Student Success - Susan Riessen

By Sarah Van Arsdale on February 20 2005

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!

If you missed earlier installments of this series, here's your chance to read more about the accomplishments of NYIAD students. Just visit our NYIAD Student Success page.

Student Success - Susan Riessen

Just because you have a successful start to your business doesn't mean it's time to put your feet on the desk, lean back, and stop learning.

At least, not if you want to go from being just a successful designer to an award-winning one with her own booming business.

Susan Riessen first started out in the design field in 1996, when she was studying interior decorating and working for a paint store. She confidently placed an ad in the local paper in Queensland, Australia, and booked herself a job for a six-bedroom, three-bath house which needed a new color scheme both inside and out.

"I took a deep breath and tackled the job, and the clients were pleased with the result — thank God. Fortunately for me I was working for the paint company at the time and had received in-depth training in products such as paint, wallpaper, stains and varnishes."

Even though her business soon took off, after several years Susan decided to take a break in order to pursue other interests. But she came back to design in full force three years ago, opening her own business called Instyle Interior Design. And part of her renewed interest involved enrolling in the NYIAD Course.

Student Success - Susan Riessen
Student Success - Susan Riessen

"Although I have worked for a number of years as an interior decorator and color consultant, I decided to enroll in the NYIAD Course in order to polish up my skills and keep abreast of changes in the industry," she says.

"To this point I have enjoyed the Course and it has helped me substantially in drawing floor plans especially and has given me a new perspective when I now ‘have a conversation with a room'! I am looking forward with excitement to receiving my Certificate, hopefully in February."

Student Success - Susan Riessen

Since opening her own business, Susan's work has really grown. She secured design jobs for the Queensland-based Collins Food Company, which owns a chain of restaurants. For them, she completed a major interior and exterior refurbishment project for Kentucky Fried Chicken in January of last year---"and the company continues to call on my services to assist them with their interior schemes."

And more recently, her business won an award given by the Chamber of Commerce, in a competition with 478 businesses nominated in eleven categories. Instyle Interior Design won the Professional Services category in a competition with law, accounting and real estate firms.

And Susan is no stranger to her fellow business owners in Queensland. Two months ago, she moved her business out of her home office to a professional building. There, she is "surrounded by mortgage brokers, real estate agents, a solicitor, accountant, architect and hair dressers — the best referral candidates as they deal with women all day," she says. "The move to a professional suite has given the business more credibility." Also adding to her company's credibility is Instyle Interior Design's Web site —

Student Success - Susan Riessen

Susan has worked hard to develop her own style and her own niche in the world of decorating. Her business covers selecting exterior and interior colors and products for new homes and existing residential and commercial clients; selecting floor coverings, including tile and carpet; selecting furnishings; offering renovating advice on kitchens and baths, and advising commercial clients on interiors and corporate identity.

"What I enjoy about my job the most is the flexibility I have in my work hours and the vast array of jobs that come my way," she says. "Not one client or project is the same so each day something different is presented to me."

Even for someone who ardently pursues her craft, running one's own design business isn't without its challenges.

"The biggest challenge for me is to keep the business running smoothly, keeping to deadlines and honoring promises," Susan says. "I have found work increasing over the past six months and my time has to be managed well because I never let clients down."

In order to keep everything afloat, Susan relies on the services of an interior design student who helps out on weekends. "It is great to have a like-minded individual on board to bounce ideas off, and we seem to think alike."

Student Success - Susan Riessen
Student Success - Susan Riessen

Looking back on how she got her own start, Susan advises those just starting out to first land a job with an established firm before going out on their own. And then, as in any profession, don't stop making and maintaining good connections with other businesspeople.

"Clients value our professionalism, and I have established that by becoming a member of business groups, especially women's business networks where we meet and network with other professionals, speak in public and have opportunities to attend educational seminars and workshops. This all helps in your professional development," she says. "Another good point is to make it a practice to attend regular trade shows and fairs where you can become aware of and get access to the latest information on trends and products in the market place, often even before they reach the marketplace."

Going full-steam ahead, Susan's future plans are to open a larger design and furnishings showroom. We're sure that she won't ever stop learning, and that she'll continue to bring professionalism to the field of interior design.

Even after a succesful start in business, Susan knew she had to continue to expand her horizons. Be like Susan and join our Interior Design school and never stop learning!