Student Success: Farha Syed
When she was a high school student, Farha Syed began realizing her interest in interior design during a time when her family was touring new homes in preparation for a move. After working in JC Penny’s home department for several years, Farha decided to pursue her passion for elegant home design in a more serious way, and enrolled at NYIAD. Upon her graduation, she has now successfully launched Modern Age Designs- a business providing locals with interior design, decorating, color scheming, kitchen and bath finish selection, custom drape and upholstery consultation and services. We recently got in touch with Farha to chat about her time at NYIAD, and about the future and current success of her business. Here’s what we learned:
1. When did you realize that interior design was a field you wanted to pursue?
It was a mere wish when I was in high school when my family was looking for homes to buy, I would admire the way they were decorated. And I wished that I could become a designer/decorator. Years later, after I had both my children, I realized that’s the thing that makes me happy, because I always enjoyed moving around furniture, and arranging the rooms differently. So I thought I will pursue the coursework, School of Interior Design that my mom had ordered for me. So this company is a dedication to my mother who is not with me.
2. What were you working on before that?
I worked in JCPenney in their home department which included their drapery department, where I was coordinating items and putting together a room for my customers.
3. Have you always been interested in art and design? What is your educational/ career background originally in?
When I was studying Business Administration at my community college, the Interior Design Associate Degree curriculum had been introduced and so when I wanted to pursue it, I was discouraged because I was an introvert and very quiet person and was told that I need to be more outgoing. So I went ahead and completed my Marketing Degree. So in a way, it worked out when I eventually decided to pursue Interior Design because I would have needed the business background to run my own company.
4. When (and why) did you enroll at NYIAD?
My mom got me enrolled in 1999, but I didn’t start until 2010 because I wanted to complete my Marketing Degree that I was already in the middle of completing. And got married and started my family. Once the kids were school going age, I pursued my passion of Interior Design.
5. What was your coursework like?
It was very thorough and from what I hear from other designers who have been in the industry I hear that other course work does not include any business section that shows how to create relationships with clients, vendors, and all other details of how to set up our businesses. It’s purely design fundamentals that are taught at most design schools.
6. Was your mentor helpful during the process?
She was super helpful and very kind. I really am grateful for her guidance because she got me to overcome a problem I was facing when doing the projects and walked me through it.
7. After graduation, how did you this knowledge help you with a real world career?
I studied which company set up I will need to keep me and my assets protected because of the various company setups were discussed in detail. I built relationships with people and vendors, as advised in our texts.
8. What did you learn working with real interior design clients that you wish you could’ve learned at NYIAD?
The clients don’t have the complete understanding of how designers charge, so when I present my design proposals, they do not see the value in what I was offering them. They would want skimp on my fee. The letters of Agreements, shown in our texts, are not as detailed, as what I see that other clauses that other designers, include in their letters of agreements.
9. Tell us about Modern Age Designs.
I came up with the name while my mom was still with me. Modern Age Designs, LLC is a design studio, run from my home, where I have flexibility to have time with my family. The services offered are Interior Design, decorating, color scheming, kitchen and bath finish selection, custom drapes and upholstery.
10. What do you typically go over during your design consultations with potential clients?
I get a sense of what their looking to achieve in their space, what their requirements are and, then I explain how I work and then we sign a contract and collect a retainer for me to come up with a plan for their space, which I prepare and present at the second meeting.
11. If you had to pick one, what was the most memorable room design project you’ve ever completed?
The most memorable project I did for a friend was when I worked on her house, using mostly her furniture, but adding a few pieces, and just giving it a personality, with lighting and accessories and giving the rooms a finished look. I initially started with 3 rooms, and in the middle of the project, the client added her master bedroom. (The project I am talking about is on my website under the Elm Haven Way title on my Interiors Page and Portfolio Page with the Before/After photographs.) I did custom drapes for their great room that had very tall ceilings. The client loves her room and tells me every time I see her that whoever comes to her house loves that room of hers. And that really makes me happy.
12. How do you spread the word about your services and find new clients in your area?
I meet people who have shown interest in working with me, I meet them in a neutral place and just get to know them and see what it is that they like and dislike and see how ready they are to start working on their projects, and set up appointments to start work on their projects once all the paperwork is signed and I have an advance payment to begin work.
13. How has blogging helped you as a creative professional?
Blogging has really helped me, because though I didn’t know where my blog’s reach was but I was pleasantly surprised, when One Kings Lane, contacted me to write about their Head Over Heels For Chaises campaign on my blog and to link their website within my post. And once I was done, they gave me a shout out on their twitter account. It was very encouraging that I was being read and felt uplifted.
14. What’s the most rewarding part of your career?
It’s when your clients are happy with my work at the end and spread positive feedback among their friends in their reviews of my work on social media sites and let new people feel comfortable in hiring me.
15. If you could give one piece of advice to our current and prospective students, what would it be?
I would advise the current students, to take the RIDQC exam and work with a firm or a designer working by herself/himself and get as much experience as possible. I would advise to follow discussion groups on Linkedin, because the designers in those groups are very helpful about and generous in sharing their experience. Attend free webinars to add to your education at NYIAD and see the best way to conduct your business. For the prospective students, I would advise, definitely pursue the course that is a great investment of your time to learn Interior Design.
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