I often write blog posts about things I get a lot of emails about, and one thing I've received a few emails about, and that I've spoken to people quite a bit about in real life as well,  is where I would recommend to study Interior Design or Decoration and then the specifics about a general career change to Design.



I have wanted to be a Designer of some sort from about the age of 9. I used to frequently rearrange the furniture in my bedroom from the time I was about 8 years old, draping table cloths on the bed, moving around my pictures… I saved up for 2 years to buy my own dollhouse, and I used to love visiting one of my Aunts who would buy in all the overseas design magazines (so expensive back then!) and I'd spend all my time whilst at her house curled up on her sofa reading them obsessively.


My parents wanted me to channel my interest in Interiors into something they viewed as a more substantial level of study, and so I completed a 5 year Bachelor of Architecture degree after finishing school. I didn't enjoy it. Architecture consistently has one of the poorest student satisfaction results across all University degrees in Australia. It's a long course of endurance. But I got through it, as I'd made a deal with my parents that I could then study Interior Design at The Inchbald School of Design in London - a course highly regarded in the design industry that had turned out many of the designers whose work I admired in English House and Garden magazine (my favourite Interiors magazine).


Of course there are a variety of options available to study Interior Design or Decoration in Australia. The thing that interested me, and that sent me to London, was not in completing another 3 years of a Bachelor of Interior Design at University (and coming out with no knowledge of fabrics/ wallpapers and all the things deemed 'fluffy' - Interior Architecture at University has quite a commercial slant as this is where most end up working) but in expanding my wings in a design sense and in finding a point of difference from all the hundreds of other University graduates finishing University at a time when jobs in Architecture were incredibly scarce. Back then with no Internet, Australia was truly at the bottom of the world and ideas from overseas would take literally years to filter down here. We were at the mercy of what was brought into the country by trade agents, and the insular nature of being here meant that design was very skewed toward a certain look.


So I travelled to London, studied Interior Design and Decoration at a private design school and worked for some time as an Interior Design slave (which I wrote a little bit about here). It was a fantastic, formative experience for a design mad girl from Adelaide, and I think it's definitely influenced the way I design and opened my eyes to the possibilities that are out there. No where in Adelaide (or Sydney at that time) would you find lacquered or fabric upholstered walls, cedar lined drawers in a walk in dressing room, be lining curtains in hundreds of metres of a Pierre Frey check so that the curtains looked attractive from outside the house, specify hand appliqu├ęd borders on curtains or chinoiserie wallpaper painted by hand that was made specially to fit a room's doors and windows…and all the other myriad things that I saw being done while I worked in Interiors in London. While these things are not something I will necessarily do in my work now (few have the budget - these were projects for multi-multi millionaires), they spin off other ideas in my head that can be applied in other ways. They also left me with a life long aversion to trend driven design, which is so prevalent at the moment, and instead to appreciate an underlying quality of design and materials which will last beyond a 3 year cycle.


But of course I was a lot younger then than I am now. When people  have asked me about a change career into Interior Design I always suggest looking to London to the two big private design schools there - The Inchbald School of Design and KLC, which are both very highly regarded in the industry. If you can go in person to one of their courses, then so much the better. But both now offer online courses, accredited by Universities in the UK, in a range of design subjects and courses. They are rigorous and well thought through, and will definitely give a good grounding in design on which to build a career as well as teaching the business of design (running actual projects). For people living in a geographically vast country like Australia, and for people unable to access a design school locally due to not living in Sydney or Melbourne, or not wanting to study a 4 year Bachelor of Interior Architecture, or those looking to still work while retraining, and for those looking for world class teaching...then this is the perfect solution.



I cannot emphasise how much I loved my course all those years ago - the teachers were all experts in their field, and we'd regularly have talks from world-class London based designers. We were taken on guided tours of the V&A museum with an Oxford educated expert in decorative design. We visited stately homes, fabric showrooms, and trade shows. All things that expand your horizons in a design sense. Now to keep up a world view on design I spend a lot of time looking at International and local design magazines, reading books, visiting exhibitions and attending talks when I'm able to, and using online resources such as virtual gallery tours.



My trip to Hobart over the weekend, the subject of my last post, was a long talk fest about houses - particularly so as Romy, our Hobart hostess, has a beautiful and eclectic home and clearly a good eye for design. Earlier this year Romy decided to retrain as an Interior Designer, and has signed up for the KLC course online - study options being particularly limited in Tasmania. Romy has just restarted her blog  - now called A House in Hobart - and has promised to blog about her design course and all the beautiful houses in Hobart near her home. So if you're interested in following along with her on her on this process then drop by her blog and say hello.

