Interior Architecture & Design student, Vanelle Richards, did a placement with Sable Interiors this year. She’s learnt so much and the process has helped shape her plans for final year and beyond. Read on to find out more…
Who are Sable Interiors and what do they do?
Sable Interiors is a high-end interior design company based in South West London that offers interior design services, as well as architectural solutions and home styling. The company takes on a variety of different projects that range from residential and office projects to showhouse projects for new developments, these are both local and based further out closer to Central London or even outside the city. Sable Interiors also works on projects of different scales, whether it’s creating a new pair of curtains for a client’s living room, or space planning and creating schemes for the rooms of an entire property.
Which department do you work in? Have you had the opportunity to work with different departments?
Sable Interiors has quite a small team meaning that all the departments, which include project management, the design team and accounts work very closely together. As a design assistant, I mainly worked with the design team helping them with the various projects going on, however, I also had a chance to get some insight into the project management side of the business. I occasionally assisted them with smaller tasks such as taking in and notifying them of orders so that they were able to keep their project management files up to date; I also helped with other admin tasks around the office.
What is your job title? What were your main duties, tasks and responsibilities?
I worked as a Design Assistant. I helped the team with tasks such as drawing up floorplans, space planning, budgeting, creating schemes and ordering samples for some of the projects that Sable were currently working on. There were also other tasks to be done around the office, such as organising and rearranging the showroom, putting together furniture tear sheets for future use, and event planning and organising, which I also helped out with. For example, I assisted in the event planning of the showroom sales and the company events that took place during the Christmas period.
Did you feel like an employee?
Working at Sable I definitely felt like a part of the team, I was very lucky to be able to work within a very friendly and supportive team. I was always treated like an employee by every single staff member. I was given my own desk and computer, my own company email address, and always invited along to staff outings. Of course, I still had things to learn, being an intern. I required a little more support than if I was a normal employee, however, I was never made to feel out of place and was always included where I could be.
How was your placement activity related to your university degree?
As I study Interior Architecture & Design, I wanted to explore the interior design industry in more depth. It’s the industry that I would like to work in, in the future. My placement was related to my degree as in both my work and my degree I had to be able to create and understand floorplans, be able to follow a project brief and/or a scope of works, and have an understanding of the built environment in order to carry out work both appropriately and effectively.
What are the benefits of being on a placement?
Being on placement gives you a really good insight not only into the industry or business that you take your placement in but also into the working world. It helps you to develop skills and knowledge linked to your work and also teaches you how to conduct yourself in a professional manner in different situations that you may find yourself in. For me, I had never worked in a professional office environment like I did in my placement, so it was beneficial for me to learn how to behave and carrying out work in this kind of setting, as these are skills that will always be useful to have in the future. Placement is also beneficial as it is the best way to experience an industry and/or business first-hand and get your own understanding and ideas about it.
I haven’t received any formal job offers from my work just yet, although my colleagues have asked if I can please come back. I would definitely consider working with Sable after my degree, depending on what I choose to do.
What new skills have you developed?
My placement was truly beneficial in regard to the things that I learnt, the responsibilities that was given, and the new skills that I developed. However, just to list a few, I learnt how to use new software such as Vectorworks, which Sable uses to create and edit floorplans. Through this, I grasped how to use a scope of works to space plan different rooms and areas for current projects. InDesign was another software that I was able to develop my skills with to create presentations.
Sable uses many different suppliers for items such as furniture, fabrics and wallpapers, which I was able to gain a lot of knowledge on. I became more familiar with the different styles, as well as more confident in being able to suggest the right supplier products to different clients. I still had to work on how to properly engage with clients, to successfully promote the company’s services in order to gain new clients, however I was always given useful feedback to be able to improve upon these skills.
What have you most enjoyed? Is there one part of your placement that really stands out?
