Delving deeper than decor to explore the power of home as a path to wellbeing #happyinside

March 3, 2021

Interior Design Masters FAQ

After every episode of Interior Design Masters, there inevitably comes a flurry of questions via email and Instagram. Everything from where’s the pot from that so-and-so used in his/her design… (answer, I’ve no idea, best to ask them) to can you tell me where your shirt is from (wardrobe notes are at the end of each episode’s shownotes posts, one per week, links below).

But mostly the questions are from people who are drawn to the show because it ignites a nascent creativity in them. It’s inspiring. It’s exciting. And if you’ve ever harboured even the teeniest desire to  try your chances as an interior designer, it might just fire you up enough to take action. Or maybe just to start a makeover at home.

However, because the questions are increasing (which I think is a great sign!), it’s getting harder and harder for me to answer them all as fully as they deserve, so this post is an attempt to put all the most frequently asked ones together, and to provide proper answers that I only have to write once! I’ll add to it as and when new and different ones come through, and this is where I’ll refer anyone who asks from now on. So thank you for the questions and the opportunity to provide further insight…

Alan and Michelle in Michelle’s office

frequently asked questions

Where’s the wallpaper from that’s in the background in your office?

It’s from Cole & Son’s The Botanical Botanica Collection. And this particular foliage print is called Forest. Cole & Son

Where are your desk/pots/lights from?

The desk is the Hyannis Port desk from Ligne Roset, designed by Eric Jourdan. Most lights seen are by Lee Broom. The vase on my desk is by Jonathan Adler from his Muse Collection. And many other ‘objets’ are from Salvatori marble. The artwork was all created bespoke by the production team!

I’m {insert age here}, is it too late for me to re-train as an interior designer and follow my dreams?

Your age is just a number. It’s not a measure of your passion or competence. In other words, it’s never ever too late to follow your dreams, unless you decide to make it so. Check out the IG account @wearewithit if you need a little confidence boost.

I’m only {insert age here} but I know I want to become an interior designer, what should I do?

Start creating a portfolio. Personally I prefer a physical one ie with pieces of paper in it, but it could be online, or do both! But do more than just Pinterest. I’d want to see how you weave things together, not just other people’s images neatly stacked on virtual boards. So gather together tearsheets of things you like; they don’t have to be buildings or rooms, they could be fashion pictures or examples of colours you love. Collect paint charts and brochures and make moodboards. Start to work out which brands you love, and crucially why? Who do you like to follow on Instagram, and why?

In other words, start working out what you stand for. What is your aesthetic point of view? What is it that will make you different? And perhaps biggest of all, what is it that you propose to offer the world that you feel the world needs? When you’ve worked out the answer to all of these things, you’ll be ready to start applying to schools, or seeking an apprenticeship. Or perhaps you’ll realise that actually you want to be a milliner.

I’m so inspired by the show, I’m thinking of giving up my career in {insert existing profession here} to re-train as an interior designer, which schools would you recommend I apply to?

I trained at The Bartlett School of Architecture at the University College London. I therefore have no direct experience of any interior design schools. But even if I did, the choice of where to study is a profoundly personal one and there are no short cuts to working out which school, academy or training centre might be best for you. You have to visit them. Meet the people who will be teaching you. Ask to speak to alumni. Then compare and contrast course curriculae with at least three other schools before you make a decision.

Schools vary massively in their approach. Some are more arts-based, others more CAD-focused when it comes to working methods. Some are super practical, others more about making. They’re all valid, it’s just different approaches, each with its pros and cons, depending on your sensibility. The point being, only you can ascertain what would be the best fit for you.

You also need to consider cost, accommodation, expenses for materials, proximity to home and other such pragmatic factors.

Is it better to enrol in a training course, or should I just try for an internship somewhere?

Much as above, it’s entirely personal preference. Costs come into it too though, as obviously apprenticing should come with a degree of payment, whereas enrolling on any training course is going to see your money going the other way. That said, if you have been studiously creating a portfolio and you know who you admire and where you’d dream of working, contact them. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Hands-on experience with someone who really knows their stuff is always invaluable, whatever stage of your career you’re at. We all always have something to learn.

Don’t just write to someone with nothing to show though. And be realistic. Just because you love Kelly Hoppen and maybe she has a junior spot free, doesn’t mean you’ll be out on site running jobs alongside her by week two. The art of good apprenticeship is to go in hungry, with big eyes and bigger ears. By which I mean, be prepared to be a sponge, to soak it all up, do the photo copying, make the coffee, be eager, be keen, but also ask questions, offer to help, suggest ideas (where appropriate) and generally aim to make yourself indispensible.

It’s how I started in publishing, paid £25/day.

Can I come and apprentice with you?

I’m so sorry, but I’m not running any projects which require additional staff at the moment.

Can you receommend good online courses?

Once again, as above to an extent. Although here I’ll stick my neck out and say that I don’t believe you can learn how to become a professional interior designer via a solus online course. Design is tactile and interactive. It’s about people, trades, logistics and management. It’s a physical endeavour, not only cerebral. I think all of that needs to be learnt in practice, not theory. To me online learning would be like reading a book on interiors and then professing to be ‘trained’ once you’d finished. You’d have barely brushed the surface.