All images via Pinterest

31 comments:


  1. I'll just say it once more. You need a column in one of our trend focused home mags.... more precisely they need you.

    How wonderful your London course sounds. I grew up on English home mags as my mum is a complete anglophile.

    Interestingly I recently met a woman who has just left interior design work and gone to do a very dry government job instead. She was sick of being the arbitrator between couples decorating their homes. She found the sourcing etc no fun anymore. I was amazed that she was walking in the opposite direction to most ! x

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    1. Haha Ann - I'm not sure they'll want me… too many lectures about the overuse of throws, cushions and colour coordinated display vases masking good design would probably work against the advertisers!

      I loved that course so much. I just remember on my first day feeling like I'd finally found my tribe - I honestly felt ecstatic.

      Funny about the woman who got out of design, but like anything there are bad bits too, the design is a fraction of what you do (the drafting, admin and chasing suppliers most of it), and of course clients can be tricky at time… sounds like she had rather a lot of them! x

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  2. I agree with Ann re the column.
    Thankyou for this post. I love hearing about people's careers and how they came to be in them.

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    1. Do you know I'd only thought about the furniture rearranging last week - I've quite literally only just thought that wasn't entirely normal for an 8 year old! I always like to hear how people end up where they do too xx

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  3. So interesting Heidi I've loved design and houses as long as I can remember. My Mum and Dad would buy American house magazines because they were building . I can remember looking at them for hours and reading Enid Blyton.( not sure how they fit together ) I'd definitely study interior design Back in the day it wasn't even a career option. Actually I'd never even heard it mentioned.
    Trends easily suck you in but my house has never really been in fashion.
    I know I'm really sick of grey.
    When you are looking for stuff you sure see a lot of the same.
    Look forward to reading Romy's blog.

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    1. That's so funny about Interiors Mags and Enid Blyton! I was probably a bit the same. I have a few real life friends who have said to me that design of any sort was never an option they considered as a future career. They were channelled into an alternative, and are now frustrated decorators.
      I'm sick of grey too. I do have it in my house, but if I open another Australian design mag and see every house in black and grey I will scream! There was an issue of Belle around 6 months ago that was honestly ridiculous in the greyness. But lots of colour is coming in overseas, and will trickle through down here too. I do blame open plan living to some extent though - it's much harder to decorate with colour in open plan living areas. Separate rooms are far easier as you don't need the same flow. x

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  4. I love your blog...Always interesting.
    Thank you. Linda C.

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  5. Truly enjoyed reading this post Heidi. I loved the insight you provided into design and awareness from an early age. Your story of rearranging your bedroom made me chuckle as I too used to do this all the time. My bedroom bookshelf was my little stage to showcase goodies beyond books that I'd spend endless hours rearranging. It just goes to show that you are living your passion if today you've carved out a well-earned career in design, bravo!

    I'm off to visit Romy's blog now.

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    1. That doesn't surprise me at all that you were making vignettes at an early age CD! You have such a good eye for collections it obviously has been well honed from an early age.

      I know you'll love Romy's blog. She has a shared passion for Interiors, antiques and art and travels somewhere exotic every year. xx

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  6. An great post, as usual Heidi! I was very creative as a child and from as early as I could hold a pencil, drew houses and plans. I desperately wanted to be an architect but discovering boys and marrying young prevented me from committing to the lengthy course, a decision I have always regretted. I encouraged my younger sister to consider that career though which she did, and detested. She is now working in Public Art. So interesting to hear about your educational path. I am ashamed to admit that I am easily swayed by trends (though I like to think I'm a little ahead of the game thus exceeding the "3 year cycle") We moved 'upstairs' this week and I have bought so many 'trend' items in the lead up that my long awaited bedroom is an absolute ghastly clash...and very grey! Your comment about your aversion to trend driven design particularly rings true and trying to discover and stick to 'my' own style will be my next goal!

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    1. That's very interesting about your own path KL, and I can clearly see that you have a very deep interest in design… I think the wheat from the chaff is sorted when you are living through a very long renovation/ build process and yet you still watch renovation shows on tv etc! Clearly a life calling!
      We are all susceptible to trend based design to some extent, so don't be too hard on yourself! I have a bit of chevron in my daughter's room, which I now look at and think "why?!" It's only lampshades but you can't help but be influenced by what is going on around you. xx

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  7. Heidi, love this post as it is just like reminiscing about all of the chats we have had on this subject. Am loving the course too....see Megan Morton is coming to Hobart later this month so am contemplating some value adding! Scored my first gig last night at a cocktail party when the conversation invariably turned to wallpaper, upholstery and the amazing things that turn up at the local auction house....which of course are my favourite topics of chit chat.....I'm heading to a friends place to workshop her house! Rx

