To Study Or Not to Study?


This is something that I am asked all the time via The DIY Decorator. Should you study to be an interior Decorator? How did you learn how to decorate? I did study and receive my Diploma over ten years ago. BUT I do actually believe that if you have an eye for decorating and a love of interiors, you can be an Interior Decorator and do it as an occupation or just for fun in your own home.

When I graduated from high school in 2002, I knew that I wanted to be an Interior Decorator. However, I was from a country town where there were no courses available and also no work in that field where I lived either. Nobody I knew was an Interior Decorator. I didn’t even know if it was a job or not (sheltered country girl). And I though that people would laugh at me for wanting to decorate houses for a living. So after school I took a retail job and brushed the idea of studying decorating under the rug. During my year in retail, I had the opportunity to do some visual merchandising. And I loved it! And I was told that I had an eye for it and did a great job. This was the little push and boost of confidence that I needed. Soon enough I enrolled to do a design course at Central TAFE in Perth.


I packed my bags and drove four hours from home to start studying for my dream job in. The design course ran for six months and was an introduction to decoration and design. I loved every day during that time and soon applied to complete my Diploma in Interior Decorating at the same campus. I was accepted and thrilled! I spent the next two years studying full time whilst taking on any work I could within the decorating industry. I worked for Wattyl Paints on weekends for awhile and soon took at job at well known Perth store Empire Furniture and Homewares. I continued working here whenever I could until I graduated from my two year course.


TAFE was great as I learnt about all areas of Interior Decorating from perspective drawing and Auto Cad through to learning all about colours and how to measure for curtains. I met some great people and I enjoyed the study life. However, I found that I was learning a lot more from my work. I had started to dabble in visual merchandising at Empire and found that I was learning from my colleagues and by ‘faffing’ as I worked. I was soon asked to be a full time merchandiser and Interior Decorator by another local furniture store, Samsara. I continued to learn more and more as I worked as both an in store. Merchandiser and hired out interior Decorator. Every day I would change displays, incorporating new furniture items and home décor pieces into them. I began dealing with customers and finding out what they wanted to see. I was lucky enough to get flown over east to attend a visual merchandisers meeting where I learnt even more about what it took to be a great decorator. This is where I learnt. On the job. Doing what I love.

I am, and always have been interested in Decorating and Fashion trends. I love the magazines. I enjoy looking at display homes. I stalk Pinterest and Instagram and dream of beautiful homes. Literally. I’ve lost count of how many times I am decorating in my dreams. It’s the one thing I am good at and I was meant to do it. I decided to study mainly because all of my friends were off at university studying and I felt at the time that I should probably study also. Would I have gotten the jobs I’ve had without a formal qualification? Who knows. I like to think that my skills and an eye for detail are why I have been fortunate enough to work as a Visual Merchandiser, Property Stager/Stylist and Interior Decorator over the past ten years.


Back when I was studying, online and study via correspondence was only just starting out and wasn’t really something I was interested in. I think it opens doors for certain people such as stay at home mums and dad’s or people not living in the city. I just feel that Interior Decorating needs to be a hands on subject and even at TAFE I always wished that they would let us loose in a furniture store so we could play with furniture and homewares. But these courses are what they are. Maybe one day they will be more hands on.

In a recent small business blog interview with from Lisa at Ziink Interiors who herself recently completed an online correspondence course in Interior Design, I asked how she found the course and was interested at her answer.

“I studied Certificate IV in Design (specialising in interiors) by correspondence which was completely done online. I won’t say it was easy! You really have to be committed. The absence of no classroom, no teacher and no classmates can be very challenging. The two biggest challenges I faced were:
Making time to study- if you are a procrastinator (like myself) or one of those people who always needs an extra push to complete work, you may have a hard time making time for your online classes. Little Support —you are expected to find your own resources for completing assignments which is empowering for some, but can be daunting for others. We were lucky though, in our ‘study group’ that one of the girls started a Facebook page so us students could support each other and ask each other questions or post ideas! Having an instructor get back to you when you ‘don’t get something’ wasn’t instant and that sets you back when you’re on a roll. You also need to really get out there and source things yourself. From fabric samples, to paints and materials.

However a major positive of correspondence is the no interruption of your current lifestyle. It allowed me to go to work and focus on my pregnancy and not worry about rushing to classes and meeting deadlines. If you having a basic understanding of computers and can email, scan and upload, you’ll be fine as long as you have the persistence to keep yourself going! Would I do it again? I would’ve much preferred a classroom setting, but this was convenient and worked for me at the time.”

So I say if you want to study. Do it. BUT! Get some hands on work experience. Spend time with fellow Decorators. Ask if you can work with them for a few days to see how they work. Approach furniture stores and see if you can assist with the visual merchandising. Because there is where you will learn so much more! The study is great but at the end of the day it’s just getting you that piece of paper to maybe satisfy a future employer. If you love decorating and you are good at it, you will find the work. I have met people who have studied every decorating related course available but still don’t know what they are doing because they don’t “have it”. And maybe it’s something some people can’t get. It’s having an eye for how things look. And studying and practising just teaches you more.


I, like all Decorators am still learning today. Interior Decorating is one of those jobs where every day is different, every job is different and you are always learning as trends are changing. My advice to anyone wanting to be a Decorator is to get experience. Unpaid, paid. Take whatever you can get! I took jobs where I didn’t get paid but loved it as Decorating is my passion. And I learnt from it and took that information into my paid jobs. Study if your want. If you can. If you have the time. I would love to do another course and see what has changed over the past ten years. Even if nobody ever hired me, I would still be happy Decorating. It’s in my blood and it makes me so happy. It really is a dream job!

Zoe xx