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Jessi Deakin Dreamcatcher Designs ISCD TLC Interiors

ISCD Graduates on Study + How to Crack into the Interiors Industry

Having studied design and interior styling at ISCD a few years ago, I often get people asking me what it was like and if they should enrol there. Today’s post aims to help you make the decision – and I’ve brought in a few of my fellow ISCD graduates to give you their take on studying too.

Studying at ISCD TLC Interiors

I’ve been very open about my journey to becoming a working blogger, interior stylist, presenter and author. In the few short years since I started TLC Interiors, I’ve been fortunate enough to see a lot of my hard work pay off.

It’s not a bragging exercise, of course, but more of a ‘If I can do it, you can too’ situation. There have been hurdles along the way, but I can safely say that it is all 100% worth it. To be running a business with four different pillars and income streams, all as successful as one another, is a dream come true – and I know it can happen for you too!

So if you’ve been tinkering with the idea of studying, and you don’t know if you should do it, or if ISCD or another school is the one for you, below you’ll hear from not only myself, but two of my friends and fellow ISCD graduates, to get a feel for what they’re doing now that the study is over with.

I hope this gives you a bit of insight into studying and life after school, and I invite you to drop a comment at the end of the post and ask any questions of us that you might have.

ISCD Students’ Advice about Studying

Chris Carroll Interior Designer Melbourne TLC Interiors
My recent styling work for Jim’s Interiors

Chris’ Story
“Listen to your gut. If it excites you, enrol there!”

Since graduating from ISCD, I have presented decorating segments on The Morning Show, worked with Inside Out and Temple & Webster, styled campaigns for Feast Watson, Lorraine Lea and Jim’s Interiors, plus worked with residential clients on interior design projects. I also run this blog full-time, authored this book and am a presenter and MC with Metricon Homes.

I had a burning desire to be an interior decorator for quite some time. The thought of doing home makeovers for people excited me to no end, and after years of working as a copy writer and sub editor for a daily deals website, I was eager to try something new.

I saw an ad for ISCD in one of the interiors mags back in 2013 and called them up to see if I could come chat with them. I didn’t go to a group open day, but instead met with their student advisor one-on-one. I told her that I’d just started a design blog, wanted to learn more about interior styling, and work as a decorator alongside running the blog full time. That was the dream anyway, and she told me that I’d learn what I needed at ISCD in order to make it happen.

I walked out of ISCD that day and called my partner immediately. I was so inspired and excited by the conversation I’d had, that I was desperate to enrol. A month or so later, I started my Cert IV in design. Once that 8-month course was complete, I went on to do the one-year diploma in interior styling.

Christmas Table Setting Ideas on TLC Interiors

“You have to be unashamedly forward and ask people for the help. The rest comes to you from there”.

The question I know you’re wondering is, but should I enrol there? It’s actually impossible for me to answer that, because I believe that every single person is different and has different wants and needs. I was so smitten with ISCD that I didn’t even look into any other design schools. I had found the one first go, locked it in, and went for it.

I think what you need to do is listen to your gut when it comes to exactly where you should study. Go meet with a student advisor, go to an open day, tour the campus. If you get those butterflies that I did, then go with that school. The question of ‘should you study’… that’s easy to answer: yes, yes, 100 times yes. No education is ever wasted, and the very process of going on such a creative journey will open up possibilities for you that you never knew existed.

The one thing I do want to say though, is that the school doesn’t give you a job. No school will. It takes a lot of motivation and persistence to make it in any new industry, but it is possible and you can do it. You just have to go out guns blazing once you graduate and make it happen!

For me, I was fortunate enough to have had the blog behind me when I graduated. People in the industry were already getting to know me and my brand. But I approached Temple & Webster to come in and style with them. I asked Greenhouse Interiors if I could do assistant styling with them. I asked Inside Out to put me in the magazine. I approached The Morning Show and pitched them segment ideas. You have to be unashamedly forward and ask people for the help. The rest comes to you from there.

Jessi Deakin Dreamcatcher Designs ISCD TLC Interiors

Jessi’s Story
“The hard work comes after you’ve left the classroom”

After studying a Cert IV in design at ISCD, Jessi went on to study a year-long diploma in interior styling, operates her own successful business, Dreamcatcher Designs, and also works full-time in property staging and styling.

Jessi and I went through ISCD’s Cert IV course together and have been friends ever since. Jessi tells me that initially, she wasn’t entirely sure of the career she wanted to get post-study, but that it instead developed along the way.

“I didn’t even have a clear understanding of the variety of work that was even out there in the interiors field when I began my studies,” she says. “I just knew I was interested in interiors and design and thought an education was a good place to start, and the rest would unfold naturally along the way – which it did, thankfully!”.

Jessi echoes my sentiments that where you study isn’t as important as what you do once you leave. She tells me that she undertook a lot of internships toward the end of her interior styling diploma, and then spent a further six months post-study completing even more.

Dreamcatcher Designs Macrame Plant Holder
Some of Jessi’s Macrame Work

“I worked hard at them and although they were all unpaid financially, my wealth of knowledge and confidence was growing and that to me was invaluable! I did also start my own business, Dreamcatcher Designs, during my second year of study. It happened quite unexpectedly through the interest of friends and family, and just grew organically from there”.

