Student Success - Elaine Rasmussen

By Sarah Van Arsdale on May 14 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 - Elaine Rasmussen

As many NYIAD students know, reaching out to prospective clients is key in becoming successful in the design field. For Elaine Rasmussen, taking one little step led to a big reward, and she's still reaping the benefits.

It started when Elaine sent some information about her business, Elaines Designs of Hackettstown, New Jersey, to HGTVs Pie Town Productions, to enter her ideas for a $75,000 kitchen renovation in Haworth, New Jersey that the show was covering. Elaine was chosen to be one of the designers making a presentation to the client, and the show will be aired in the early fall.

The client called me and said she loved my design the best, but she went with another designer because that particular designer gave away thousands of dollars worth of goods and services, Elaine said. I was unable to do that and was not aware that was allowed. I thought it was based on fare market value. However, it was and is a wonderful opportunity and I will be on HGTV numerous times. You could not pay for that kind of PR.

Elaine got into the field of design the way many people do, by working on the periphery first. In her case, she owned a drapery and upholstery workroom for 15 years, creating the fabrics herself.

Student Success - Elaine Rasmussen

Over the years, clients would ask her questions about NYIAD interior design class, which made her want to be able to give some educated answers. Your course was perfect because it allowed me to work and study at the same time. It also taught the necessary elements of interior design that clients are interested in.

Elaine landed her first design job through the drapery and upholstery business, when a client asked her to design a home. She was also contracted to design a local inn and conference center, which broadened her design scope to include commercial as well as residential projects.

It was the NYIAD Course that allowed Elaine to expand on her drapery and upholstery business and move into the design field with the knowledge and confidence necessary for success.

I found the NYIAD Course to be valuable in so many ways! she said. Of course, primarily it gives you confidence when meeting with a client. It also gave me expertise in space planning, color, visual coordination etc. I would not have been able to take on some of the projects I have were it not for the NYIAD Course.

Student Success - Elaine Rasmussen
Student Success - Elaine Rasmussen

Now, Elaine is working on getting a patent for her own brand of window treatments, and she continues to thrive by designing homes and businesses.

I love this business because it is so diverse and I meet so many wonderful people. I have been fortunate to never have had a bad relationship in 26 years of being in business. Most clients know that I am reliable and service oriented. I am also hands-on and knowledgeable in the area of building and fabrication.

Of course, the design field is not without its challenges, and Elaine finds that many of those are monetary.

The biggest challenge in my field is to be able to provide clients with a design objective that fits the budget allowed. There are so many unknown costs associated with a complete renovation, particularly on an older home, she said. However, I have always managed to work our plans around that and still have a happy client!

Although Elaine does some commercial work, she finds the most satisfaction in working with residential clients.

I have been in this business 26 years and still enjoy working with residential clients the best, she said. I love people and that is what life is all about!

Elaine has a few tips for current NYIAD students:
Student Success - Elaine Rasmussen

  1. Don't rush through the Course!
  2. Practice communication skills with friends and family.
  3. Test yourself on each subject in addition to those tests you complete through the course schedule.
  4. Do space planning for friends and family.
  5. Visit Design Centers and workrooms as much as possible; get people to know you.
  6. Work for a Design Studio or furniture showroom to see what is involved in owning a design business.
  7. If you want to start your own business, use all the information from the course and begin to familiarize yourself with the types of business entities; i.e. sole-proprietorship, partnership, Limited Liability Corp., Corporation etc. Speak to an attorney to set things up (not necessary in some states for sole-proprietor.)
  8. Above all, exude confidence!