Sufi Stories

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How To Start Your Career or Business as an Interior Designer: Real World Advice from Iván Meade

I remember that when my grandmother left her house to come live with us, she left her heart in her old house. The house which she had built and fashioned with her own hands, the furniture she had bought, sweet and sour memories associated with her old house – she missed all of it. In her own house she was full of enthusiasm, always pottering about in the garden and inside, fixing and decorating. In our house, she would not stir from her room – she could not bring back the love she had felt for her own house.

As human beings, our love for our home, sweet home, is matched only by our love for babies and appetite for delicious home-cooked food. Buying a house is the ultimate American dream and we spend countless hours painting, repainting and decorating our houses. We hire landscape designers to create our own private corner of paradise in our gardens, and interior designers to transform our houses into cozy, beautiful, welcoming homes.

Small wonder then that interior design ranks among the popular and well-paying career options for those with a creative bent of mind.

Here is a short interview with Ivan Meade, an amazing creative entrepreneur and interior designer.

We have the privilege of bringing for you in this post an interview with one of the most admired interior designers on the west coast. Iván Meade is the principal designer of Meade Design Group Inc., a multi-disciplinary interior and graphic design studio in Victoria, BC, Canada that creates interiors and graphics to elegantly reflect the needs and style of their clients.

Meade Design Group (MDG) is ranked as one of the top Interior Design Firms in Canada. However the recognition spans geographical boundaries. MDG designers are widely recognized throughout the west coast for providing memorable experience for their clients through fresh and innovative designs. For Iván Meade, design is a tireless pursuit, and he is constantly inspired to seek new and innovative ways to ensure that Meade Design Group remain on the cusp of new ideas.

How do you find inspiration for interior design for a house?

Iván Meade:
First of all there are a a couple of things you need to take into consideration: You need to understand the architecture of the space, the style of the home, and the function of the space, but most importantly, you need to figure out how the inhabitants or the family will use that home, what their habits and their needs are – what works for them and what does not. Once you know all these considerations, you can start designing around that. A house without the correct function is not successful. After this has been assessed, you start the fun process in which is to add personality and character to the space.

What are some of the most enjoyable aspects of interior designing – do you specialize in one area of design like contemporary or Victorian or modern

Iván Meade:
For me the most enjoyable aspects of interior design are the creative ones. How to make the space beautiful and memorable, but as I answered in my previous question, the priority is that it is functional. Every project is as different and unique as its inhabitants, so you have to be a great listener to be able to accommodate the family needs and create something they can call home. Meade Design Group specializes in residential design. We live and work in Victoria BC, so our style is timeless. After all, it is a big investment for a client to hire us and to spend the money; in most cases, it is their biggest investment. Because of this, it is a big responsibility to do your best and give back as much as possible. As far as style, our community has a mix of architectural styles, so we don’t have a signature style that fits all homes; but I have always said that a good designer should be able to work in any style. Lately, we have being doing more contemporary, currently we are working on a mid-century bungalow, but last year for instance, we worked on a classic Edwardian home.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be an interior designer? How does one get started?

Iván Meade:
Coincidentally, somebody asked me yesterday what I would do different if I had the opportunity to. The first thing I would do is learn more languages and travel more. Good taste is definitely a cultural product of the experiences you collect. My other advice would be to learn how to sell. We are selling ideas, furnishings, window treatments, custom furniture, etc. You need to be able to be comfortable selling and it is a hard task for some. Lastly, I would recommend to understand how the business works. It is a hard business and quite stressful as you need many trades in order to achieve a goal. All the money aspects of the business is something they don’t usually teach you at school.

How does one get started? This is a good question – I would say that first of all, you need to have a passion for design, and show it. Show that in your resume, show that in your portfolio, show that in the way you present yourself.

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog entry about this that your young readers may find interesting.

You can view stunningly beautiful and truly transformational work done by Iván Meade and Meade Design Group on their blog: Meade Design Group.

Please note that all copyrights for pictures posted in this post belong to Meade Design Group.

In addition to an interview with Ivan Meade, we have also compiled for you some tips from around the world.

Many top interior designers are self taught

Many universities today offer courses in interior decoration and design. However, many of the top interior designers today, are also self-taught.

You don’t need to have special “creative” skills

Another myth is that you really need to be a creative person – an ‘artist’ to be a great interior designer. If you have a good sense of color coordination, a general appreciation of aesthetics and an urge to learn and grow, you can be very successful at interior design. The best part of choosing interior design as a career option is that you have the option of being an independent designer, working freelance –and running your own business – this freedom from a nine-to-five office job is a big plus for many of us.

