We caught up with one of our interior design graduates, Katharine Foley, to find out why she chose to study interior design and how the course has benefitted her. Katharine also shared with us why she decided to develop a virtual business model and how she has been working on design projects virtually for the past 4 years.
Although she had previous working experience in the field before starting her course with the British Academy of Interior Design, Katharine believes "it is extremely important to continually improve one’s knowledge and skills". She chose to take home-study Higher National Certificate (BTEC) course to develop her professional skills and because she knew in advance that her "needs would be better served through an online education provider as it was important for me to have the flexibility to work around my schedule.", says Katharine.
Battery Park, New York, USA residential remodel by Katharine Foley - living room's photorealistic render
Becoming an Interior Designer
Interior Design was not a new or unknown area for Katharine before studying with us. She had already completed some studies in this field - "I completed a BTEC Interior Design a long time ago and later I pursued a Professional Diploma in Interior Design.", she says - and had professional experience in this industry. In 2000, when she relocated to Dubai, she started working in the design industry as a Design Manager for "IKEA, Dubai, 2XL, Dubai, Pan Emirates, Dubai and Royal Palace, Abu Dhabi. When I became a Certified Project Manager I found myself increasingly becoming a manager of my projects rather than a designer. I continued going between project management and interior design roles on design/ build projects working in conjunction with Nakeel, EMAAR and ArabTec.", Katharine says.
"After a decade in the Middle East, I relocated to Southern California, where I took a position with an architectural company. They specialized in the design & build of high-end residential beach properties. I retained my client base and also worked most weekends on repossessed properties for banks, staging them in preparedness for quick sale back on the market. I was offered and accepted a contract to work on high end residential and commercial projects in Manama, Bahrain, Middle East. After that, I returned to Southern California."
Al Barakat Restaurant open terrace graphic top views and render top and front views - a project by Katharine Foley
Even with such vast experience in this field, Katharine feels that it's important to keep learning. Therefore, on her return to the UK, she began looking into interior design courses "for professional development" and choose to study at the British Academy of Interior Design. "I felt satisfied with the course of my choice - the Higher National Certificate -, which was exactly what I was looking for. I was also convinced BAID was without a shadow of a doubt the more superior education provider.", says Katharine.
Currently, she is a Self Employed and a freelance for an interior design practice based out of London. Katharine has her design studio that offers a "virtual interior design experience to Global clients".
Katharine's interior design studio - Imagine - logo
How did the course fit into her day-to-day life
Katharine shared with us how she would organize her days when she was taking the interior design course - "I set aside a few hours, mostly during the evenings, to focus on tasks such as research, reading, planning assignments and taking notes on any material samples I might need to order.", says Katharine.
The home-study course was her first choice due to its flexibility and the possibility of studying at her own pace. Katharine said that the greatest benefit of online learning "was the freedom one has to approach the course work" and how this learning method adjusted so well with her study preferences - "personally speaking, I study best when I have no interruptions; I enjoy the isolation as it keeps me focused not only on the task at hand but also on managing my time and staying on track".
As for the course assignments, Katharine has enjoyed working through those and is grateful for the help of her "excellent tutor" - "any questions I had gone directly to my tutor who was always quick to reply (even on weekends). She delved deep when responding to my queries, always challenging me to rethink my approach", she says. Her tutor has accompanied her during her whole learning journey, which was of huge importance to Katharine, as she believes "it offered the opportunity to build a rapport as well as offer continuity of feedback".
Modern retro & urban tropical bedroom mood boards by Katharine Foley
The interior design graduate explained that being "cognizant more software training would be necessary and important" was the biggest benefit she has experienced from doing the course. "I had some knowledge of certain industry software but I felt it was not enough and therefore, embarked on a self-taught journey, updating old skills as well as adding a few new programs to further enhance my professional development". She added that during her course she was "100% motivated and committed to giving my best effort" and that her end goal was to "finish my HNC with nothing less than a distinction".
"I embraced the journey and loved it from start to finish and my experience was extremely enjoyable and very rewarding! I found the student service extremely helpful and I would recommend the Academy, and I have on numerous occasions and will continue to do so!", says Katharine.
Online interior design projects
Online design services are not a recent working method for Katharine, as all of her interior design project work has been carried out virtually since 2016. "Most of my clientele lives overseas and when I returned to the UK I was continuously being approached by clients seeking interior design assistance - there were ongoing inquiries and requests to work with the Imagine Interior Design Studio". Due to these requests, Katharine decided to develop a virtual business model to "approach an overseas client base spread out over several different countries", she explains.
Katharine Foley's interior design project - dining room, kitchen & breakfast bar photorealistic render
Katharine explained that she "thoroughly enjoy virtual design" and that the biggest challenge of working virtually is the different time zones. "Working within different time zones initially was a little challenging, for example, I recall a client in Hawaii requesting a presentation time of 17:00 which is 03:00 in the UK. However, over time I have developed workarounds for every eventuality.", she says.
With these current exceptional times we are living, interior designers now find themselves being "forced" to adapt to a more digital and virtual work method. The interior design graduate explained that she believes that those interior designers forced to work remotely "will eventually find out that through this method, they will develop a better connection, understanding and relationship with their client(s)" and that the virtual model is very different from working in design practice. "Clients expectations are higher and in certain instances a little more demanding. However, I believe this is due to distance and therefore it is of most importance to encourage open and ongoing communication throughout projects.", says Katharine.
Favourite project to date
"My favourite project was, BARCODE, a new gaming bar located in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. The project was 100% virtual and sustainable. I was hired as an interior designer and also as a project manager based on my SiPM (Sustainability in Project Management) Certification."
Katharine explained how this whole project was carried out remotely from beginning to the end and how she continually communicated with the clients and the architect - "all correspondence between the clients, architect and myself was carried out using electronic formatting. With the use of email for simple conversations and Skype for the ongoing screen sharing in regards to the presentation of designs and to clarify and quantify any changes". This sustainable project, in which "there was no paper use or paper waste", as Katharine claims, was featured in PMWJ (Project Management World Journal) and published by GPM - Green Project Management Global.
BARCODE project by Katharine Foley - 1. Demolition plan; 2. New floor plan & 3D model; 3. Furniture layout; rendering of furniture and finishes
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in interior design?
"Be committed, focused and driven. Push yourself, work hard and never walk away from a challenge. Surround yourself with other like-minded individuals. Read, read, read, as a sponge absorbs water, absorb all things interior design. The best thing any designer can do is invest in their creativity and artistic development; free-hand drawing skills are a key creative component to designers work!", it's Katharine's advice to everyone looking out to pursue a career in this field.
Katharine Foley's interior design project - residential apartment in Massachusetts, USA
Inspired by Katharine's story? Want to pursue a career in interior design? Let's start your learning journey together!