Student Success - Cynthia Cuellar

By Sarah Van Arsdale on September 10 2004

NYIAD students are out there in droves decorating clients' homes, serving as consultants in department stores, and re-designing everything from metropolitan penthouses to lakeshore cottages. If you've started your own business, if you've been hired by a decorating firm, or if you've achieved success in some other way in the field of interior design, we want to hear from you! Click here to let us know about the waves you're making!

Student Success - Cynthia Cuellar In this work-a-day world of ours, all too often we set our sights on simply making ends meet, rather than indulging our creative powers. For many people, this approach is a necessity: we have to support ourselves, our families, and make a better life for our children, and sometimes it seems that anything artistic will be little more than self-indulgence.

But for many people, there comes a time when the creative urges within must find a way out. And if you can find a way to release them that can also earn you an income, all the better.

This was the case for Cynthia Cuellar, who had always felt passionate about art and design, but who didn't immediately head into a design-related field. Even though she'd studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology as a fashion design major, and had earned an Associate of Arts degree at Los Angeles Valley College, her career path led her into management and buying positions in retail.

"I enjoyed the creative part of the job when I was involved in designing private label products, planning advertising or merchandising a floor," she says. "But as the job became more of a number crunching position I yearned for a more creative outlet for my skills."

Student Success - Cynthia Cuellar
Student Success - Cynthia Cuellar

A friend of Cynthia's had completed the NYIAD Course and was happily pursuing her own dream of working in interior design, and it didn't take much to convince Cynthia to try the Course as well. "My background in fashion and art helped immensely in that my knowledge of fabrics, color, construction and design translated easily into interior design," she says.

Cynthia quickly found that having the creativity and the knowledge of design helped, but that she still needed to learn the skills particular to interior design in order to successfully launch her new career.

"I'm so glad I made the switch when I did," she says. "The NYIAD Course gave me the opportunity to venture into a field I always loved. It taught me the skills that enhanced my background — such as drafting — and enabled me to get started in the interior design business. I found the drafting and business lessons very helpful."

Student Success - Cynthia Cuellar

While she was a student, Cynthia made good use of the time between completing one unit and receiving the next.

"While I waited for my next unit, I read anything I could find relating to design, furniture, history etc. It really helped enhance the course and kept me studying while I waited for the next lesson."

It didn't take long for Cynthia to get herself out of retail and into design work; her first job upon graduating from NYIAD was as a designer for a small design firm in Indian Wells, California, an area where many celebrities have second homes. There, she was able to gain experience working with large budgets on high-end homes.

Now, Cynthia has her own firm, Rancho Interior Design, which she opened in April 2000.

"I have been specializing in residential design, doing projects for new homes as well as remodeling or redecorating," she says. "I am branching out into commercial as well. Currently I am working on several residential jobs and a 3500 square foot office building."

And most importantly, Cynthia is now happily using her creative talents.

Student Success - Cynthia Cuellar
Student Success - Cynthia Cuellar

"I love challenges and I love being creative. Each job offers a new challenge and opportunity to use my creative 'juices' to come up with a beautiful solution for my clients' space transformation," she says. "I love how my clients are so happy when they see their new home or office. Also owning my own business is great. My schedule is flexible and I answer only to my clients and myself."

Of course, as with any satisfying career, working as a designer has its challenges as well as its joys. For Cynthia, the greatest challenge is making sure all the work gets completed just as it should.

"The biggest challenges in this business occurs after the fun part of conceiving the design is complete — namely, follow-up, follow-up, follow-up. After the design is approved, you basically become a project manager making sure everything gets done as planned, on schedule, correctly and on budget."

Student Success - Cynthia Cuellar

"It helps to have a crew of sub-contractors that you trust and who do quality work. It is also very important to watch trends and keep up with the market. It's important to distinguish trends from fads. Your clients trust you to plan a space that will stay current for years. Besides being a talented designer, you must have great people skills, business sense and organization skills."

Now, Cynthia is planning to continue watching her business grow, and to continue putting her creativity to good use.

"My business has been steadily growing over the past four years. I hope to continue to build my residential and commercial business and take on more and more challenging projects," she says. "I am lucky to have found a career I can be successful at as well as love doing."

It's never too late to follow a career path that you love. Cynthia did just that after she attended our interior decorating school.