getting started

Here are my top recommendations for interior designers who are getting started on their own. 

Affiliate Disclaimer

These are my top recommendations for software, supplies, etc. that I have found helpful to interior designers and interior design students. Some of these links are affiliate links, meaning I earn an affiliate commission if you decide to purchase (*indicates affiliate links). However, I recommend these tools no matter what.

interior design software

commercial interiors

revit

Revit LT*

BIM software

Now for interior designers wanting to dive more into the commercial sector – think hotels, offices, etc. – I typically recommend they take some time to learn Revit. It’s made by the same company as AutoCAD, but it is a completely different beast. While it might require a bit of a shift in terms of how you work and how you think about using the software, it can be incredibly powerful in communicating and coordinating complex projects. Even on small simple projects, the coordination of drawings and details can very easily be managed by a single person.

*This is an affiliate link.

or

residential interiors

1-1 services sketchup

Sketchup Pro

Digital modelling

SketchUp Pro really gives you all the tools you need to fully model your ideas. You can create the complex shape of the bespoke piece of furniture you’ve sketched out, you can create the detailed architecture of the space you’re designing. It’s really a powerful program that gives you the opportunity to digitally visualize even your most unique and inspired ideas. Layout is the program that comes with Sketchup Pro and gives you the option to create scaled drawings from your model.

1-1 services photoshop

Adobe Photoshop*

Advanced photo editing

Adobe Photoshop is really helpful in how you can take your rendered visuals to the next level, but it’s also just an incredibly helpful software to know your way around for many other reasons, creating logos, social graphics, editing project photos, etc. Photoshop gives you a lot of options; the key to remember is that you’re using the software as an interior designer not as a photographer. 

*This is an affiliate link.

canva

Canva Pro*

Easy graphics

Now not every graphic you make needs the power of Photoshop or InDesign. This is when a program like Canva or their paid version, Canva Pro, can come in incredibly handy. Social media graphics, quick stylised brochures, etc. become super quick tasks with Canva’s incredible range of stylish templates. 

*This is an affiliate link. 

1-1 services indesign

Adobe InDesign*

advanced document design

Interior designers can use InDesign really effectively to create polished and professional presentation documents. Things like proposals, letterheads, brochures, presentations, project manuals, etc. can suddenly look like the work of a professional graphic designer when an interior designer understands how to use InDesign. See this blog post to see how easy you can make a mood board with InDesign. 

*This is an affiliate link.

online tools

Bluehost Transparent_HighRes

Bluehost

webhosting

When you first get started building an online presence for yourself as a professional, you don’t have to splurge on the fanciest webhost provider. I used Bluehost for my first website, and they honestly make it so easy to get started with making a WordPress site.  With a lot of instructions to help you along! They also have some of the best prices you’ll find.  They’re definitely a great place to get started with your own place on the internet. 

*This is an affiliate link.

Black_full

Website Builder

elementor*

We’re designers right? So we really love having control over how things look and work together. That’s why I use a website builder. I’ve experimented with others and older versions of my site were built with other themes, but now I whole-heartedly recommend Elementor. It’s incredibly easy to install for WordPress and it’s so easy to get to grips how to drag and drop and style your website exactly how you want without relying on an expensive developer to do it for you. Basically, I’m in love with Elementor. 

*This is an affiliate link.

unnamed

Email Client

google workspace*

Now, I love Microsoft Office. I’m a spreadsheet nerd at heart. But when it comes to email, I’m afraid I definitely prefer Google to Outlook. With the right system in place, Google and its connected apps can make email and inbox management pretty hassle-free. Also, it’s Google so it’s pretty rare that it will ever let you down. Use the promo code 939NDKWYXFNPTEY for 10% off the first year of Google Workspace Business Starter. 🙂

*This is a referral link.