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    1. I saw Megan M is going to be doing The School in Hobart, so that would be very interesting - please go and report back to me. Unfortunately I can't possibly swing another trip to Hobart in such a short space of time otherwise I'd join you!
      Fab news about your first client too… you're on your way now xx

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  8. I am super impressed that you saved up for 2 years to purchase a Doll's House, you truly were comitted to your passion at a young age! Your time in London sounds fascinating and must have been a wonderful experience. Lastly, I laughed at Karen's comment above. I grew up obsessed with Enid Blyton and yet also loved reading my Mum's Architectural Digest magazines. Emma xx

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    1. It's quite the spectacular doll house Emma - my parents thought it was flash in the pan, so offered to match me dollar for dollar. I slaved on jobs around the house aged 8-10 saving every dollar I could and after two years it was mine! Then I had to furnish it….
      Weren't we all obsessed with Enid back then? I just love being able to read the books to my children now. Can't say I'm reading Arch Digest to them though! Although maybe I should try… xx

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  9. Yes pertinent post! I am thinking I might just try and get a job and see if I like it - theory is so different from reality too. I missed the Inchbald open evening because I was away but I might go to the next one. Would be interesting to hear how R is enjoying her course? My blind course got cancelled because there weren't enough people! But I want to learn how to do those things myself and also I need to do an upholstery course too. I change my mind all the time regarding this so we shall see!!

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    1. That's a shame about the blind course. If you like I can get out my contact sheet from when I was in London (I kept it) and tell you who did the curtains if you need some made up? I seem to remember using Curtain Up, who are very well known.
      I do think you should do something about your interest in design. A job would be great (if you found the right employer :)) or the course I know you'd enjoy. Plus the design colleges advertise jobs through their student base so give a good leg in. xx

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  10. I'm not sure if I had an interest in interiors as a child (can't really remember any interests at all…other than Enid Blyton.ha) but did apply for an interior design course in Uni but didn't get in (way back in the '70's). I ended up an accountant. My youngest daughter did the Diploma of Interior Decorating at RMIT and is now working for an interior decorator/window and soft furnishing retailer in Armadale. She loves it. Hopes to have her own business one day. I secretly hope to work with her in my retirement. Hey I do have the business skills :) And love interior design. I love to look at interiors and also properties on Realestate.com and imagine how I would renovate the spaces. Love landscape design too. Young Sofie and I have been known to visit open for inspections in suburbs well out of our price range just for the fun of it. Thanks for sharing your story and your home. I love this type of blog.

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    1. Design to accountant are very different career jumps Vicki! But how lovely your daughter shares your interest and is pursuing the design career you didn't get to have. And I love your plan to work with her in your retirement! Every designer needs good accounting skills behind them as otherwise you're working for free. Thank you for your lovely comment

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  11. I really like your friend Romy's blog, she has a great eye and I'm sure her re-training will be a big success.
    Your parents were quite smart in getting you to architecture school first, I have heard how hard a course of study it is but it is also an excellent classical education. My friend's daughter is currently in architecture school and she hates it, she's quite bohemian and alternative and it seems quite a bad fit for her actually... I think when she finally finishes she'll end up doing something quite different.
    I think to finish it up with design school is a perfect education though! I can tell from the help you've given me here just reading your blog that you do an excellent job for your clients. They are very fortunate to have you.
    I hope you have a wonderful weekend XO

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    1. I think Romy'll make a great designer. Half the thing is the interest and the eye, then the rest is the actualities of running a business/ project management. Do you know, my entire year level hated the course, and none of us ended up friends after University, sounds like your friend's daughter is having the same experience. Weirdly we were all so different from one another (considering the shared interest). A lot never practiced Architecture either as they weren't able to get jobs. We started with a year level of around 45, then ended up with 16 graduating. I only know of around 8 still practicing.
      Hope all is well with you Dani xx

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    2. Quite shocked to read how many people from your architecture course hated it and dropped out. It seems such a waste of their time and resources. I wonder why. The actual course content, the lecturers, or maybe they'd enrolled because of parental expectations rather than their own commitment to it?
      Have always been interested in architecture and design - but never for a career as I don't think I'd have the talent or staying power. But love reading your blog, visiting great and/or seminal buildings (eg this year Le Corbusier's Cite Radieuse in Marseille and the Corb. exhibition at the Pompidou in Paris) and reading the mags - just not shows like The Block. So fascinated by modern architects' extensions to or adaptations of older buildings, eg IM Pei's Pyramid of the Louvre and the National Gallery in Washington, also Forster's work at the British Museum. In addition, buildings designed as galleries and museums by Jean Nouvel, Renzo Piano, Gehry, etc. Hope at some stage to visit the Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre in Noumea - from pictures it looks magnificent.
      Wish I had some kind of home project we could launch as I'd love to make some changes in our little house (have learned so much from your posts and see so many mistakes we made earlier on) - but we spend all our surplus money on travel/experiences rather than on our house. As they're wonderful anyway I can't really complain. Pammie xxx