Become a specialist designer

Most successful interior designers focus on becoming a specialist in one area. Some designers love to work with hotel interiors, some designers work with office buildings and apartment complexes while many of them work with private residences.

Start with small steps

If interior design is the career you are interested in, it may be good to start with small steps before taking the plunge into an expensive course. Look up part-time short courses in your neighborhood which you can join. You can also explore volunteer work or temp work in your local interior design agencies. If all else fails, advertise on craigslist and Kijjijee offering to work for free as an apprentice designer.

Take up an experimental design project – Here are some practical tips for a DIY project at home

You may even want to experiment with some really exciting styles in interior design which will give you your own area of specialization. One such style is Trompe l’ oeils; and its roots go back to the antiquities.

Literally speaking, Trompe l’ oeils means to create an illusion and trick the eye. You see a real object when in reality you are viewing a two-dimensional painting. The story of a king who had floors covered with glass – to play a trick on his pretty girls who lifted their skirts thinking its water is quite well known. Rembrandt, the maverick artist would paint gold coins on the floor to trick his rich patrons who would try to pocket the mirage and end up becoming the subject of mirth.

Today interior designers utilize Trompe l’ oeils – illusionist effects, realistic paintings and murals – to liven up interiors, pretty up a dull corner or make a room seem more spacious than it actually is.

One theatrical and dramatic way to pretty up a dull wall is to steal an idea from the Rococo Renaissance artist Andrea Pozzo who created a sense of space by painting architectural features on the wall such that they seemed to be a part of the actual architecture of the room itself. The character and function of the room gives inspiration to the interior designer – a kitchen may have a sunlit garden scene to take the mind of the mundane cooking chores while an illusion of space could be created in a small sitting room with a landscape stretching far away out in the distance or a pair of open doors painted in a wall. A balustrade painted on the wall with a red Cardinal perched on it could act as an attractive boundary. Remember to use the simple principles of perspective effectively while creating the illusion of space – objects appear smaller as they recede, receding parallel lines appear to converge to a point. These simple principles are all you need to create tantalizing sense of mysterious space in your wall paintings.

Trompe l’ oeils doesn’t need to be indoors only – a group of birds painted in the courtyard around a bird-feeder may easily cheer up a small patch of grass. Some very easy and effective ways of bringing a special charm to your outdoors is to paint old brickworks over a portion of your walls or luxurious foliage draping over your fence.

As an interior designer, your camera is the best tool for compiling a library of visual references – both indoors as well as outdoors. Use your camera as a sketchbook. Shoot whenever you can – your vacation photos can become your best references, delighting your clients with otherworld styles. To keep a sense of scale, photograph human figures next to the buildings or objects, Make sure you get the buildings straight by aligning the vertical wall of one building with the vertical edge of the camera viewfinder.

Lighting is the most important element in interior design – observe how the same objects in your photos look different in artificial light, in morning light and in the evening light. Observe the form, shapes and mood of the subject you catch in different light. If you are using references from several different camera shots, each of them will have different light sources – your job is to unite those references so they are in harmony. It is best to make the direction of light in your wall painting the same as the light source in your room – this brings visual harmony in your work and lends it a very realistic appeal.

Measure the architectural features of the wall and sketch them on paper – then draw your mural design on this paper taking into account these architectural features. Remember your paintings on the wall – murals – should be easily visible. Location of the painting is important – If a mural involves distance (as in landscape), it should be ideally viewed from a distance. If this kind of painting was painted on the side wall of a narrow alley, your guests would be unable to stand far enough away to enjoy the full impact and the illusion of landscape would lose its effect. On the other hand if painting a mural in the dining room, paint them low, as the viewers would most likely view your creations while seated – for example the horizon line of a landscape should be at the eye level of the seated diners. Also think – Can you incorporate parts of your room into your mural? Maybe paint a drapery over a door or a kitchen towel drying over a chair?

Remember, before you start to clean the walls first, remove mold – and the room should be free from humidity or direct sunlight – otherwise your paintings will fade within weeks.

The above mini-guide to interior design would also give you an idea of how a successful interior designer thinks, plans and works. You can use this mini-guide as a starting point. Use these ideas to create a plan a redesign of one of the rooms in your house – perhaps your living room. Search on the internet and visit your local hardware store – Lowe’s or Home Depot – for free classes on home renovation. Be brave and then try out some of these ideas. Take the first step. Then take the next step even if your first step was not entirely successful. Remember King Louis and the spider story – success comes from perseverance not fluke.


Think how you can make your work memorable – the easiest way is to choose a catchy branding tag – Instead of the cryptic “Trompe l’ oeils designer”, you can choose to call yourself “The Modern Cave Artist”.

Your customer would love your passion and would forgive you anything as long as you bring sincere hard-work to your projects.