanmotifs,com). I don't have the money to splurge but I take baby steps and I know I will have a complete website one day. 3. Write a blog yourself, about cost effective design. "Practice what you preach" and do things to your home and write about it in your blog. 4. Pinterest and are great ways of getting inspired for free and learning what's latest in among other designers. You can also use Pinterest as a tool. I use it as a mood board and present boards to my client that suit their taste. It kinda helps me learn what my client likes and dislikes. 5. Join a forum of designers 6. Volunteer your services for an established designer 7. Network with related professions, communicate with people in the industry you never know, your electrician may get you a project one day! 8. The design industry can be very challenging and to keep afloat keep learning, you may have to learn several other skills and not keep all your eggs in one basket. "Diversity" is the name of the game. These are the things that came to my mind, but feel free to holler anytime you need help, I'll be glad to talk. I started out in 2009 and the journey has not been easy. But all I can say it follow your passion and have a plan. Good Luck!!!

  • Elizabeth D
    on Jan 1, 2012

    I agree about the blogs. I was trying to learn the basics of how to put my house together and most of the shelter magazines just intimidated me. Then I found blogs like Young House Love, Centsational Girl, House Tweaking, etc and saw what amazing things they could do on a budget. It was very inspiring.

  • 3po3
    on Jan 2, 2012

    You can also find plenty of inspiration and ideas right here on Hometalk. As you can tell from her insightful response, Yamini is at the top of the list, but there are some other great designers on here. Just search for topics such as "choosing paint colors" or "redesigning small spaces," and send messages to some of the designers who impress you.

  • find a good crafstman with shop to expand your usage of materials

  • Pamela S
    on Jan 2, 2012

    Thanks everyone for all of this useful info. I'm also interested in knowing if there are any good books on the subject that you would recommend (or are books a thing of the past - especially in design, an ever-changing field)?

  • Steve, Thank you for the compliments, I am trying and I wish to be an established designer one day! @Pamela, Books are always good but the design world is fast paced, so keep book on your table for inspiration but carry an IPad with picture from travel, magazines and books. Buy books for basics like business for interior designer, to understand the insides, books explaining colors and color system, books on rendering and how to communicate with clients etc. Walk into any bookstore and check out the latest but don't waste a lot of money buying them.

  • I am curious whether you mean interior designer or interior decorator? There is a vast difference!

  • You are welcome to visit my blog. Each projects discusses "design lessons" that can be used for ANY size home.

  • Interior design magazines is instant way to get great designer ideas and stay on top of the trends and get inspired! I have known many fashion designers and interior decorators to tear out lots of pics. I admit it is where we get ideas for staging too! The web can be a great source and a good website to post all your favorite pics, ideas and inspirations is at and you can create storyboards and is a good site to link with your interior design website if don't have one up already! Good luck with your ventures!

  • Terry Haas
    on Jan 3, 2012

    Pamela--congratulations on starting out. You are going to love it. You can always stay current on HGTV sights, free and easy to navigate. (Designed to Sell being one of my favorites!!!) I also get a ton of ideas from Southern Living magazine. You can also make your own resource guide--take pictures of rooms or ideas when you see them--download to web and be your own inspiration--remember, you are the pro and the clients are trusting your likes/taste as well. Keep me posted on how you are doing.

  • Rule4 Building Group
    on Jan 3, 2012

    Our remodeling customers love Houzz for ideas and although some of the ideas are expensive the resource is so large and varied that it's a great place for inspiration which can then be transferred into a less expensive reality. I personally have a number of idea books which I use to gather ideas for my own home in the future. Good luck with your new venture, starting your own business is very rewarding. Allison

  • Pamela S
    on Jan 8, 2012

    Thanks again for all of your encouragement - hope to be posting my projects here soon :) !

