How to Become an Interior Decorator in New York
When you think of New York City, bright lights, a fast pace, and some of the world’s tallest skyscrapers are what come to mind. But did you know that it’s also one of the best cities for aspiring interior decorators?
The career possibilities will have you setting your sights higher than the Empire State Building (and the average salary is a competitive one, too)! You’ll need to arm yourself with your interior decorator certification, of course, as well as serious skills and experience. Setting yourself apart as a home decorator in NYC is key.
Join us on a journey through the best neighborhoods in the city that never sleeps, plus a list of interior decorators to follow and the salary you can expect!
Where to Work in New York
Design Industries: High-end residential, luxury residential, modern
Median Income: $66,739
It’s no accident that our list of where to work as a home decorator in New York begins in Manhattan! One of the world’s most famous neighborhoods, Manhattan is considered a hub of entertainment, culture, and media, and it’s also full of opportunities for certified interior decorators starting their careers. With a median income of $66,739, it is one of the highest-income cities in the United States, which means that there are many individuals and families who will hire a home decorator to create their ideal living and working space.
As an aspiring interior decorator, you can choose from several different neighborhoods within Manhattan – all with their own personalities, inhabitants, and styles.
Neighborhood: Upper East Side
Known as the wealthiest area of Manhattan, the Upper East Side provides many opportunities to design professionals who specialize in high-end and luxury residential design. Clients will likely need your expertise to decorate oversized rooms, and will depend on your advice regarding current decorating trends. You’ll be able to hone your finest decorating skills in some of the most beautiful homes in the state as an interior decorator on the Upper East Side, and build a network of who’s who in New York City while you’re at it!
South of the ritzy Upper East Side is an area that has a personality all its own! Tribeca, which is a syllabic abbreviation of “Triangle Below Canal Street”, is mostly made up of apartment lofts and industrial buildings, and is home to many actors, models and other celebrities.
After receiving your interior decorator certification, a move to colorful Tribeca will allow you the opportunity to really sink your teeth into some creative design projects. You may encounter the rare middle-aged client, but for the most part, you’ll be dealing with a young, hip demographic that longs for a space that truly reflects their unique style. You can expect to regularly think out of the box with these clients and provide creative color schemes and wallpaper recommendations.
As a neighbor to Tribeca, SoHo (short for South of Houston Street) is a similar type of creative, youthful area. Boasting some of the most stunning architecture in New York, with a focus on cast iron buildings, SoHo’s population is one that loves to honor the neighborhood’s history. Therefore, as a home decorator, you can be sure to meet clients who are artists and fashion professionals and want their living and working spaces to reflect this.
The most common type of home is a loft (similar to Tribeca), and your clients will depend on you to maintain the cast-iron, industrial feel of SoHo while also bringing forth their own personality.
Design Industries: Full-service design, residential design, commercial design
Median Income: $54,373
Widely considered less fashionable than Manhattan and Brooklyn, Queens still boasts a high median income and a culture that is up-and-coming. Not only is Queens the largest borough in New York, it is also the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in the world!
If you’ve set your sights on full-service interior decorating, and have planned specific packages, Queens is an excellent choice. There is a variety of different types of homes in this neighborhood, including free-standing houses, apartments, and town homes, and you can be sure that unique personalities and tastes can be found at every turn. With a solid median income of $54,373, clients will be willing to pay more to personalize their spaces. It’s a safe bet that with such a diverse population, no two designs will be the same!
Design Industries: Residential design, commercial design
Median Income: $44,850
Manhattan may be the most famous city in New York, but the title of most populous neighborhood in the city belongs to Brooklyn. Located off the island of Manhattan, and connected by the notable bridge, Brooklyn has a reputation for its highly diverse population and affordable housing. Many apartments and houses in this mature borough show their age, so homeowners will hire interior decorators to perform total overhauls on residential spaces.
While these projects are highly time-consuming – as you’ll potentially be working with contractors, selecting new furniture, and even removing walls – they usually pay quite a bit of money! As a home decorator in Brooklyn, you’ll be called upon for renovations, as well as projects that are highly unique to the owner of the space. Be sure you’re up-to-date on best practices and are ready for the challenge!
New York-Based Interior Decorators to Follow
All NYC-based home decorators are inspired by the city – it’s impossible not to be! However, home designer Kati Curtis is based out of both New York City and Los Angeles, so her designs are mostly New York focused, but with a slight California twist. In her designs, bold bursts of color are balanced out with fine details such as dark accents. Check out Kati’s website and enjoy the spin on familiar New York designs.
We mentioned that Brooklyn is a sparkling hub of many different ethnicities, which is one of the reasons it is such a vibrant, exciting borough. The founders of Aprochic, a Brooklyn-based interiors and lifestyle brand, celebrate African-American culture through their beautiful, unique designs. Follow Aprochic on Instagram and be immediately enchanted by unique and creative home décor.
Located in the posh neighborhood of Chelsea, Homepolish is a team of dedicated, professional designers who create custom interiors from the ground up. Once they’ve consulted with their client, they then charge an hourly fee to execute the project, and take care to incorporate the client’s vision at each step. Follow Homepolish on Instagram for some serious design inspiration!
Megan Pflug Designs
Located in Brooklyn, and with a talent for renovating old homes, Megan Pflug is a home designer to keep an eye on! Making the most of her clients’ space is what she’s passionate about, but she also provides e-consultations to clients and transforms rooms past any and all expectations. The charm of the homes Megan works on is reflected in her Instagram photos, as is her sheer design talent!
For NYC-based designer and author Will Taylor, beige is boring! His lifestyle blog, Bright.Bazaar, is focused on infusing bold splashes of color with positive inspiration into each post. Just looking at his website and Instagram account will have you aching to add some color to your designs wherever possible!
An Interior Decorator’s Salary in New York
New York City is one of the best cities for aspiring interior decorators, and the salary is a direct reflection of this. The average salary for an interior decorator in New York is $52,381 per year, but this figure can be influenced by a variety of factors. The location you choose to work in will have the strongest impact on your salary – for example, Manhattan boasts several different neighborhoods, but not all of them will provide an aspiring interior decorator with a competitive salary. Your best bet within Manhattan is the Upper East Side for a higher salary, while other boroughs of New York such as Brooklyn will provide a lower, but still profitable salary.
Another factor to consider is your level of experience and education. Obtaining your interior decorator certification is key in order to set yourself apart in any area of New York City, and earn a competitive salary. Keep in mind that experience is a huge asset for interior decorators beginning their careers, so working as a volunteer or with a design firm is an excellent way to hone your skills.
Once you can set yourself apart as a home decorator, you’ll be ready to take New York by storm!