Interior designers should definitely have an email newsletter. This is such a great opportunity to turn people who might just be passing fans of your work into paying clients. Mailchimp is what I still use for my email newsletter. The first 2,000 subscribers are free, and the templates and set up is pretty straightforward. Also, it’s widely used, so if you’re ever unsure of how to do something , there’s a lot of information online to help you figure it out. 

*This is a referral link.

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ClickUp*

PROJECT MANAGEMENT

Compared to some project management software, ClickUp is pretty new on the scene having just started in 2017. But boy, has it had an impact! ClickUp combines a lot of the various features of other project management softwares into one tidy (and colorful!) platform. Even for teams, they have a very generous Free plan. But if you need expanded features, including more storage or adding guests and the likes, the paid plan is pretty reasonable. 

*This is an affiliate link.

Designfiles black blue

DesignFiles*

PROJECT MANAGEMENT

It would be strange if I didn’t include an interior design specific project management software right? Well, I’ve been really impressed with DesignFiles. If you’re using a project management software primarily for residential client projects, Design Files gives you a great platform to keep all of that sourcing and financial stuff organized. You can even make design boards within the platform, send invoices, etc. So it can definitely help you streamline your design processes. 

*This is an affiliate link.

icom-logo-ecosystem-lockup-2line

Quickbooks

accountancy software

The financial side of being an independent interior designer can be a real headache. I would definitely recommend consulting with an accountant to make sure you’re doing everything correctly. A lot of accountants will want you to utilise a particular accounting software. Quickbooks is pretty much a gold standard. There are others out there, but I would recommend choosing one and sticking with it because it is a pain to switch accountancy software. 

download

Tailwind*

pinterest scheduling

Most of my readers have found me via Pinterest. (I’m guessing you have?) Pinterest as a marketing platform is definitely an untapped resource. (It’s not all about Instagram people!) That being said, as much as we’d like, we can’t spend all day on Pinterest. Tailwind makes it so easy to maintain an active Pinterest account. With their Chrome Extension, you can even schedule pins directly from your website. It’s such a nice and way to make sure your work gets out there.

*This is an affiliate link.

FullLogo_Bright

Later*

instagram scheduling

While it’s not all about Instagram in terms of marketing, I don’t know many interior designers without an active Instagram account. To help you maintain your account, Later is such an easy to use scheduler. It helps you work within Instagram’s best practices with hashtags but also gives you a visual preview of your feed when you’re deciding what posts to schedule. A designer’s dream. For someone only scheduling 30 posts a month, the free plan from Later is such a great fit.

*This is a referral link. 

acs-logo

A Color Story

image presets

When you’re first starting out, it might be that you can’t quite afford professional photography for your work. You may not have any complete projects but just a few areas in your own place that can help you show off yours tyle and skills. To help make pictures you take yourself look professional and stylish, I recommend A Color Story presets. They can make the photos you take with your phone look great either on the app or with Lightroom/Photoshop presets. 

*This is an affiliate link.

equipment

Laptop

computer

This is a question I’m asked a lot if I’m talking to prospective interior designers building their digital skills. What kind of computer should I get? 

I have a couple of rules of thumb if a designer is going to invest in a computer for design work:

  1. Get a PC. (I say that as someone who loves her iPhone) With a PC you can get more bang for your buck in terms of processing power. Also, a lot of the design software we use as interior designers works better on PC or only on a PC, i.e. Revit. I personally have used both Lenovo and HP and have been really happy.
  2. If you’re just getting started without a permanent work space, get a laptop. You’ll need the flexibility to move around, and laptops can give you the power you need these days. 
  3. Invest in at least 8gb of RAM, preferably 16gb or higher. You’ll probably break down in a lot less tears with a more poweful computer. Computer frustration is definitely not always your fault or the software’s fault. Sometimes it’s a weak computer. Invest a little extra in more RAM if you can, to save you time and frustration later.
  4. Get a good graphics processor. A lot of times, if you find a gaming computer (like the one in the picture by Lenovo) they’ll also have good specs for interior design software. And fortunately, you can get some gaming laptops that are fairly plain looking without the lighting typically associated with gaming computers. Graphics processors by NVIDIA or AMD will be a better bet for any digital modelling than an Intel graphics card.
  5. Check any recommended specs on software you know you’ll use. With information directly from the software maker, you can research to make sure your investing your money as wisely as possible. No one wants to realize that the most expensive item they bought for their business doesn’t actually work for what they’ll be doing. 