  • Seriously Pam - check the laws in your state. In many places, it is illegal to call yourself an interior designer without the proper credentials and licensing, just as it is to call oneself an architect or doctor without. same Find out the rules before plunging in

  • Mike N
    on Jan 9, 2012

    +1 there to Nichter..........with the proper credentials and formal education, it would seem to me the concepts for which you seek advice would have have been addressed, no? My apologies if I'm incorrect, but Mr. Nichter is spot on; you could find yourself in a world of trouble, costing thousands (if you're lucky) or ten's of thousands in liability. Are you insured? Errors & omissions? Are you incorporated or an LLC, working for yourself? My advice would be to catch on with an established firm where you can truly learn the ropes, and experience all sides of the business. How spaces work and colors play with each other may be lower on your list of priorities than you think.

  • Pamela S
    on Jan 10, 2012

    Thanks for the heads up. I was under the impression that for residential work I don't need any license and there are no liability issues, but please correct me if I'm wrong. Kevin Veler, can you shed some light on the subject?

  • Pamela, almost every state law is different on licensing issues. In Georgia, Registered Interior Designers are licensed but interior designers do not have to be. Interior designers however have to be very careful about what they do on the construction side (eg hiring a contractor as your sub) or they may be a residential contractor. There is also a distinction between title acts and practice acts (which is in very oversimplified terms - do they regulate the practice or do they regulate the use of the title but not the practice). Maryland does have a Board of Certified Interior Designers ( but as to specific information as to when you must be licensed and if that is the only way to use the title "interior designer", I cannot advise specifically as I am not licensed in MD. There is a link to the Maryland law there too. It appears from a quick 2 minute read that there are different requirements depending on what you want to do. Some webpages indicate MD is a title state and you must be licensed to use the title CID. My suggestion would be to visit a ASID meeting (there is a Maryland chapter) and study their website for info. There is also the NKBA which also has a Baltimore chapter. These organizations can help provide you with good information as well as great networking opportunity and education on new products and other tips. If you get to know people, you have potential resources to discuss how they handle matters. These groups also offer certifications that are helpful credentials and great knowledge about issues you may be facing. At some point you also need a good local attorney with knowledge of these issues. A few dollars spent upfront for a good contract and to make sure you do not unintentionally violate licensing laws is well spent and can save you thousands later. An initial hour consultation with an attorney (like me) can provide a lot of information and be very cost effective. Hope this helps.

  • Mike N
    on Jan 10, 2012

    @Kevin Veler - excellent advice. To the best of my knowledge and according to this site ( ), a license is required in the state of Maryland. However you make a good point regarding how titles are used and what legal requirements need to be met. Great post!

  • Pamela S
    on Jan 10, 2012

    @Kevin - thanks so much for the information! I definitely want to do this right, and you have provided me with some great resources. @Mike - It's not so clear on that site that Md. actually requires licensing for all design work. It is very vague, and it is a site for a school. I would like to know from a gov't source. But thanks for alerting me - I will keep researching...

  • Lulu Dubin
    on Jan 11, 2012

    Good luck. I've always wanted learn more about interior design. Let us know how it goes.

  • Mike N
    on Jan 11, 2012

    You're welcome, Pamela. I realize that's a school source, but I guess I posted the wrong link. I found a site that listed the states that require licensing and Maryland did show up. I have a designer in my office. I'll ask her what the deal is and report back!

  • Pamela, There are also other titles and credentials within the interior design community. Programs are available online to receive these certifications. A good example is "Home Stagers".

  • Pamela, I think that these books will be very, very helpful to you. I recommend them in my classes. "Home Decorating for Dummies" by Katharine Kaye McMillian & Patricial Hart McMillian, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Decorating Basics" by Mary Ann Young, Home Therapy by Lauri Ward (or any of her books). I would buy them used off of Amazon to save lot's of money.

  • Donna McCrummen
    on Jan 28, 2012

    Congratulations for jumping into the world of entrepreneurism - Kass made a great suggestion. Take a Home Staging course. I took a course in Arlington VA - I see you are in Baltimore. Give it a google to see what you come up with. Home redesign using what you already have sounds like a very good business model in today's economy. GOOD LUCK TO YOU.

  • Lauri Wards books show how to start with what you have. Young House Love is also a fun, good blog to read.

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