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NDA student Karen Lane is aiming for the top and reveals how Interior Design has always been her passion


After she couldn’t resist anymore, Karen Lane took the leap of design and is now running a successful interior design business; Autograph Interior Designs. Karen left college without any qualifications, but that didn’t stop her, she was determined to become a great interior designer and started a Diploma course at The National Design Academy in 2007. After flying through the course she progressed onto the Foundation Degree qualification and is now studying a BA Hons in Interior Design. Her story is inspirational and proves that anyone with enough belief can achieve success. Kick your shoes off and enjoy her interview…

What persuaded you to give up your job for interior design?
Since childhood, design had always been something I’ve been interested in, whether its fashion, product, graphic architecture or interiors. I spent 14 years working for a large national soft furnishings retailer, designing room sets, in-store displays, pulling products together and creating colour schemes. I was travelling all over the country and working crazy hours. Eventually I decided that I’d like to do something for myself and to be more in control of my life. I knew that it would have to be interior design.

You became an architect’s technician at your husbands’ architectural design business, how did you find your husband as your boss?
Good question! It wasn’t easy taking orders from your partner and it took a little time to settle into! We benefited from having separate offices with a linked computer system which was a great way to work together, without getting in each others way.

Art Deco bathroom plan

How important is it to gain on-the-job-experience?
I would say that its very important, you can study as much as you like but there is no substitute for experiencing the reality of the workplace.

What made you choose to study at The National Design Academy and would you recommend distance learning to others?
The fact that it was “distance learning” was great and it allowed me to work part-time and spend the rest studying.

What were the biggest hurdles you faced during your study, and how did you overcome them?
I was among the very first in-take for this courses and therefore not only did I not have a clue  what was expected of me but neither did my fellow students – I think its true to say that we found it rather daunting at the outset.  I am very self motivated and I would say the biggest hurdle was the fact that you’re studying alone. This can be particularly hard if you are the type who likes to bounce ideas and get feedback – I found myself wondering what others were doing and how my work compared.

 What steps did you take to kick-start you interior design business?
In the course of doing my degree, I obviously spent a lot of time sourcing products and networking with suppliers. This meant that by the time I qualified I had already built up a good supplier database and made valuable contacts within the business.

When you hear the words “interior design” what springs to mind?
Problem solving! For me interior design is not the “fluffy” world that some may think it is. Its as much about functionality and aesthetics. There is no point designing a fabulous looking scheme if it doesn’t suit the needs, taste and the lifestyle of your client.


What advice would you give to people who want a change in career but may have some reservations?
We’re all different and we all go through different stages in our lives. My circumstances changed and I was suddenly faced with this great opportunity. It isn’t easy, as well as creativity, you need a good business head, lots of passion, patience and diplomacy – if you have all of those it could be for you!

Where do you get your inspiration for designs from?
Inspiration can come from anywhere – sometimes I recall something I’ve seen, it  may be totally unrelated to what I am working on but some element will trigger an idea. An example is an old powder compact I once saw in a book, it came back to me when I was designing a pattern for bathroom flooring and it worked a treat! I also make a point of regularly visiting shows such as Decorex, Birmingham Interiors and 100% Design, which keeps me up to date with new lines and innovations. Chelsea Harbour is another good source of inspiration.

Finally do you have any plans for the future?
To live long and enjoy my work. Oh, and to one day finish decorating my home ( I never seem to make the time!)

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