Student Success: Camille Besinga
While working as a Cosmopolitan editor, Camille Besinga realized how passionate she was about interior design. Shooting people’s fantastic homes for magazine features, she soon chose to enroll at the Philippine School of Interior Design as a part-time student. But after giving birth to her first child, she realized that commuting to and from school wasn’t practical for her schedule- that’s when she enrolled at NYIAD. She began her interior decorating career officially in 2014, less than a year into her NYIAD course. Today, her growing portfolio includes residential interiors, a restaurant and a boutique condominium building in a city near her home. We recently had the chance to chat with Camille about her time at NYIAD, her current interior design career, and her goals for the future. Here’s what we learned:
1. When did you realize that interior design was a field you wanted to pursue?
My training in interior design started way back in childhood. My mom has always had an eye for interior styling, and I grew up with people often commenting about how much they loved our home. When I went on to live on my own, I always loved fixing up my apartments, despite my skeletal budget. I eventually went into magazine publishing, and as managing editor of the Philippine edition of Cosmopolitan magazine, I worked closely with creative directors and art directors to make sure that every issue looked fantastic. Not to mention close collaborations with the entire creative team—photographers, stylists, makeup artists, production designers—which I believe further trained my eye in visual aesthetic, color palettes, symmetry and asymmetry, contrasts and texture. When I started shooting other people’s homes for the magazine- that was when I realized, “Hey, this is something I would totally dig going into.” So I enrolled at a premier design school (the Philippine School of Interior Design or PSID) as a part-time student to slowly introduce me to the field. Luckily, my editor allowed me to take classes in the morning, and work from afternoon to evening. It was hard and extremely hectic, but I was enjoying both my job and my studies so much that I didn’t mind. Besides, I knew that all that hard work would amount to something.
2. Have you always been interested in art and design? What is your educational background originally in?
I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in literature. Ironically, I’ve never considered myself artistic, at least in the visual sense. For many years, I struggled to visualize my concepts, unlike other people who seem to be inherently born with this trait. I could not sketch for the life of me—somehow my drawings always end up looking weirdly skewed (no sense of proportion and perspective at all). Color also was—and remains to be—a difficult concept for me to tackle. But I pored through my mom’s design books and magazines with pleasure, and always knew that when I grew up, I wanted to have a home I could be proud of, just as I was of the home my mother designed and decorated for us.
3. When did you enroll at NYIAD?
After I finished my third part-time term at PSID, I got pregnant. Due to the distance of the school to my home and workplace, I found it difficult to drive to and from there, and decided to stop for a while. Of course, giving birth completely turned my life upside down, and I told my husband that I feared I would never be able to re-enroll (I’m also melodramatic that way). On my birthday, some five months after our daughter was born, my husband showed me something on his computer: the website of NYIAD. He said that if I wanted to really continue my studies and still work at the same time, studying online could be an option. I had never before considered it, and had questions about whether what I would learn here could be applicable to the local market. But going through the course curriculum excited me so much, that then and there, we decided to go for it. My husband enrolled me immediately as a birthday gift.
4. What was your coursework like?
I’m a Lit major, so of course, I love to read. I love to geek out on things that I have a passion for, and even before enrolling in NYIAD, I would buy at least one design book a month and just read it from cover to cover (obviously I’ve amassed quite a collection of interior design books). The thing about NYIAD is that the lessons are incredibly detailed. I really appreciated this because, as this isn’t classroom learning, it would be much harder to maintain all that information in your brain. But because NYIAD lessons repeatedly discuss each and every design concept and theory, each by itself and in relation to the others, one is able to maintain all this information and really gain a practical understanding of it.
I also loved the chapters about running an interior design business. Of course, the material was skewed to a more American market, but it was useful to gain an insight into what it means to run an ID business. When I eventually decided to quit my publishing job and venture into freelance interior decorating, I was able to use all the forms and questionnaires that were shared in the course.
The projects also were a big, big help. While I would have appreciated an entire chapter on using AutoCAD, Sketchup, or at the very least, freehand interior sketching, each project I made honed my skills in making professional-looking presentations for my clients.
