ISCD Graduate Story – Susie Trainor
This week we caught up with Susie Trainor of Susie T Designs, about what it’s like to run her own Interior Design business. Susie also talked to us about why she chose to study interiors and her tips for anyone thinking about studying design.
What led you to study interiors?
After working as an actor for 20 years I knew that I needed a change but still wanted to work in a creative industry. I had really enjoyed renovating our own properties, loved interiors and art and thought that this could be something I could do.
What is the biggest barrier to starting your own business?
There is a lot of competition out there so making yourself stand out, build clientele and ensure you make enough money to make it all worthwhile is one of the most challenging aspects. Staying motivated and confident in your abilities once you are on your own is also not the easiest without someone to push you!
What has been the biggest lesson?
Double check everything and don’t trust people who say ‘it’ll be fine!’ I ordered a couch without checking a staircase width. I knew it was narrow but the salesman assured me it would fit up most staircases. I should have checked and of course it didn’t fit, they wouldn’t refund, didn’t want to know about it. I ended up getting the manufacturers to visit the house, remove the arms and reattach them in situ!
How do you find working with clients?
Most of the time I love my clients! I really enjoy meeting people and I love being able to bring their dream space to reality. The only time it can be a bit challenging is if a client is a bit of a shopper and ‘goes rogue’! Making their own purchases can take your beautifully resolved design and turn it into something that is completely different from what was intended, and not in a good way.
How do you stay ahead of trends?
I go to trade shows and I subscribe to various architecture and design newsletters which keep me aware of what’s going on and new products, but my designs are generally not trend driven. My focus is on getting inside the client’s head – for commercial interiors this means finding out what’s their brand, what image do they want to project to the public, how do they want customers or staff to feel in the space? This approach can also apply to residential interiors, you have to dig a bit to really work out what the client wants, look at what they love, use mood boards, magazines and Houzz to get to the nugget of what is going to work for them and make them happy!
What has been your favourite project and why?
I love the interior I did for Whitehouse Optometrists. Their shop was such a mess with no style or presence and I’m really pleased with the way we not only made it look stunning but made it so functional by changing the floorplan to provide an additional exam room and storage room. Now they have loads of customised storage so everything is beautifully organised. Their clientele has dramatically increased simply because of the new fit out which makes me so happy.
What tips would you give someone wanting to start their own business in this industry?
Be prepared to do a job for nothing when you start if you think it will give you great photos or contacts and referrals. This is how I started when I designed the refurb of my kid’s school libraries. I project managed everything and learnt so much along the way. That said, once you are on your way, make sure you price your services correctly as what you are giving is valuable! Don’t do free consultations. Get testimonials and follow up on leads and contacts and don’t just look at residential work, the bigger budgets are often in commercial work. See if you can team up with builders and architects. Have a great website and try and get your name out there.
What do you love most about the world of interiors and design?
I love how interiors can completely change the way you feel in a space. I love that great design can revitalise a tired old house into somewhere a family loves to spend their time and fulfils all their practical needs. I particularly love hospitality design in that your visit within the interior can become a whole experiential event, enhanced by great food and wine.
What advice would you give anyone contemplating studying in the design industry?
If you’re going to do it, give 100%! Learn as much as you can, including the difficult technical stuff (it’s not just about choosing pretty fabrics!) as you will need it to succeed. Ask lots of questions of your tutors and do internships and work experience while you study if possible. You will learn so much while doing!