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Thoughts on being an ‘interior designer’

Design by Justina Blakeney

There’s a little part of me that cringes when someone calls me an interior designer…not because I don’t like the idea of being an interior designer, but more because I wasn’t trained as an interior designer and don’t feel I’ve earned that title. I prefer the terms interior stylist or decorator even–those terms feel more comfortable for some reason.

Design by Justina Blakeney

That having been said, sometimes I don’t give myself enough credit and I was looking back on some of the spaces that I’ve transformed and realized that it shouldn’t have to always be about formal training, schooling, degrees or titles, but more about the way I’m changing spaces and the lives of the people who live in them.

Design by Justina Blakeney and Caitlin Levin

I also sometimes wonder if it is because of my lack of formal training in interior design that makes me feel at liberty to do really weird and wild things in interior spaces.

Design by Justina Blakeney

That is not to say that more schooling or formal training wouldn’t make me better and more confident at my craft. I’m sure, actually that it would.

Design by Justina Blakeney Design by Justina Blakeney Design by Justina Blakeney

Because all of this is swimming in my head today, I thought it would be fun to do a little ‘best of’– a selection of favorite spaces that I’ve transformed as a good reminder for me that, unless you’re a doctor or something, it’s pointless to limit oneself based on training or degrees. If you can figure out how to do something, just do it, and don’t get all caught up on titles.

Design by Justina Blakeney Design by Justina Blakeney  Design by Justina Blakeney

Design by Justina Blakeney Design by Justina Blakeney Justina Blakeney Patio Justina Blakeney Patio Justina Blakeney Patio Design by Justina Blakeney Design by Justina Blakeney Design by Justina Blakeney

Design by Justina Blakeney

I’m pretty proud of the spaces I’ve created and even more than that, about the way I make people feel in the spaces after they have been transformed…and that’s the most important thing, right? What do you think?

Alternative Text Justina Blakeney

Designer, artist, stylist & mama. Founder and CCO at The Jungalow. Crazy for color, pattern and plants!

18 responses to “Thoughts on being an ‘interior designer’”

  1. Amanda Rose says:

    So true true true! …and your spaces are BEEEYOOTIFUL! Dying over those yellow stools!

    • Maria says:

      Absolutely true, in every sense. And in saying that, I do have to agree with you regarding using the term “interior designer” – while sure, no point getting hung up on titles, there is also a reason for them. I did study interior design formally, but changed to art education. While studying interior design, there was a LOT of change in the industry BECAUSE many “decorators” started calling themselves “designers”. One could chalk it all up to snobbishness OR realize it for what it is: the truth. No one is going to call themselves an architect without the proper training, and the same really should hold for an interior designer. A certified interior designer had the training, and the certification from the ASID – the BIG difference between a decorator and a designer is a decorator changes surfaces and items within a space. A designer can actually change THE space – as in move walls and the like. A designer understands, knows and is qualified to work with the actual structure, beyond merely surfaces. So yes, the differences do matter to a certain degree. That said, you do beautiful work – so you, and your clients enjoy it! *thumbs up*

  2. Justina-You do such beautiful work and I applaud you for being so successful in the design industry. It is not easy to have your own gig and get people to pay for your services. Although I appreciate everything I learned while obtaining my degree in ID, my thought processes are still the same and I have found that is what I rely on the most…an artist carving her way into this world the best way she knows how.

    As always, I just love seeing your posts and keep it going!


  3. Tess says:

    This is exactly what I needed to hear today. I’ve been working hard on a career change into organization and design and haven’t applied to any design schools because being in debt terrifies me and my husband.. I don’t call myself a designer for that exact reason. But I’ve been really surprising myself and people have been really happy with my help so I try not to think of the titles too much and instead I try to just remain focused on making people happy, building up their self confidence via their homes and also trying to save them money and think of the things they purchase in new ways. :) Warm fuzzies everywhere.

  4. Brittany says:

    Love it.

    I am a trained interior designer but you know what? I didn’t learn to style. That wasn’t a course. It wasn’t a part of the curriculum (at least where I went). Sure, we learned color theory and textiles and parts that go into making styling, but it wasn’t a part of it. What I learned in interior design school was more interior architecture. Floor plans and CAD programs and such.

    SO, I think the only way to get that is to do what you’re doing and just go for it and practice. And I LOVE everything you do.

    And because I haven’t touched “interior design” as I was taught, I’m SO not confident in my skills. I haven’t touched a CAD program since! I’ve developed my styling skills now based on personal experience and initiation. I will say that I’m glad for the formal foundation that I received in color theory and drawing and such. That has been helpful. And just learning spatial relationships and the history of it all.

    You’re good girl! You rock it!

  5. McKenna Howard says:


    I must say, I am a huge fan and I applaud you and your success. I have been smitten with your taste for quite a while now!

    I am a year from graduating with my degree in Interior Design. Sadly “Interior Design” as a title does not grant you much decorating ability. We are not taught much regarding the styling aspects; that is a talent you either have, or you don’t. What I mean to say is NEVER let that title hold weight on your mind. You have a talent that many with the title do not hold. I can honestly say you are my favorite stylist. Title or no title, you are stellar and have endlessly provided me with inspiration.

