Expert’s Insights to Building a Successful Interior Design Career With Justine Sterling

Interior Designer Podcast, Interior Design Career, Interior Design School, Interior Design Business, Interior Design Mentor, Interior Designer

What does it take to become an award-winning interior designer featured in Boston’s top publications? What steps are needed to easily transition from commercial to residential design services? How can you leverage your education and experience to start your design firm? My special guest, Justine Sterling, will tell you. 

I had a great time talking with Justine, an industry veteran with over three decades of expertise, about her journey from Cape Town, South Africa, to Boston and all of the exciting adventures she had in between.

She has a myriad of experiences working with larger firms that played a crucial role in shaping her success. She has a lot of wisdom and insights, emphasizing the immense value of working in larger design firms to broaden your horizons and gain a multifaceted understanding of the design industry.

If you want to follow in her footsteps, today’s episode will show you how to get started.

Why you’ve got to check out today’s episode
  • Explore the pivotal role of large design firms in shaping your design career
  • Find out how to smoothly transition from commercial to residential design services
  • Overcome self-doubt and find the motivation to start your own design firm
    About the Guest:

    Justine Sterling is an award-winning full-service Interior Designer who believes that the key to a well-designed (and loved) home starts with taking you on a journey through self-discovery. 

    Whether you’re working with Justine on a full home furnishings and renovation project or a new construction home or meeting with her one-on-one for invaluable design expertise, her Discovering Home process allows her to intimately understand the design elements that will bring surprise and delight to your home. 

    Justine Sterling Design’s aesthetic is clean, layered, approachable, modern yet cozy, and filled with texture. Justine Sterling’s Design projects have been featured in many publications such as New England Home magazine, North Shore Home, Modern Luxury Interiors Boston, The Boston Globe, and Boston Home magazine.

    Located just north of Boston, Justine is an award-winning interior designer who has built a portfolio of residential construction and furnishings projects since 2008, varying from urban condominiums to renovation and new construction home endeavors. She has a newfound love for tennis and pilates and resides just north of Boston with her husband, son, and daughter.

    Connect with Justine Sterling:

    Website: Justine Sterling Design
    Instagram:  @justinesterlingdesign

      Check out these episode highlights

      03:23 – Justine’s current area of work and the specific type of design she specializes in

      05:00 – How she got into art and design in her high school days that sparked her interest in interior design

      09:39 – Her journey from studying interior design in 1988 to working in a firm that specialized in office design and furniture classics

      12:16 – Her early career experience in residential design – feeling unsupported and lacking mentorship

      13:55 – Why she considered working with a big firm, Eric Kauffman and Associates, as her best experience as a designer

      • Learned from other designers
      • Understood the different roles needed within a firm, especially in doing large projects
      • Developed her skills and the ability to deliver high-quality work
      • Gained confidence to start her firm

      15:09 – Her experience working on capital expenditure projects for hotels, including custom designing furniture, rugs, and lighting

      19:02 – Her experience working at a higher level within a big company on hotel projects in Johannesburg and Kenya – developing hotel concepts from the ground up, designing guest rooms, and managing capital expenditures

      • Learned how to do budgeting for large-scale projects 
      • Learned how to manage staff – directing people working under her 

      24:04 – She moved to Boston and worked at Elkus Manfredi Architects for 8 years before starting her design firm

      • Gained experience working in big design studios
      • Took on projects and built her team
      • Learned how to build an incredible set of construction documents

      29:11 – Her experience working on projects for clients like Novartis and Millennium Pharmaceuticals, and enjoyed the challenge of space planning and designing offices

      30:51 – How she started her design firm and transitioned to residential design and worked on multiple projects for the same client family 

      34:44 – Her biggest learning curve when she transitioned to residential design

      37:55 – Her tricks to getting published locally

      • Photographing projects thoroughly and giving them your all, including using your own props and styling elements
      • Make connections and build relationships with local magazine people and photographers

      42:02 – Her biggest advice to aspiring designers: work with larger firms to gain experience and confidence before starting your own design business

        Next Steps

        Take the QUIZ!! Find Out What Type of Interior Designer You Should Be!

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        Thanks for listening! I hope this helps you discover if interior design is the career for you. See you next week…