Tag Archives: the design school

My Week at The Interior Design School in London

If you follow us on Instagram (if you don’t, you should! Who wouldn’t want to see more pictures of our tubby cats in repose?) you may already know that I have been in England for the past few weeks! We went with Chester’s side of the family, and spent the first week hiking in the Cotswolds, an area that lives up to all of its fabled beauty.

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We spent the second week of the trip in London. Chester and his parents did the two-year-old’s tour of London, and I went to The Interior Design School for a five day crash course in interior design.

Red House WestThe school was founded in 1991 by Iris Dunbar, and offers a full-time one-year diploma course, as well as fun one-day classes.  They also do a three part professional certificate course, and what I did was the first module of the certificate program, titled Design Process.

Red House West

There were ten students in the class, who hailed from all over Europe.  Apart from a lovely woman who grew up in the Midwest but has lived in Paris for over 20 years, I was the only American in the class.  Other students came from Spain, Austria, Romania, and there were several Londoners as well.  Most of my classmates were just like me: people interested in design who have never had the opportunity to learn the basics in a formal setting.  Several students had a professional background in design or architecture and were looking to revitalize careers put on hold because of growing families or international relocations.  Everyone was so fun and interesting, and hearing about what led each of them to the class was fascinating.  Truly, meeting the women (all the students were women) in the class was alone worth the trip.

The focus was definitely on design, rather than decor, and we learned how to scale, draw plans and elevations, and create essentially a pre-computerized world mood board. We all worked on the same space–basically a 20×20 garden shed–but had different assignments about what the space would be used for.

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One of the exercises we did was to paint a color wheel. I didn’t quite understand the purpose of the exercise, but it was fun to revisit this grade school staple.

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We also got to paw through samples of all sorts, which I totally loved.

The process we were taught involves distilling the envisioned project down to a few choice adjectives, and finding and clipping images that evoke a feeling or sensation based on those adjectives (but aren’t a literal picture of what the room should look like).  From the clippings we selected and edited a color palette, and then chose furnishings, objects, and lighting within the palette and otherwise consistent with the adjectives and project goals.

It sounds simple, and it is, but it helped me to realize that when I have set out to design a room in the past, I have started at the end–choosing things I like and hoping they go together–with mixed results.  Following the steps taught by the school does seem like it will lead to more deliberate, cohesive, and pleasing spaces.

Designers at work.

Designers at work.

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My desk.

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Top left: my ‘feeling’ images; bottom left: the scaled plan; top right: plan elevation; bottom right: my color palette and the furnishings and objects I chose for the space.

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One of the teachers, Lynne Rossington, critiquing material sample choices.

On the final afternoon, we all presented our plans as if we were presenting to our clients. It was amazing to see all the different ways that people imagined the same small space.

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It was such a great trip, and I am really grateful to Chester and his parents for making the whole thing possible!  I am excited to try to apply some of the techniques I learned to my own home (which looks even more like a mish-mashy hodge podge through a slightly educated lens), but right now I am facing more immediate issues. For example, this is what my house looks like at the moment:

Keepin' it real.

Opal was really excited to get home to her toys and thought it would be a good idea to do a full inventory.  Also, will the laundry never end?

I’m happy to answer questions about my experience at The Interior Design School, and you can also learn more by checking out the website. Thanks for reading about my little adventure! Check back with us on Friday for another installment of DIY Friday.