Highlights of my placement included attending events such as Decorex and the January Furniture Show, planning events around the Christmas period, and being able to work on new and current projects and seeing how they came together. My main highlight was going on a site visit for a showhouse project that Sable was working on. I was given a lot of involvement in this project, being able to see the skeleton of the project whilst in construction was very interesting as it was not something that I got to do every day. It was an enjoyable experience, and also helpful as I was able to visualise what the space could become, especially when space planning and designing.
What was your greatest success or achievement?
My greatest success at Sable Interiors was also my involvement in the showroom project for a new development in Kingston. As this was the project that I had the most involvement in, and was given the most responsibility for, I had to carry out tasks such as editing floorplans, creating and putting together presentations and mood boards, and I also budgeted the items for the project. Although I made some mistakes along the way and found it quite stressful at times, it was my biggest achievement as I was able to push myself outside of my comfort zone and at the same time gain new skills.
What have you least enjoyed?
Although I thoroughly enjoyed having a lot of involvement in the showhouse project for the development in Kingston, the least enjoyable part of it was the budgeting. Being something that I had never done before, it took me a few tries before I got it right. I had to be very thorough and specific with every product and detail for the project, therefore getting it wrong was my main fear, as it could result in the wrong costs being given to the client which in turn could lose the company money. So, although it was a good skill to learn, there was a lot of pressure to get it right.
What concerns did you have before going on placement, and how did they work out?
Two of my main concerns going into my placement was the work and projects that I would be given to work on, and if it would be valuable to me in relation to my course. I was also concerned about whether my skill level and abilities would allow me to understand and complete the work that I’d be given to do.
Luckily for me, the team at Sable were extremely helpful and supportive and were always willing to answer any questions that I had or help me with anything that I was unsure about, which put me at ease within my first week of starting. Therefore, they always kept me involved in projects and gave me a variety of tasks to see how I would handle them, and to help me get more comfortable with the processes.
What are your plans for your final year?
My plan for final year is to be able to manage my time properly in order to stay on top of coursework and assignments. My placement has really taught me how to manage my time and work efficiently. I also plan to apply the knowledge from my placement to my coursework so that I can continue putting the skills that I learnt in practice to improve the quality of my work from first and second year.
What are your plans for after your degree?
After my degree I would like to do my master’s in interior architecture & design as I really do enjoy my course and university life, so I am not ready for it to come to a complete end just yet. However, after my masters I would like to possibly live in the United States for a while and hopefully be able to find a job within the interior design industry there, or stay in the UK and find a job as an interior designer here.
Has the placement helped you with your career decisions?
This whole placement experience has definitely helped guide me with my career decisions. I was worried going into placement, that the interior design industry wouldn’t live up to my expectations which would leave me confused as to what I would want to do for my future career. However, the feeling of enjoying the work that I did each and every day, and not dreading going to work in the morning confirmed for me that interior design is what I would love to do in my future.
What advice would you give to students who aren’t sure whether to do a placement or not?
My advice to any student that is considering doing placement is to definitely go ahead and do it. I am so glad that I made the decision to do a placement; I have gained so much knowledge and learnt so many new skills beyond the things that I have learnt at university. Placement is beneficial for anyone unsure about what they want to do after university, as this is a great opportunity to get a taste of a possible career path, and it also gives you great insight into the working world and what life could be like for you after university. Also, by taking on a placement you will always be able to take away new knowledge and experience, even if your placement doesn’t turn out to be what you wanted it to be. Any work experience is good experience, as it will give you a clearer idea of what you want to look for once you step out into the working world. I am now confident that I have new skills and knowledge that I can take into final year and use to my advantage to put me a step further in my modules and coursework.
What advice would you give to your fellow students in year 1 and year 2 regarding their placement searches?
If you are considering doing a placement, my advice would be to start looking quickly and don’t leave it to the last minute. Send lots of emails, make lots of phone calls, as it’s better to speak to someone regarding whether they offer placement rather than waiting for a response to an email as this takes more time, and most importantly don’t give up! Finding placement requires a bit of work; you may find that there is some rejection before there is good news, as I probably called and made around 40 applications before I found my placement company, but don’t let this discourage you as it is definitely worth it in the end.