We caught up with one of our Higher National Diploma (HND) students and sat down for a chat. Cara Burton is a talented and determined learner who has experienced both our classroom based and home study options.
Everything you need to know about the content and format of our courses is available online but sometimes it helps to have an insight into the student experience, especially when it’s directly from a student who is currently attending the academy.
Cara is two years into her HND and has recently switched from part-time to full-time study. She is fully absorbed in the course and is working hard to complete it by the end of 2023. Like many Interior Design students and alumni, she has been impressed with how in-depth and challenging the assignments can be and she is committed to absorbing everything she can from the course. We hope our conversation with Cara will help you to understand what to expect from life at the academy and perhaps you will find inspiration from Cara and her Interior Design journey so far.
Please tell me a little bit about yourself. Who is Cara Burton and how would you describe yourself?
I’m from Australia and I’m 23 and I’ve lived in Manchester for the last 2 years. I’ve always really loved art and design and I really love sport as well. I play a lot of hockey. I’m quite motivated hardworking and really creative and I’d say I’m probably a little impatient at times.
In high school I did a personality careers test, and I knew I wanted to do some kind of creative degree so, they recommended interior design. Initially didn’t even think you could get a degree in Interior design, but I was happy. I was always watching design tv shows and was obsessed with rearranging furniture in my bedroom.
Are you currently a full-time student? Are there other projects you are working on or involved with?
When we moved 2 years ago, I redid the bathroom and did a garage conversion into a bar. That was probably my first experience of seeing it through to installation phase and I can see what I would do differently now. For the last years I was studying part time but right now I am studying full time just because I want to try and finish as many assignments as possible before the end of the year.
What were you doing before you started your course? Were you facing any challenges in your career path at that time that inspired you to enrol in this course?
I graduated high school in 2017 and moved to America, I had a hockey scholarship and went to university to study a bachelor’s in interior design. Then covid happened and all international students were sent home. So, I suspended that and decided to look at different options. That’s when I found the academy.
Did you have any prior experience in interior design or any contact with this industry through a family member or friend?
Not really no. It was watching those tv shows and that careers test in school that inspired me.
What were you looking for in a course? What motivated you to choose British Academy of Interior Design’s interior design course?
It was affordable and I felt so bad for my parents after America and wanted to pay for it myself. Also, the flexible working hours meant I could work and the fact it was online made me think I could do it at my own pace. I already had some guidance because of what I had done already. It was really helpful to have AutoCAD and software knowledge when I started.
Why opt for a Home-Study experience?
I wanted to work and study, and the no-deadlines meant I could still travel and see the world while I kept studying.
How did the course fit into your day-to-day life? What was the biggest benefit of online learning?
I am big on trying to include fitness and hockey. I also like how you can always contact your tutor. I email my tutor all the time. They make you feel really comfortable contacting them.
Are there any artist/designer’s work that inspires you? Where else do you draw your inspiration from?
Pinterest and Architectural Digest videos. I spend a lot of time watching them and creating boards. Designer wise I am obsessed with Kelly Wearstler. I didn’t realise I was obsessed with her until I was doing an assignment and researched her work. I loved learning about all the different hospitality stuff she’s done. I think that inspired me toward hospitality and commercial area. I love her eclectic and contemporary styles.
There is also the Sketch bar in London. I love its completely pink interior. It’s been redone in mustard now. The designer’s name is India Mahdavi she has some cool stuff.
I saw Flack studio who designed for Troye Sivan (Australian singer) in architectural digest and Slim Aarons has some really cool photographs that I think would be amazing on a massive scale in an interior design.
Is there any specialist area in interior design that interests you the most?
I think I am more commercial and hospitality. I had an internship in Australia, and it was so crazy to see how large scaled the projects are and how much organisation goes into the whole team stuff. They were mainly office buildings and bars with some residential.
Regarding coursework, which stages of developing a design would you highlight as being the most exciting and motivating? And which ones are the most challenging?
I love doing inspiration boards and I think I am pretty good at it and selecting all the FF&E’s is really fun and then putting them all together in a rendering. Also using SketchUp or digital collaging and putting them together and seeing what works and doesn’t work.
The most challenging part of the assignments is the extent of all the research but it’s so good when it’s done, and you feel like you’ve learned loads. I find the most challenging phase of a project is doing the layouts because you really need to find the most practical and most functional options that involve the best use of space.
Can you tell us about your most recent project or your favourite project to date? (academic or non academic)
I definitely loved doing the hotel bar design. You use a trend that you forecast to be popular over the coming months, so I chose the trend “tactile” because after covid everyone is craving the feeling of touching. It was so fun to research, and I got to be so creative with different surfaces and materials and putting it all in a bar design. And there was no budget attached so that was fun.
I did a bathroom design for my own house here and that was really fun, choosing the tile and getting everything to match that.
What do you consider to be your biggest strength as a future professional in the interior design industry?
Creativity and tenacity I think because I am really creative and really determined. I think I’m quite empathetic and understand what people feel especially for residential clients because I think I understand what they would like which I think is a good strength to have as a designer.
What tips can you give other students for managing your time efficiently when developing their interior design projects?
I will always write a lot of lists and use a project schedule. I would discuss a time frame with the client and use a calendar. It’s also important to allocate time appropriately. Doing my internship, I realised you really don’t have a lot of time to do anything, and you have to speed up. Spreadsheets definitely help but I think I just need more experience.
How do you combine your studies with your personal life and other hobbies/interests?
I try to keep doing the course during the week. I focus on doing 7am to 5pm mid-week and then after 5 go to the gym or play hockey. On weekends I try to keep it free, unless I am catching up, and I have a spreadsheet of where I am up to. I am very self-motivated which I probably learned from sport.
What advice would you give to someone considering enrolling in this course?
It’s a lot more time consuming than people realise. When I started, I was doing the in-person classes and hand drawing and boards are amazing, but the technology is so much faster. And the course is so much more than decorating.
Where do you imagine yourself to be in this industry 5 years from now? How do you think this course will help launch your career?
I am up to assignment 19 and there are 30 assignments, so I hope to finish this year. I just want to get into the workforce as soon as I finish my HND and I’m not sure if I will live in Australia or the UK but will hopefully start as a junior somewhere and progress.
I could go freelance, but I do really like working with other people. I like socialising.