I’ve got a lot of admiration for Jessi because she really has put in the hard yards, and a lot of those yards were unpaid. She’s worked with some fantastic brands and stylists over the past few years, and she reiterates that the hard work really does begin once you leave the classroom.

“Almost everyone who studies graduates at the end of the course but not everyone goes on to be successful in the industry. It requires a lot more than a couple of years of study to secure or build your dream job. Even once you have broken into the industry, you still have to constantly be evolving and growing within your creative field to nurture your success”.

Jessi’s Advice:

“If you are unsure about study, I would suggest trying to secure an internship or work experience in the field you are most interested in to get a taste before investing big time and money into an education. You may be blessed enough to have that internship lead straight to a job or it may at least confirm for you that this is the path you want to follow and that enrolling in a school is the right move for you!”.

Martine Cooper ISCD TLC Interiors Love Your Space Interiors
Martine (second from left) at ISCD’s Designer Rug Awards

Martine’s Story
“I enjoy my work so much now, sometimes I feel guilty”

Martine studied a Cert IV in design at ISCD, followed by a diploma in interior styling, and then a diploma in interior design and decorating. She was not only a finalist in the coveted Inside Out/Designer Rug design awards, but she’s gone on to operate a very bustling interior design business, Love Your Space.

Martine knew that she wanted to work in the interiors industry, but as she went through the first few years of her journey, she realised that she also wanted to have a strong grasp on design and construction.

“I could see opportunities to improve the design of homes and this meant that I needed to gain a better understanding of construction, architecture and building requirements,” she tells me. “I now feel confident and equipped to design interiors spaces, joinery and to coordinate trades”.

I studied with Martine in my second year at ISCD, during the interior styling diploma, and I admired the way she sourced work for herself during study. She was working with clients before anyone else in the class was; a result of her drive, talent and willingness to jump in the deep end and learn on-the-go.

Love Your Space Interiors TLC Interiors ISCD
Some of Martine’s recent Interior Design Work

“After each course I would take on a small project, and each of these small projects lead to paid work and bigger opportunities,” Martine explains, of how she broke into the industry. Martine tells me that the first job she took was unpaid, but that by the end of it she had two paid gigs lined up, so it was well worth it.

Martine also explains that it’s the relationships you build along the way that can secure you a lot of your work.

“After the second course, I was contacted by a builder who asked me to help a client with selecting some finishes and with styling.  I built such a great rapport with the the builder we have gone on to do numerous projects together”.

Impressed with the links the teachers at ISCD had to the industry (they all work in it in one form or another), Martine says that so many doors open once you graduate, and that you need to figure out what aspects of the course you were best at, and where it can then take you.

Martine’s Advice:

“After years in a corporate organisation where I was being handsomely rewarded with a good salary and good flexibility – I was nervous to make the change.  I can honestly say its the best thing I have ever done  – I enjoy my work so much now, sometimes I feel guilty!

Start with a short course – this will help you to understand the opportunities for work and study and whether its for you”.

Got a question for me, Jessi or Martine? Drop a comment below and let us know what your concerns are so we can help you out!

Jessi’s photo courtesy of Citizens of Style.


Chris Carroll

Outside of writing this blog, Chris is an interior designer, presenter and author. He’s also spent time on TV, on Channel 10’s Changing Rooms, as well presenting segments on Channel 7’s Sunrise and The Morning Show. If you’d like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

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6 Responses

  1. Chris Carroll, this is a nice post. It spoke to my heart! Honestly, you described so many things that fit into my present situation. I am about to start my study with an interior design and decor institute next week. It took me a lot of time before i finally decided to pursue this goal. my background is in medical sciences and I have spent years in volunteer service and teaching/training. But I’ve been passionate about organizing, designing and decorating things since i was a kid. I am excited about this but i am also a bit afraid because I don’t have previous knowledge in architecture or related field but I have two things; viz: Passion and determination. Thank you for your post. I’d appreciate your mentorship, advice, tips and support as well as professional connection. It’ll be an honor to gain from your wealth of experience. my contact is atmaprivate@gmail.com

    1. Hi Michael – I am so excited for you! Trust me, you will not regret any part of your study. You’re going after your dreams and exploring your passion, so you’re already on the path to great things. Enjoy it and keep me posted on how it goes for you!

  2. Loved your post! I find it hard to know how to do unpaid internships and still survive financially.. Tricky.

    1. Hey Erica. I hear ya! I personally never did any internships. The concept has never sat well with me, but they seem to have a place in the world and both sides (for the most part) seem OK to conduct and take part in them. I did one day of styling assisting here and there, which I found far easier to manage with other work (and easier on the finances). Perhaps give that a go. Expose yourself to as many different stylists as possible, for example, and do a day here and there with each of them. That way you learn from a lot of industry leaders but aren’t locked into anything.

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I’m interior designer Chris Carroll, and at TLC Interiors we’re all about helping you create an amazing home without breaking the bank. It’s affordable designer style at its best, and we make the whole process easy and fun for clients & readers alike!

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