I’m entering my 30th year in the interior-design business, and I’ve been reflecting on the phases of my career. I’ve gone from working for New York City big-wig designers while attending design school, to building my business and juggling 40 clients, to leading a team of eight designers at my Austin interior design firm. These days I’m more selective about whom my team and I work with, keeping the roster to a shorter list of aligned folks who really understand what we do and appreciate our process. It’s easy to fall into the daily grind, but looking back on my interior design career journey has shed light on just how different the early days were, compared with now. As I flipped through my old schedules and calendars, I thought it would be fun to share a few glimpses of my work days, then and today, and show exactly how I became the interior designer I am today.
Let’s take a look back at the early days.
A Day in 1997: Design School and My First Interior Design Job with Jeffrey
On any given day in 1997, I would wake up at 6 AM to get ready. I’d collect my school and work bags and head out of my tiny Manhattan apartment to catch the subway. It took three subway changes to reach the Bilhuber & Associates offices, and I’d arrive at 7:30 AM. Jeffrey Bilhuber would already be there, and we’d spend the morning preparing for a client presentation by going through the sample room and pulling out the materials we intended to present.
Then, I’d check email for an hour or so, gossip with coworkers, write up project notes, and take lunch at my desk as a busy New Yorker does. In the afternoon, I’d head out to a site visit with Jeffrey to check on the progress of an Upper East Side renovation and make a quick stop for espresso on the way back to the studio. When the end of the workday came at 5:00 PM, I’d pack up and head to the New York School of Interior Design for my night classes.
A Day in 2001: My Second Interior Design Job with Tom
The new millennium brought new changes to my schedule. In 2001, I would get to sleep in until 7:30 before I had to get ready for my new job with Tom Scheerer. I’d grab a bagel at the Korean deli on my corner and board the subway to Gramercy Park. I’d say hello to the doorman of Tom’s building and head up to his apartment, where the two of us work (I was his only employee at this time). Tom and I would start the day talking about our evenings or our plans, and then I’d get started responding to emails, reviewing purchase orders, and calling vendors to check on progress.
Tom and I would go out to lunch together and visit some thrift stores on the way back if time allowed. On this day, we’d thrift for two hours, and I’d even try on a sari that he’d buy for me. Back at Tom’s apartment, I’d check emails again and select fabric for a Bahamas project we were working on. At the stroke of 5:00, I’d head out to happy hour with interior design friends, which would turn into dinner. Then, I’d head home for a nightcap and my favorite shows until bedtime at 11:30 PM.
A Day in 2013: A Year Into Working for Myself
My New York City days have been behind me for a few years at this point, and I traded my metro card for Austin’s I-35. In 2013, I was back to an early wake-up call at 6:30 to take my two small kids to preschool. I don’t have time for breakfast, but I stop at a coffee shop on the way to my slightly illegal work studio in the basement of a 1920s cottage in the Clarksville neighborhood near downtown. I walk in and greet one of my part-time assistants. (My other part-time person isn’t in this day, because I can only afford to pay her for two days a week.) I grab a leftover yogurt from the fridge and take a minute to chat with my office mate, who I rent the space from. He shares that his small business is struggling.
I spend the morning at my desk strategizing how to get new business — planning which organizations to join, calling to get meetings with builders and architects, and brainstorming anything else to get an introduction. Then, I field some questions from my employee on a fabric order for pool cabana cushions. Afterwards, I call into my contract job, secured to pay my employees’ salaries while getting my business up and running. I end my day driving out to a potential client’s home to review their project needs (something I don’t do now).
On the way back, I pick up my son from school and take him to his doctor’s appointment. Then, we head home for dinner with the family. I get the kids ready for bed. After storytime, I spent two hours on business planning before hitting the hay at 11:00 PM.
A Day in 2018: Managing My Own Design Firm
By 2018, Amity Worrel & Co. is running at full steam and growing. I wake up even earlier at 6:00 AM, but there’s still no time for breakfast because my husband and I have to get the kids ready and driven to their respective schools. After dropoff, I head out to a project to meet with the builder and walk the site with my team. We evaluate the project status and field builder questions about our design. It’s a rare cold day in Austin, and everyone feels the chill while frustration builds around project delays. We manage some client questions and set expectations for the coming weeks.
On the drive back to the studio, I stop for a breakfast taco and coffee at a nearby food truck. I eat at my desk while team members pop in to ask questions about layouts, wallpapers, fabrics, and delays for various projects. Then, we move on to a weekly team meeting to review our 40 or so projects and discuss what’s new on the horizon. We all eat the lunch I ordered as we chat through ideas.
After our working lunch, a vendor visits the office to show off shutter samples and introduce their new showroom. I dip out early and let my team run the rest of the meeting so I can get back to some pressing emails on current projects. For the last meeting of the day, I review layouts from our lead designer for a new client presentation. I share some inspiration images I pulled the night before while watching TV with the family.
I leave the studio and head back home for dinner. Afterward, I stay at the dining table to work on a few layout ideas for a new project I’ll share with the team. I stay up working until 11:00 PM — just in time for bed.
This morning I wake up at 6:00 AM. I have time to unload the dishwasher and prepare a slice of peanut butter toast and coffee before heading to my morning workout at 7:30 AM. After the session with my trainer, I stop at a new coffee place by the studio to check it out. When I arrive at work, I take some time to check in with the team, feed our newly adopted office cat, and check my emails. Now, I’m off to a team meeting on our latest Cape Cod project installation.
I can’t wait to see what the rest of the day holds.
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.