We have spoken exclusively to Charles Leon, president of the British Institute of Interior Design, about the potential of starting and progressing a career in this discipline in the UK new homes industry, and the best learning, training and experience to get to secure the job you want.
Why should someone consider a career as an interior designer?
Design affects almost every part of our lives. It is a constant engagement with the way people live and behave, our productivity in our workspace, the way that we relax in our homes, and even affects the clothes that we choose to wear each morning.
The profession of interior designer offers a broad and highly varied day-to-day working life, and the opportunity to explore several sectors of design specialism. It combines the efficient and functional use of space with an understanding of aesthetics, and offers the opportunity to work across different commercial, leisure and residential settings.
Why should someone consider a career as an interior designer? The answer is simple. If you’re a creative person who loves design, and has a desire to create beautiful and functional environments for people to live, work and play in, interior design is the career for you.
What is the average starting salary for an interior designer?
The salary for an interior designer in the UK can vary depending on the company, location and the projects involved. The average salary for a junior designer can range from around £18,000 to £23,000, whereas more experienced interior designers can expect to earn £25,000 to £40,000. With more experience, senior designers can earn over £45,000, whilst creative and design directors can reach up to £75,000, and sometimes more.
What training do you require?
In the UK, interior designers are not legally required to have formal training, although you will usually need a relevant degree, foundation degree or HND to be a professional designer. The BIID Registered Interior Designer title, launched in 2016, is a protected professional title designed to support and nurture interior designers to achieve. It’s the perfect way for clients, designers and other built environment professionals to identify interior designers who have met the BIID’s rigorous professional standards, and make sure that their ideas will be in safe hands.
Professional membership of The British Institute of Interior Design (BIID) is one of the key ways that a designer can demonstrate their professional competence to their clients, peers and to their employers. The BIID is the professional institute for interior designers in the UK and offers different levels of membership, providing the support, development opportunities and education each individual needs at the different stages in their careers.
The BIID further supports its members with an annual Continued Professional Development (CPD). This ensures designers can gain access to the latest developments and update their skills in a rapidly changing industry. It also provides a platform to engage with experts in the industry and a forum for exchanging ideas and best practice, which is incredibly invaluable in our industry.
What skills do employers look for in prospective interior designers?
Whilst design flair is itself a significant asset to the designer, more recently, education and work experience have proven the most effective tools for the transition into establishing successful practice and a reliable reputation as a designer. The BIID actively supports its members through its programme of Continuing Professional Development seminars and workshops, allowing members to keep their knowledge current and to stay up to date with the latest regulations on best practice in all areas of design.
The interior design process is a complex one involving knowledge of both the construction industry and the creative arts. As a result, in order to be a successful interior designer demands a mastery of a broad range of skills and expertise in many different areas. A career in interior design also requires a high level of communication skills and being able to translate the client’s ideas on paper into reality. Depending on the project, an interior designer will need to interpret your brief, identify potential problems, comply with any relevant regulations and manage builders, craftsman and other workers on site as appropriate. Is there anything we don’t do?
What’s the best thing about the job?
I believe the best thing about being an interior designer is having the ability to design and bring to life an idea. The environments and the objects we create and use, reflect how we feel, how we are and how we want to be. In this way, interior designers can impact the lives of people in a given environment in the best possible way. A designer can create the emotional bond between the consumer and the design experience, and that is what I love the most.
Leon adds: “The government initiative to ‘build more homes’ has, in my opinion, resulted in more ‘luxury’ apartments being constructed which has attracted a lot of foreign investment, particularly in London along the river. These are largely purchased as investments and very few, as far as I can see, have employed an interior designer. However, this has attracted more designers involved in show apartments and homes. These tend to be very stylised and targeted to a very specific lifestyle, aspirational market. The majority of purchasers of these apartments and homes tend not to use the services of an interior designer.
“The top end of the market is, and always has been, fairly stable. It is much less cost-conscious and commissions come from individuals who are time-poor and wish to maintain a lifestyle.
“We have noticed that with the recent surge in the commercial construction and building sector, there is a little less residential work happening. This may be, however, a lot to do with our focus as much as our client’s focus.”