Name: Chris Barrett
Job Title: Interior Designer
Where: Santa Monica, CA
Years of Experience: 19
Interior Designer Salary: Mid-Six Figures (See Payscale’s Average Interior Designer Salary)
Employer: KAA Design Group
Interior Designer Job Description:
Generally, the mission of an interior designer is to create memorable experiences in residential or commercial spaces. The designer has to have a clear vision for every project. Once the clear vision is in place, we start to formulate the process to achieve the vision to fit the architecture, environment and the client’s needs. We design, we shop, we order, we execute. We supervise construction and millwork. We are, more or less, the executive producer of the production.
What is your background?
I grew up in Southern California. I was an actress for many years prior to becoming an interior designer. I was a contract player at Universal Studios. I was one of their last contract players. I did some 70’s television series and movies.
Which 70’s television series were you in?
I was Nurse Ellen Bart on the 70’s television series “Emergency.” I was in the movie “Sleeper” with Woody Allen. I was in a film called “Moonrunners” which was the basis for the television series “The Dukes of Hazard.” I was the Daisy Duke-like character.
How did you become an Interior Designer?
I decided that I wanted to do something other than wait around for the phone to ring for my next acting job. I decided to try one class at the UCLA interior design program and see if I liked it. I did and kept on going. I was working my way through the UCLA interior design program when a friend called and asked if I would do her house. I said “yes” and have not stopped working since. I started slowly while I continued with school. If I had it to do over again, I would have worked for a designer before going out on my own, but that wasn’t my path.
What do you love most about your career?
I am so happy to get up everyday and come to work. My career is so diverse. One day, I’m working on a home in Kentucky, and the next, I’m working on a restaurant in West Hollywood. I think the best part for me is the final installations. I think of it as poetry where all the elements come together in some sort of free verse.
Do you have any funny moments from your job that you can share?
Every day is a funny moment! You have to laugh or sometimes you’ll cry. I have walked into a 2 x 4 on a construction site, knocking myself unconscious. Finding handcuffs on the bedpost of a client’s bed was a very funny moment. Having a cat pee all over the client’s newly installed bedding was also a funny moment When the same client’s dog peed on another bed; that was so bad we had to laugh!
Have you designed the interior of celebrity homes?
I have done several celebrity homes. I did Charlize Theron’s home. She was actually out of state filming a movie so we had to Fed-Ex design samples to her. We decorated John Stamos’ house. It was inspired by the Mediterranean architecture and John’s personality; it’s an eclectic mix of Italian, Spanish and mid-century modern design. But I put the same effort into everyone’s home that I put into celebrity homes; I want every home to have that same level of design that you see in the interior of celebrity homes.
What advice would you give to hopeful interior designers?
A designer must definitely be educated, understand history and art in addition to drafting and space planning. They should also have a clear vision. Communication and organization skills are critical. After you have your education, you should work as an assistant. That’s where you learn interior design skills.
When you’re not interior designing, what do you enjoy doing?
A good friend of mine, Marcy Wallace, started Madison’s Foundation. It’s a web site that provides medical information to parents of children with rare, life-threatening diseases; Charlize Theron has appeared at our yearly fundraiser.
What would be the typical interior designer salary range?
A typical interior designer salary range would be from $45,000 to $100,000. Obviously, if you’re on your own, then your interior designer salary could be more, but you also have all the liability.
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