How to Get Started in Interior Design as a Beginner

Interior design can seem like an exclusive world open only to those with innate creative talent or professional qualifications. However, getting a foothold in interior design is achievable for any motivated beginner. By following a few key starting points, an aspiring designer can set their skills and knowledge on the right track.

Learn the Basic Principles

All design starts with a grasp of the fundamental principles that underpin the aesthetics of a space. As a beginner, consider taking interior design classes online to learn about key elements like scale, proportion, balance, emphasis, rhythm, and unity. Understand how factors like lighting, textures, lines and shapes, patterns, and negative space impact the feel of a room. Study how colors evoke certain moods and reactions.

Mastering the vocabulary and semantics behind design theory will provide the building blocks to start analyzing and creating spaces effectively.

Develop an Eye for Design

interior design house

Alongside principles, beginners need references. Looking at lots of room designs across different styles develops an intuitive sense of what makes a space visually pleasing. Pay attention to how professionals use scale, lighting, layout, color, and furnishings in their designs. Study magazine layouts, model room displays, Pinterest boards, Instagram feeds, and interior design hashtags. Follow designers whose aesthetic appeals to learn what draws people to their signature look. Over time, these references accumulate into an instinctual experience bank.

Experiment with Your Own Space

No amount of theory and inspiration can substitute for actively working on your own designs. Start small by re-organizing or redecorating a space in your home. Bedrooms, studies, and bathrooms tend to work well for beginner projects. Choose a focal point like an artwork layout, new soft furnishings, or statement lighting. Source accessories and materials within a set budget. Use mood boards to conceptualize your overall vision. Pay attention to practical factors like lighting needs, storage solutions, and multi-functional furniture. Completing hands-on projects – even humble ones – builds confidence and tests ideas.

plants and fruits on wooden table

Learn Technical Skills

While creativity fuels design, technical skills bring ideas to life. Beginners should learn basics like how to sketch floorplans, construct mood boards, and use computer-aided design (CAD) software. Take measurements correctly to estimate spatial allowances for furnishings and layouts. Study cohesive aesthetics across factors like fixtures, fittings, fabrics, furniture, and spatial organization. Understand building regulations, safety standards, accessibility needs, and zoning laws. While specialist knowledge comes with qualifications and experience, core technical abilities enable beginners to present and experiment with concepts.

Get Constructive Feedback

An objective external perspective helps beginners identify their blind spots. Few people intuitively grasp effective design, color coordination, space planning, accessorizing, and harmonizing elements. After completing starter projects, get feedback from friends with strong visual fluency.

Ask pointed questions to understand impressions of your design choices. What emotions or words come to mind? How do they perceive the lighting, storage, functionality, and ambiance? Remember that criticism reflects personal taste and bias. The goal is increasing your own self-awareness rather than pleasing everyone.

Start Building a Portfolio

As a beginner, view every project as an opportunity to build your credentials. Document your design process through photos, sketches, mood boards, floor plans, lighting diagrams, and swatches. Capture final room photos from multiple angles at optimal times of the day. Over time, these project notes compile into a diverse portfolio showcasing your style process, and capabilities. Register on freelancing sites even as a hobbyist to showcase your work. Portfolios demonstrate more capability than degrees for aspiring designers with limited qualifications.

Find Your Design Niche

Interior design encompasses a vast range of styles, specialties, and spaces. As a beginner, it helps to narrow your focus around niche design interests best aligned with your vision. Possibilities span corporate environments, retail displays, staging, hospitality, exhibition, production sets, outdoor spaces, boutique homes, historic renovations, styling, and more. Even within the residential design, subsets include country homes, eco homes, smart homes, tenements, boats, and small spaces. Specializing makes developing a signature style and portfolio more targeted. It also steers continuous learning, allows subscribing to niche sites and publications, and aids networking with industry pros in chosen niches. While experimenting widely initially, settling on design passions focuses efforts for excellence over time.

Consider Further Education

For beginners who want to take interior design from a hobby to a profession, specialized education is non-negotiable. Many countries legally require professional certification or degrees to commercially practice interior design. Beyond legal needs, formal training deeply builds insight into spatial planning, workflows, aesthetics harmony, project execution, and industry standards. The hands-on practice also accelerates skills under instructor guidance. While degrees take significant investments of time and money, they unlock far greater career opportunities and earnings potential.

The path into interior design need not be intimidating with the right starting steps. Beginners should focus on understanding core principles, developing an eye for aesthetics, honing technical skills, gathering feedback, and showcasing work. By building on fundamentals, new designers can establish confidence in their ideas and credibility in the industry. With passion and perseverance, interior design can transform from a casual interest to a fruitful vocation. 

Author - Olivia Poglianich
Olivia Poglianich          

Content Strategist

Olivia Poglianich is a nomadic brand strategist and copywriter in the wooden crafts and 3D product design space who has worked with brands such as Visa, Disney and Grey Goose. Her writing has taken her all over the world, from a Serbian music festival to a Malaysian art and culture event. Olivia is a graduate of Cornell University and is often writing or reading about travel, hospitality, the start-up ecosystem or career coaching. Her latest interests are at the intersection of web3 and communal living, both on and offline.


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