Runner up of the KLC Blog and Online student, Emma Painter, discusses 5 essential skills that interior designers need.

5 Skills Every Designer Should Have!


First let’s start with the basic skillset that every interior designer needs as a base line in the ever-changing and ever-competitive interiors world:

To complete the prerequisite design training and make the leap from student to fully-fledged designer requires the knowledge to complete any task required during a client design project; an understanding of the process; vision; a fantastic eye for detail; good project management skills; and good communication skills. These skills need to be put into practice, which is where a good design internship or work experience comes in. Interior design is as steep a learning curve as you wish to make it and practice within a nurturing supportive environment will most certainly help.

But once the designer is fully fledged what special ingredients need to be added to the rudimentary design toolbox to allow an interior designer to rise above the average and complete each design project achieving a badge of excellence each and every time.

Consider this: when you deal with a new client he or she is making the decision whether to invite you not just into a project but, if it’s a residential project, into their lives, their heads and their ‘home’. Home is everything to many people. It is the place an individual or group of individuals retreats from the rest of the world to be themselves with their families and closest friends; within an environment that allows for comfort and relaxation.

In a commercial project, although the overview is different the premise remains the same. Your client in either case invests much of him or herself, his/her hard-earned cash and trust in you, the designer.


Interpersonal Skills

The main denominator in each case is the relationship between client and designer and this is fundamental in the success of every project. This is where an excellent designer’s skills can really come into play to create not just beautiful homes and spaces which fit the design briefs but ones which also exceed the clients’ highest expectations.

The relationship between client and designer is set and then built on trust and respect right from the outset.  

Therefore, quite apart from being good at the job, what an excellent interior designer really needs is a set of superb interpersonal skills in order to nurture and build that relationship.  

"Approachability; flexibility; and empathy are a great start."

Then a positive outlook is invaluable. Professionalism should set the boundaries of the relationship and stamina is required to stick to these even when the going gets tough (which inevitably at times it will). Quiet confidence plays a part and a designer’s belief in and enthusiasm for each project.


Almost the most important skill required is simply this – the ability to listen. Listen to what your client has to say. Unless you understand what your client’s hopes and dreams are how can you possibly hope to implement them?

Positivity & Stamina

A positive attitude will also see you through any project. With a can-do attitude yours, and your client’s, state of mind will be job-appropriate. I am not talking about blissful denial here but about solutions not problems: a ‘can-do’ attitude.


Communicate with your client. Don’t ever let your client chase you. You should be the one communicating – just enough to instill confidence and let them know that you are in charge, taking the worry part away from them. Remembering that this can be a very stressful time for your client helps.  

Your job is to make your client’s life easy in an area in which you, the designer, excel; so go above and beyond to make it so. Each of the designer’s clients should feel that their project has the designer’s total attention from start to finish.

The most excellent interior designer is one who understands their client’s needs and expectations and sets out to exceed them. The end result in these cases is a home that fits the client like a glove even though she or he didn’t initially know which glove fitted them best.


To finish then what a most excellent interior designer really needs are the following big 5:

Interpersonal skills, an ability to listen, Positivity, Stamina and Communication.


Emma Painter - Emma Painter Interiors - #makingyourhouseyourhome

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