So you want to be an interior designer? Clients and acquaintances frequently find a way to mention how much they want to do what I do. From the outside, they see days spent shopping for beautiful fabrics, selecting paint colors, and walking into a vision brought to life seamlessly by the trusted contractor — all ready for the finishing accessory carefully selected with the “designer’s eye” to pull it all together. It reminds me of that scene from The Devil Wears Prada where Meryl Streep delivers the line, “Everybody wants this. Everybody wants to be us.”
“Everybody wants to be us,” The Devil Wears Prada
Something about the beauty of design jobs distracts folks from the nitty gritty and very hard work that goes into making something beautiful. I try to tell people all the time that what they think I do and what I actually do at my Austin interior design firm are two very different realities. Trust me. It ain’t as glamorous as you think!
So, What Does an Interior Designer Really Do?
You’re here for the inside scoop. So, I won’t sugarcoat the designer’s life with romantic antiquing afternoons and clinking celebratory champagne flutes with clients. (Those moments do happen, but certainly not on the daily.)
Interior design is a demanding job, and a designer needs to know a lot…about a lot! We have to understand our clients’ visions and sometimes play couples therapist. We have to be great at communicating with clients, our team, and the countless tradespeople it takes to bring a vision together. We need to be marketers of our firm. After all, we need clients to make this work. We have to understand how HVAC systems operate, how to design furniture, how to select the right fabric for the right application, how to sketch a room, how to balance a budget, and how to speak the language of clients, handymen, wallpaper hangers, painters, architects, contractors, and even the shipping guy. Oh yeah, and we also have to deal with unexpected surprises, which will show up no matter how much you plan ahead.
This profession is dense and nuanced, and the final result is high stakes because it plays such an important role in the lives of a household. I spend very little time shopping for pretty things in my day-to-day role. Instead, most of my efforts go into running my business and making it possible for my employees to have some fun at the showrooms with our clients. I’m an interior designer, but foremost, I’m a mentor, teacher, and big-picture project manager.
A Real Day in the Life of an Interior Designer
Are you still with me? As of today, I’ve been in this profession for almost 30 years now. So I thought it would be fun to share what I actually do as a way to entertain and enlighten those who are considering a career in interior design.
I’m sharing a page from my personal “Design Diary.” I got the idea to write some diary entries after seeing the movie Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret this summer with my family. I was reminded of my childhood and how so many of my peers kept diaries to reminisce about all the important things dear to their hearts. Design is something very near and dear to my heart, so without further ado, this first entry is a peek into my day when we did a project installation. Truth? It’s a whole lot of fun watching everything come together. It’s also a lot – period.
Design Diary: June 20th, 2023
I wake from a nightmare where the movers, scheduled to arrive today at our Cape Cod project for the installation, canceled on us! There is no point in pretending to sleep any longer. I need coffee!
6:05 – 7:30 AM
Coffee in hand, I immediately dive into responding to emails and texts from the team at Cape Cod the installation to get updates on project progress and next steps. I scroll through lots of lovely photos coming in from the Cape Cod project and the bad news that some items are now missing in transit.
7:30 – 8:45 AM
I give my husband the update on the Cape Cod project while I eat a piece of toast with peanut butter and honey. I select a lovely dress to lift my spirits and take my mind off the missing pieces that need to make it up to the cape. I look in the mirror and remind myself that I must put on a brave face for the team members working here in Austin as we go out to check the progress of our local projects. I remind myself I am a team cheerleader and a guide. Go Amity!
8:45 – 9:30 AM
I meet for coffee with one of my friends and a fellow principal designer to plan a team-building excursion to Mexico City for our two firms. We discuss how it would be an excellent place for our teams to bond, bounce ideas, and get inspiration from a new environment. We lay out an itinerary to visit the museum, spend a day at the pyramids, and take in loads of good architecture and delicious food! We also take some time to discuss how business is going, chat about our current rates, and which builders are performing the best. (It’s important to keep an ear out in the field to know what’s up.)
9:30 AM – 12:30 PM
I arrive at the studio and start the workday with a casual meeting with our in-studio team — play with our adopted office cat, Basket, and share the new progress photos of the Cape Cod project. Then we move into our formal regular Zoom Studio Meeting (a weekly occupancy) with the team in the field and with the team in the studio to review all of our 20+ projects under way. That meeting is cathartic, fraught with anxiety around many details outside our control, but accented with celebratory wins. We end the meeting aligned on the next steps to move projects forward.
12:30 – 2:30 PM
I unpack my home-prepared lunch at the presentation table while I check my email. Then, I slide into meetings with the team to review furniture plans, discuss strategy around the missing items, review schedules, and make trim and hardware selections for a local central Austin project now on the fast track.
2:30 – 3:45 PM
I drive home to take a potential client call. It goes well. I ask my questions, and we work through their questions. I describe our process and the next steps. I’ll prepare a proposal after they send me photos of the rooms as they currently stand.
3:45 – 5:45 PM
I break to run over to Nordstrom for shoe shopping with my teens who are preparing for summer camps, internships, and travel.
5:45 – 7:00 PM
We sit down for dinner (cooked by my husband, as usual) with the whole family. After we eat, I take a call from a team member in the field and check my texts and emails one last time for the night.
7:00 – 7:30 PM
I indulge in an episode of Love is Blind: Brazil while taking a therapeutic lap on the treadmill in my garage, which is probably a balmy 110 degrees thanks to this latest Texas heat wave.
7:30 – 8:30 PM
I run lines of Romeo and Juliet with my 15-year-old and take a break to field a call from a distressed friend. I respond to one more work text from a team member in the field who is sharing a big win for the project. (Ok, so this is really my last work text for the night.)
8:30 – 9:15 PM
I spend time reviewing my day and write this blog you’re reading now!
Finally, the day is complete, and it’s time for bed. My nightly routine simply consists of washing up, calling in my favorite dog to sleep next to me, and saying goodnight to my husband and kids. Then, it’s a blessed sleep until it all starts over tomorrow!
It May Not Be Glamorous — But I Love It
I don’t mind if folks still want to hang on to the glamorous vision of designer days spent foraging in the aisles of fabric stores and fancy art galleries. My job is decidedly fun and creative, just not all the time. As interior designers, we have a difficult job to do, and it takes schooling, practice, and years of experience to get it right. I welcome anyone to step into the interior design world with us, but just know it ain’t always all it’s cracked up to be!
But besides Miranda’s, is anyone’s job honestly all glamor?
Amity Worrel is an award-winning interior designer based in Austin, Texas. She has worked on high-end interior design projects for celebrities and tastemakers in NYC, LA, and the Bahamas. In 2008, Amity decided to bring her passion for diverse design back to her hometown of Austin. Her spaces pull from timeless design concepts ranging from coastal contemporary to cozy cottage to Austin eclectic. Emotional connections, functional flow, and a touch of humor remain central to every interior design scheme. Her work has been published in national and local publications, including The Wall Street Journal, House Beautiful, HGTV Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and Austin Home. In her free time, she loves perusing estate sales and diving into design history. Learn more about Amity.