*This is an affiliate link.

27" Monitor

second monitor

This is definitely not a must, but if you’re in a position to invest a bit more into your computer set up, I highly recommend getting a second monitor. I personally work with either a 17″ laptop plus a 27″ monitor or a 22″ plus a 27″ monitor.

There are two reasons a second monitor is such a worthy investment in my mind: 

  1. Posture – Interior designers spend a lot of time on the computer. Researching for projects, making CAD drawings, assembling presentations, etc. As a result, it’s important to enable good posture while this work is being done. Having a second monitor set up where you’ll do most of your project work, means it can be set up at a good height and distance for your eyes. Yes, you’ll still need to use your laptop on its own in certain circumstances, but if you can avoid having to bend over a small screen, your back will thank you. 
  2. Time – An extra monitor can save you time. Yes, sometimes it might just be a good place to have your email open while you work on some CAD drawings. But in the rush of a project, that second monitor can help you save time and be more productive. You might have your primary monitor set to show the program you’re currently working in. But then your second monitor will be where you have any references, files, browser for research, etc. For example, if you’re drawing a floor plan but you’re not sure how big a piece of furniture you’ve sourced is, you can have your sourcing information on one screen while AutoCAD is open on the other. Preventing that awkward back and forth on a single screen will make your life easier and lead to fewer mistakes too. 

*This is an affiliate link.

favorite books

I’m a sucker for a checklist and this book is full of them. It’s more tailored to US-based designers, but even international designers will find some of these checklists incredibly helpful. They also make a great starting point for you if you’re in the middle of developing your own personal best practices. 

*This is an affiliate link. 

Building Constructed Illustrated

francis DK Ching

This is another Francis DK Ching book. The reason I recommend this one is because it can be helpful in just getting to grips with the construction side of the design industry. Interior designers definitely don’t have to be experts, but it’s worth building this knowledge early where you get the respect you deserve on the job site. 

*This is an affiliate link.

The BIID Interior Design Job Book

Diana & Stephen Yakelay

I bought this book when I first moved to the UK just to make sure I had a good understanding of any differences in terms of professional practice here vs in the US. It’s honestly such a helpful book for anyone working in this industry anywhere! I’m definitely hopeful that they’ll do an update on it soon, but even this older version that I keep on my desk is incredibly helpful in understanding the various processes and documents involved on the more administrative side of running a design project. Obviously, you’ll have to adapt these examples to fit your own practice and where/how you’re working, but it provides such a helpful starting point. 

*This is an affiliate link.

This is a really handy little reference book. Unlike some of the big books of standards and the likes, this book is affordable and won’t take over your desk. They also have an architectural version in the series which can also be helpful. It has both practical and professional information easy to access and understand quickly. 

*This is an affiliate link.

what other tools do you need?

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Autodesk, AutoCAD, and Revit are registered trademarks or trademarks of Autodesk, Inc., and/or its subsidiaries and/or affiliates in the USA and/or other countries.  Adobe Photoshop and InDesign are registered trademarks or trademarks of Adobe, Inc., and/or its subsidiaries and/or affiliates in the USA and/or other countries. Sketchup, Sketchup Pro, and Layout are registered trademarks of Trimble, Inc.

Audrey Noakes is not affiliated with Trimble, Inc., Adobe, Inc., or Autodesk, Inc.

Copyright 2021.

Audrey Bardwell, practising as Audrey Noakes 

audrey@audreynoakes.com

International House, 64 Nile Street, London, N1 7SR, UK

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