But if you’re just looking to do up your own home and you want tips, tricks or ideas on a particular genre of design, how to work colour, or understand what biophilic design is all about, then there are many unaccredited more ‘fun’ courses that might well fulfil the brief.

Nevertheless the same caveats apply. Look up who offers them. Do you subscribe to their beliefs? Don’t just take someone else’s word for it. Do the due diligence and you’ll get a better result. And if you can’t be bothered to do all of this, then I’d question your aptitude for the profession in the first place then. Becoming an interior designer is hard work. You don’t just fall into it, you muscle through it fuelled by passion, enthusiasm and dedication. Also, crucially, also charged by  a desire to be of service — to help others realise their dreams.


Interior Design Masters Series 2. The ten hopeful designers, all competing for a life-changing commercial contract.

As a person of colour, will it be more difficult for me to become an interior designer?

It shouldn’t be, but the honest answer is for some it has been. Ultimately though I believe that self-belief is what makes things happen. Not arrogance mind, but a degree of well why shouldn’t I work here chutzpah. If you have a portfolio, you’ve identified your practice of choice, and you’re clear what you can offer, go for it. But if someone knocks you back, please don’t automatically think it’s to do with colour. Sometimes there really isn’t a job. But I’m not naive, sometimes there is a vacancy, but you don’t quite ‘look-the-part’ according to them. In which case, you do NOT want to work there. Take your brilliance somewhere that deserves it. But whatever you do, don’t give up. All professions benefit from multi-cultural teams with differing backgrounds, influences and perspectives. Any firm that hasn’t woken up to that yet frankly doesn’t deserve to be in business.

My much longer and personal take on diversity was first posted on this site; followed up by a piece that explored the issue in more depth for House and Garden.

Below are some organisations that I’d vouch for that address the issue head on, variously offering support, internships, advice, contacts and workshops. I’ve also included some contacts for networks that specifically reach out to support women in whatever sector, too.

  1. United in Design: an ambitious proposal for an equal opportunities’ pathway into interiors. Offering information, outreach, mentoring, training and employment to people of BAME origin.
  2. Built By Us: an award-winning social enterprise on a mission to diversify the construction sector through mentoring and professional support.
  3. Design for Diversity: Proffering a ‘sticker’ for display by any business as a way to publicly signal its openness to inclusivity and intent to change. Growing towards also offering support, mentorships and placements.
  4. The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust inspires young people from disadvantaged backgrounds aged 13 to 30 to succeed in the career of their choice through career counselling, placements, bursaries and mentoring.
  5. The Girl’s Network Believing that no girl’s future should be impacted by her gender, background or parental income, the Girl’s Network empowers girls from the least advantaged communities by connecting them to a mentor and a network of professional contacts.
  6. The 30% club is a global campaign with a mission to develop a diverse pool of talent for all businesses through the efforts of its Chair and CEO members who are committed to better gender balance at senior levels and throughout their organisations.
  7. SirenSister Set up by architect and TV presenter Laura Jane Clark, Siren Sister represents a diverse female-led network of architects, interior designers, stylists, horticulturists, photographers, makers and consultants as a resource for the TV, film and media industry.
  8. Interior Design Masters Episode 5: Micaela and Lynsey grab five minutes to chat with guest judge Sophie Robinson

How do I apply to be on the show?

Firstly, follow @interiordesignmasters_tv on Instagram. All details are regularly posted there. You can use this Interior Design Masters Audition link to apply. And thee is also an application link on the BBC website. For Season Three the closing date is 9 April 2021. Applicants must be 18+ and UK residents. All personal data is processsed in accordance with the production companies privacy policy, see here. Endemol Shine UK.

Is there a general IDM enquiries email address?

Yes, it’s designers@dsp.tv

Please use this email to ask any questions about eligibility requirements, what you need for an audition, what it involves, how long it takes etc. Basically absolutely anything about getting on the show as I do not have the answers to these questions. Neither do I personally select the contestants.

Was each challenge deliberately designed to test a different aspect of what it takes to become an Interior Design Master?

Yes, and you can read all about this in my shownotes posts, up online immediately after each show. And with no spoilers in case you’ve not watched the episodes! There’s one for each episode with a total of 11 Lessons in how to become an Interior Design Master.

Episode One: Showhomes with Laurence Llwelyn-Bowen
Episode Two: Offices with Linda Boronkay
Episode Three: Hotel bedrooms with Kit Kemp
Episode Four: Shops with Ross Bailey
Episode Five: Beach Huts with Sophie Robinson
Episode Six: Salons with Abigail Ahern
Episode Seven: Restaurants with Nisha Katona
Episdoe Eight: the final with Sophie Robinson and Matthew Williamson!

When will I be able to see the show, I don’t live in the UK?

Series One was globally distributed by Netflix (Interior Design Masters on Netflix). Who the production team decide to distribute with for Series two is yet to be decided, but as soon as I know, I’ll share!

Do you have Alan Carr’s phone number?

Yes, but I’m not giving it to you.

Interior Design Masters Episode 5: briefing the five remaining designers


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Writer, Author, Brand Consultant & TV Presenter

Michelle Ogundehin is internationally renowned as an authority on interiors, trends and style. She is an influencer with expertise and the multi award-winning former Editor-in-Chief of ELLE Decoration UK.