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  12. Thanks Heidi for another thoughtful post. "Trend driven design" is expertly displayed by "The Block " of which, I know, you are not a fan. But its sort of fun to spot the "trend of the week" ... pendant lights next to the bed, a butlers pantry, black taps, copper coloured kitchen sink, distressed timber feature walls. Oh yes, thats right...... they were so LAST series. Stay tuned for the NEXT series. Maybe chrome taps will be back. It takes iron will and discipline to stick to a personal style and not be swayed by trends. Judith

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    1. Funnily enough my children love The Block, so I was sort of watching it the other night (reading a book at the same time), and looking at some fairly awful 'design'. My children like to sit and critique the design! I was also reading an article recently about trends that other designers hate, and top of the list was Butlers Pantries. Which was pretty interesting… I don't mind them myself (unless people use them as their primary cooking space and then keep their actual kitchen for show only), but it's just an evolution of the open plan living with a bit of a recognition that the mess in a kitchen doesn't need to be on show all the time. I wonder if we will see a return to separated living spaces, maybe with a bit of a flow between them (wider doorways etc) in the future?
      Am not a fan of distressed timber walls though! Agree with you, it's so easy to be swayed by what's fashionable and what all your peer group like - sticking your own path on anything is always difficult. x

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  13. I find this so interesting... I'm not much into design myself but I *do* appreciate that my partner is, so I like to read your blog because it helps me give my opinion when he does things. We have a beautiful circa 1910 flat in S. Yarra. It certainly makes things a lot easier when you have a gorgeous place to start with. Love your house, reminds me of my parents', my mum can upholster and do other clever things so their house is lovely but she has much more traditional taste... i prefer things a bit more modern.

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    1. Glad I give you some ammunition when your partner is making the design decisions Sophie! But I think that works well in most partnerships - if one person is more dominant that the other about style etc, as otherwise it's WW3. I could never have married another designer - too irritating! Your mum's house sounds lovely. I do a lot of more traditional work for my older clients, so get my fix of all the beautiful trad stuff that way. I'm sure like everything though at some point the younger generation will start to embrace it all as well.

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  14. Excellent post Heidi. I so agree that trend based design is very unfortunate. I haven't got your design eye, but I do instinctively believe that classical well designed and made pieces from any era stand the test of time. Our house extensions were designed by Adelaide architect Pauline Hurren who has such an eye for symmetry and balance. We didn't want to replicate the bluestone villa but we also didn't want a concrete box. Pauline gave us beautiful, light filled spaces, with high ceilings and interesting roof angles. I believe the home is now a little bit glamorous or what I like to call has "a touch of hollywood". I'm now thinking black and white stripes for an awning over the upstairs terrace. Anyway.. really enjoyed your post. Thank you.

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  15. Dear Heidi,
    thank you for this post. Oh, you are so very right!
    Have a wonderful time
    Elisabeth

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  16. Was thinking and talking about you yesterday, a woman on the bus asked me if I knew Sydney and how to get to the Art Gallery and once I discovered she was from Adelaide we had a very nice chat.Told her about your blog and your father's house

    Really interesting article about interior design, it's a fascinating field though I could never be one as I couldnt make up my mind. The NSW government has now got rid of the department that looked after our old sandstone buildings. Stonemasons and specialist people gone..so typical

    A very influential Sydney designer was Marion Hall Best, do you know of her ? credited with bringing Marimekko to Australia (or Sydney at least) , I went to school with her granddaughters and she had a lovely shop in Woolllahra before it was as posh as it is now.

    I had a 60's dolls house, all plastic though it's long gone but believe it or not have a box full of Mum's 1930's dolls house furniture. We sued to arrange the furniture not rooms on the living room carpet.

    Aren't those grey/blue walls in your pics gorgeous?, been noticing that colour alot lately

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  17. Your personal story relates so much to my story about early childhood. Your ideas relating to decorating your doll house when you were young inspired you to become a designer of some sort. I was also interested in designing but instead of doll houses I used to take design my doll’s dresses. But instead of taking fashion designing I grew up and wanted to be an interior designer just like you.

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Architect & Interior Designer. Mother of three. A sometimes Cook, Baker, Reader, Gardener, Fashion Lover, Renovator, Writer of random things in South Australia email me on anadelaidevilla@bigpond.com
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