    – M.

  6. Maria says:

    I drool over all of your work! It has that happy, global, but comfortable “I want to hang out” type of feel. I once read that we have to call ourselves what we want to be considered. So for instance, if you’re a writer and haven’t been published, start calling yourself a writer and write. I dream about becoming an interior decorator, but can’t afford to go to school. It doesn’t stop me from being flattered when someone calls me an interior decorator (I’ve helped friends & family). ;-) So, you go girl. You’ve earned it!

  7. kim says:

    Justina- what a great post ! I’m a florist and event designer who’s work has spilled over into design living – I’m old enough that I feel extremely confident but also because you can’t do well as any sort of designer unless you have that “eye” – that thing that has nothing to do with a degree. Sure it’s important to know the “mechanics” and that should eventually be explored as you go deeper but it all begins with that eye/thing/love . BTW your face foliage is just so magical – I love them all.

  8. Ali says:

    I love this! I’ve been a fan of you and your work for quite some time and have taken both your styling courses. As someone that aspires to be a stylist, I’ve realized that it really is about jumping in, experimenting, and lots of practice. Sometimes I get hung up on the title because it’s hard to explain to others what an “interior stylist” does. I think you are a great example of someone who is extremely talented and creative and has made a difference in design world. Thanks for your continuous inspiration.

  9. Melissa says:

    It sounds like you do what you feel looks right, rather than what you’ve been taught should be right. This is great because I think by first following a rigid path of schooling, it allows someone else to mold your brain psychology and approach, which can limit creative exploration. I went to school for graphic design, and found the school I chose was very traditional and many of the teacher in the first two years wanted us to do everything their way, which I don’t agree with. I think you neing successful at your craft without any formal schooling shows your talent and natural abulity. Life experience in real-world environments can be a great teacher.

    I think your natural sense of style is eclectic and works well for the spaces you’ve created. I should note, this is the first time I’ve visited your website/blog, so that alone might say something. I really like your playful use of color and pattern that has a very international culture feel to it. Keep up the great work and let your passion lead you in life!

  10. You should definitely never feel as if you haven’t earned the title, you have an incredible portfolio that shows all of the beautiful spaces you have transformed with your artistic, painterly eye. These sensibilities definitely cannot be taught, they are within you, and an intuitive process that develops as a visual rhythm over time. Your style is awesome, uninhibited and expressive in a way that would probably be stifled by interior design school. That being said, I’d be curious to know if you have had any snags in the business side of things. For example, I have a new interior design business, am not a licensed interior designer, and have felt bad that I am unable to offer my clients a trade discount when I shop for them. The stores have asked me for an ASID Card, Tax ID form or Contractors License and I do not have any of these things. I will have a Tax ID form next year, hopefully, (but my business was in its 1st year so not yet). I also had a contractor ask me for my drawings for the bookshelves I was helping my client design for her entertainment center. I was like, “Uh… to scale? Can I just show you the pictures we pulled together on Pinterest?” I felt so unprepared. He wanted me to hand them technical drawings so his carpenter could start measuring and making all his cuts! I do have a degree in fine art, but as an “Interior Designer” I definitely thought ‘OK, maybe I’m not qualified.’ It’s scary! But reassuring someone as awesome as you even questions yourself on some days. NO need though, you definitely got it! :)

  11. nat says:

    This TOTALLY resonated with me!
    As we work on growing our business at apartment diet we also get called ‘interior designer’ or asked ‘but what training do you have’…I think for me it’s also allowing people to call us that and then educating them in what we do so they in part understand what we do (create happy healthy homes, deal with their stuff, overwhelm, clarity on their taste etc…)

    you should be totally proud of what you’re creating and I love everything about it – it’s unique, special and beautiful!

    PS cant wait to see more of your book!

  12. Leslie-Anne says:

    Your spaces are beautiful and inspiring. Your vision is unique and I am grateful that you share it here on your blog because it helps me feel confident enough to make my space uniquely mine.

  13. Muktangan says:

    Very well said indeed!!

  14. THANK YOU for sharing. I call myself an interior designer (and stylist), even though I never got my degree. I’ve been in the field for 17 (gulp) years, and am so proud of the spaces I’ve created, and create. I’ve known many a formally trained designer without natural talent, and it shows. You my dear, have NATURAL talent. Be proud. xo

  15. Sam says:

    This is EXACTLY how I feel. I kind of fell into it and am constantly second guessing myself because of a lack of formal training. But – like you point out – unless you are a doctor or a lawyer – it’s not mandatory to have a degree to practice interior design. I am constantly battling with this confidence in my head – although I have lots of repeat clients and happy customers. Thanks for a great post. x

  16. I felt this way too, so much so that last summer I enrolled in my Community College’s ID program. I found though, once I was there, that I liked my untrained skills better. I like styling, I like repurposing, and I like not being tied to any one way of doing things. If you’re good, you’re good.

  17. Kelly says:

    I’ve wrote some thoughts about being a blogger here https://narrativeessays.org/. This is an art too as to be a designer.

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