How to Become an Interior Designer

Suzanne Lasky is one of the most in-demand interior designers on the West Coast. Ms. Lasky’s success is particularly noteworthy as she entered the field after more than a decade in marketing. Her company, S Interior Design, is the exclusive provider of Pawprint Design Services, a brand of interior design which prioritizes pets’ experience in a space. Our interview with Ms. Lasky revealed her to be a font of knowledge on not only interior design, but also the art of navigating success in life. 

What inspired you to enter the field of interior design?

The short answer is that I wanted to be a part of a professional environment where I would be able to use both the right and left sides of my brain and interact with people. I also was ready to work in a less structured 9-5 environment. The background is as follows:

I had been working as a marketing professional for 14 years when the company I was with underwent a merger. Not knowing who would be left with a job position after the merger caused me to think and reflect upon what I would want to do next should I lose my job.

I began to take interior design courses at night to see if I had the strong interest in the field I believed I did. I loved it!! So, although I did not lose my job, I ended up resigning and returning to school to attain my degree in interior design to compliment the BBA and MBA I already had acquired.

What are some of the misconceptions commonly held about your profession these days?

The deluge of television shows about interior design has caused people to think that the business of design is quick and relatively inexpensive. As Candice Olson said, “good design takes time.” I would add it generally will take a financial investment too. That said, many things can be done relatively inexpensively, [provided that] the client is open to creative design solutions.

After more than a decade of marketing and product design, you returned to school to formally study interior design. What are the advantages and challenges of a mid-career switch in focus?

The advantages of a midcareer switch were the professional experience and maturity I had already achieved. This allowed me to hit the ground running in terms of starting my own design firm. The challenge was walking away from a well-paying marketing position and beginning a new venture at the age of 36. I was fortunate to have the support of my husband!

Could you outline a typical day you might experience on the job?

No such thing as a typical day! You must be comfortable with change to enjoy what I do. That said, my day does begin with a social media check-in, and usually some short postings. Other common experiences of my days include client meetings, meetings with vendors and work rooms, trips to the design center to choose fabrics, online and retail product specification, networking functions, and a lot of administrative tasks every day to keep the business running properly.

What are the most challenging aspects of interior design in the 2010s?

The most challenging aspect of interior design in the 2010 era definitely includes the ease of access to products that were in the past only available to the professional trade. This along with the design television shows “that make it look so easy.”

Buying furnishings is not what design is all about; it is [only one] part of it. A professional designer such as me adds value by developing a comprehensive design plan, which ultimately prevents costly mistakes from occurring and a cohesive, functional, beautiful outcome to be achieved.

Your career’s web presence is impressive, indeed. How has social media assisted your career aspirations?

My strong marketing and business background drove me to be an early adopter in the world of social media. I found my social media contacts to be a wonderful resource to share ideas with. It is gratifying to be able to share photos of work in process and completed to help others get interested.

Which college (or high school) classes and experiences do you feel have proven the most helpful to your career today?

The marketing and business course work including the accounting courses definitely have proven helpful. The space planning and Auto CAD courses in design school taught me a lot that gets utilized on every client job, big or small. Nothing can replace real world experience, though. The 14 years I spent in marketing and product development are 100 percent responsible for my success in starting and managing my own design firm.

What personality traits would be the most helpful to someone considering a career in design?

[The best trait is] definitely the ability to think creatively, but the ability to think analytically [is also crucial]. Strong interpersonal skills are a must to manage the diverse personalities of the clients and trade peoples.