5. Was your mentor helpful during the process?
I heard her comments to my work whenever I would receive her audio commentary to each of my projects. I appreciated the level of detail that Anne (Harris) and Janet (Ramin) gave to every aspect of my work.
6. After graduation, how do you plan to use this knowledge to help you with a real world career?
I began my interior-decorating career officially in 2014, less than a year into my enrollment at NYIAD. Blame it on my excitement on everything I was learning; I really felt empowered by every chapter to want to put everything I’ve learned to practice. I’ve already finished the entire course and am just preparing all my materials to complete my final, Unit 6 project. As soon as I graduate, I will look into applying for a professional interior design license here in the Philippines, which means I would have to take the board exam with the Professional Regulation Commission of the Philippines. I am also keen on taking the exam for RIDQC certification down the line.
7. What did you learn working in the real world that you wish you could’ve learned at NYIAD?
Since I’m based in the Philippines, a lot of the technical jargon used locally is different from the terms and concepts I learned in NYIAD. This is by no fault of the school because this, I believe, is only something one will learn in practice. Also, as I mentioned before, it would have been nice if the AutoCAD/Sketchup lessons were also included in the course, as these tools are now indispensable to any interior design business. Most clients prefer seeing a 3D visual of the design concept.
8. Tell us about the interior design work you do.
My career in interiors is fairly young, and I have done mostly residential interiors, a restaurant, and a boutique condominium building out of town. A lot of my initial projects were of homes of friends and family, as well as referrals, but slowly I am building up a clientele based on my social media presence.
9. If you had to pick one, what was the most memorable project you’ve ever completed?
All my projects are memorable, but I learned a lot from a boutique condo building I worked on for over a year. While it was family-related, it was still my first major project, it was out of town, and was in a place where I didn’t speak nor understand their first language. I had to fly out to that city at least twice a month, struggled over local terms with the contractors, had to coordinate with engineers and architects for most of the plans. You could say it was a sort of “baptism by fire”, but I definitely picked up so many practical lessons that I now use in all my projects.
10. Describe a day in your life at work!
I work from home, so a lot of my working hours blends into my “home hours”, especially since I have a toddler with me. I normally begin around 9am, scheduling my day or week with clients, and responding to emails and inquiries. I also look over my existing clients’ plans and boards, to check on what tasks need to be done next. After lunch, I usually go out sourcing by visiting furniture shops and boutiques, and paying courtesy calls to suppliers to get a glimpse at their new collections. If, by some reason I cannot leave home, I also check out collections and items online (thank god many suppliers now have online catalogues!). I also try to visit my client sites at least twice a week, to check on work progress. My workday seldom ends at a set time—sometimes I work beyond 9pm—but I almost always make time for meals and snack time with my family.
11. How has social media helped you as a creative professional?
Immensely. I have both a Facebook and an Instagram account, but the latter has really helped me put out a visual portfolio that casual observers and serious inquirers can look into. Instagram also introduces me to a lot of other interior designers locally and abroad whom I gain inspiration from. Another great thing about it is that a lot of the local suppliers and manufacturers are on the platform, also advertising their trade, which enables me to expand my contacts and support the local industries. I haven’t been able to update my Wordpress blog, but so far it contains most of the information that interested or new clients need to gain an insight into the work that I do.
12. What’s the most rewarding part of your career?
Not all clients give explicit feedback, but I love it when they post photos of their homes on their social media accounts. It tells me how proud they are of their homes, and how much they appreciate the work I’ve done on it.
13. If you could give one piece of advice to our current and prospective students, what would it be?
The old adage “stay the course” has rung true for me all throughout my studies at NYIAD. Maybe it was a mistake for me to have started on my career before even finishing (then again, I had no choice; I had to make a living!), that it’s taken me quite a while to finish. But the one thing that many students of online courses find difficulty with is the time element—because you study at your own pace, the tendency is to procrastinate. But if you stay the course and really set aside time out of your workday or week for study, the benefits will more than make up for your sacrifice. I’ve also sought inspiration from other designers who were graduates of NYIAD (like Lauren Leiss, for example), and love looking at and learning from their work. It doesn’t hurt to imagine that one day, you can also attain the same level of success that they have.
Want to learn more?Want to bring your own interior design visions to life? Request a free course catalog to learn more and get started.