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Former NDA student has a unique take on traditional interior design services

The usual practices of being a freelance Interior Designer such as; meeting clients, understanding their lifestyle, presenting sample boards, working out a design scheme and project managing, can be a little difficult to say the least, if your client lives in Durham and you’re based in the Isle of Wight.

Well, Interior Designer Jo Acheson wasn’t fazed by this hurdle and set up a clever design service which meets her clients every need without having to leave the island!

The design bug first hit Jo when she re-decorated her first home, she then started a Professional Interior Design Diploma course at The National Design Academy in 2004. After the success of her interior design business based on the island, Jo aimed for new heights and is now re-designing homes all over the country.

Find out how Jo challenges the traditional practices of  interior design and brings it bang up to date with twenty-first century living.

You studied the Professional Interior Design Diploma course at The National Design Academy in 2004, how did you find the distance learning approach to Interior Design and do you apply any skills learned on the course to your everyday practice?

Having the option to study Interior Design from a distance was the perfect solution for me at the time; I was working part-time and looking after my daughter.  The course was both flexible and fun and enabled me be gain a qualification in something I felt passionate about while still looking after my family.

Technology has moved on since I completed my studying, today Jojo Online Interior Design uses computer software to produce floor plans and 3D images, I remember spending hours producing scale drawings using the drawing board, paper, pencil and ruler.

Putting the Design Boards/Mood Boards together uses the same principle I learnt with The National Design Academy we just use a different medium to display the end result as we are online interior designers.  I think having studied the Professional Interior Design Diploma it really gave me the confidence I needed to change career direction and pursue something I really enjoyed.

Design Board – hexagonal room
Where or who did your interest for Interior Design come from?

I’m unsure where my interest in Interior Design first came from; I was always interested in art but couldn’t physically draw well enough to make a career there.  Window dressing was an interest that I almost pursued, but it wasn’t really seen as a career path 20 years ago, so I ended up working for the Civil Service doing a clerical job.  Buying my first home and decorating it how I wanted was the real start to my interest in interior design and it just went from there.

Apartment 13 – 3D image
You offer a unique “online” design service to your clients, can you explain how this works?

Our service is unique because it is all done purely online through our website and the design is unique to the client’s room/s.  There are five steps to follow:

Step 1 is to select the interior design style or styles that best suits the client.  This is done by looking at the different styles on the website; examples of these are Ultra Modern, Urban Chic, Traditional Luxury, Minimalist, Shabby Chic, Glamour and Eclectic.

Step 2 is to complete our online questionnaire which gives us enough initial information about the room/s to be designed.

Step 3 a designer telephones the client to have a chat about the design and gather more information.

Step 4 is where the client has to work with us and produce a sketch, take measurements and send photos of the room to be designed. 

The last step is what the client receives – A custom made design package which includes a design board, floor plan, 3D images and a shopping list of product recommended with the prices and where to buy them.

Why did you decide to offer your design services in this way? How do you deal with a client who is indecisive or unsure about the design they want, that may not necessarily fit in with the online categories?

We wanted a service we could offer almost anyone and at a price that was affordable.  I live on the Isle of Wight which makes the logistics of travelling that little bit harder but offering an online interior design solution meant our clients would have no geographical boundaries and we weren’t limited to designing around the South Coast of England.

Can you give three key rules you use when faced with a new client brief which you believe Interior Designers should always use?

My three main rules are really very basic – listen to your client, communication throughout the project and give the best customer service you can.

Floor plan – hexagonal room
Doll house view of hexagonal room
How do you deal with a brief where the client doesn’t know how to create a floor plan or sketch?

Our website has a page dedicated to “how to produce sketches, dimensions and photos” but we are always available on the telephone should anyone need any further advise. Their sketch doesn’t have to be a work of art; we just need enough information to create the scale floor plan.

Kick-starting a new business can be tough, especially with the current economic climate, what advice would you give to those wanting to start their own business?

What advice would I give to those starting their own business, start small and work from home if possible.  Also, invest in a good website and understand you will have to invest in advertising otherwise nobody will know you are out there.

Product recommendation for hexagonal room
What is your typical client base?

We have a range of clients including domestic and commercial.  The main two types of domestic clients are:

  • Those who don’t really have an interest in Interior Design but what a room to be proud of and show off to their friends, often this is achieved within a small budget.
  • The second type of client generally has a larger budget but needs advice and guidance in the right direction.

Our commercial clients have mainly been in the hotel/self catering industry, assisting them in updating rooms to achieve a higher star rating to increase occupancy and room rates.

What does the future hold for JoJo Online Interior Design?

We would like to maintain constant growth, focusing on the UK, whilst we have worked in Europe we don’t want to expand this business at present but this could be an expansion area for the future.  We would like to grow the client base, grow the team and spend more time with a gin and tonic by the beach.

You can contact Jo through her website by email or by phone just visit

If this interview has inspired you in any way you may enjoy reading the success stories in our student gallery on the right-hand side of the homepage, or you can visit our website and find out more about interior design distance learning courses.

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