Student Success - Jamie Odle

By Sarah Van Arsdale on July 19 2007

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.

JaJamie Odle kitchen interior

NYIAD graduate Jamie Odle proves what most successful people know: the creative energy you expend, the more you have.

Not only is Jamie a dedicated mom to two small children, active in her church, a soccer coach, and assistant to her husband's home renovation and re-sale business – she also runs her own interior design business, specializing in window treatments and custom fabrics.

It's the creative energy that keeps Jamie going with her many projects; she's currently finishing up three jobs she started this month which include a total of 15 windows.

"I love the creative process," she said. "Design is like anything else – the more you do it, the better you get and the more confidence you gain."

Jamie is so busy with her jobs, she doesn't need to advertise much, and instead relies on word of mouth.

"When you do good work, you will find that your name gets around. Finding clients is not difficult at all once this happens."

Jamie Odle bonus room

Perhaps Jamie has such high standards for her own work because she decided to try becoming a designer after some disappointing experiences with designers when renovating her kitchen.

"I decided I could do it myself, and I knew I could treat clients better," she said. Jamie then did her research for the best design program she could find. "I searched for a course that was credible and as in-depth as possible, yet allowed me the freedom and flexibility I needed, having two small children at home. I also wanted a course that would allow me to join a trade organization to become accredited."

NYIAD was the school for her, and she found that through the Complete Course in Interior Design she learned about everything from designing lighting to choosing color to billing clients. Now that she's in business for herself, she finds that she's still relying on the Course information on all aspects of design. But it is what she learned about running her own business has allowed her to reach her level of success.

"One of the toughest challenges for me starting out solo was executing the business side of design," Jamie said. "If you have not ever owned or run your own business, it can be intimidating."

Jamie said she still uses the forms she first saw in the NYIAD Course materials.

"My studies have made me appreciate how detailed this industry is and how important a clear plan, presentation and accurate pricing can be. And, whether your designing windows for a room, selecting a light fixture, rearranging furniture or renovating a kitchen, it still comes down to the NYIAD Interior Design Guidelines of Function, Mood and Harmony!"

Jamie landed her first job through a neighbor who was a real estate agent in need of help redecorating the first floor of her home.

"It was a large scale job with many moving parts, including custom window treatments, furniture rearranging, choosing paint colors and accessories."

Jamie Odle curtains

Through this job, Jamie learned the importance of starting out in an apprentice position.

"I teamed up with another designer that I had become friends with, and I was the apprentice on the job. It was a great learning experience and this client has referred me to many of her real estate clients," she said. "She gave me the confidence that I could help anyone."

The designer she worked with on that job then went on to pursue other work, and Jamie adopted her fabric line, which now forms a large part of her own design business.

Jamie also got into her specialty of window treatments by chance, because one thing her first client wanted was great window treatments. "I had to set up accounts with vendors, which meant acquiring a state resale tax id number and setting up a bank account," she said. This, combined with her introduction to a local fabricator who helped her through the process of learning about windows and running a business gave her a love and confidence for window design.

"I spent hours clipping photos from magazines and did extensive research on what books were available online that would show good sketches of different styles. I also drew my own designs," she said.

Jamie Odle interior

Jamie and her husband have another business, of buying houses as well, fixing them up, and then re-selling them at a profit. This is another area where she's able to really jump in with her design savvy, and put her NYIAD education to work.

"My coursework comes in handy here, just very little client interaction, furniture rearranging and definitely no custom window treatments. We often renovate the kitchens and bathrooms and I've become great friends with my paint wheel and measuring tape."

Jamie is also currently expanding her skills to include doing color consultations and hand-painting furniture. Most recently, she teamed up with a friend who is a floral arranger to offer custom holiday decorating with garlands, wreaths, and other floral arrangements.

So what advice does Jamie have for NYIAD students and those about to embark on a career in interior design?

"I advocate you work part-time or full-time in a business in the trade, such as a furniture, lighting, kitchen design, fabric, or home decor store, or with a decorating firm. Just being around those who deal with clients and who understand pricing and know design trends would be advantageous starting out."

"Having confidence in this business is crucial when you have a client staring at you considering paying you thousands of dollars for your work. However, you can get this! If you decide to start out alone, find a few clients to practice on, friends or family, and offer them a discount or possibly no charge at all until you get your feet wet. It's impossible to be an expert on day one."

Jamie Odle nursery

"I had trouble with this. I pressured myself to be an expert anytime someone asked me a question. I have learned my lesson with one particular client I helped with carpet. I am not a carpet expert, but I know carpet experts. After my work with this client started to go wrong, I realized I needed to be upfront with her and tell her that I was not an expert in this area and that sometimes my job is to find the expert who can help us make the right decisions. Because this job did not go smoothly, I became more of an expert, not only in carpet, but also in handling an unhappy client."

"There are so many areas of design that you can offer. Although I've been asked to provide many different services, I believe it's ok to specialize or focus on being good at a few things at once. Become an expert in one or two areas and either stick with those or add a few more when you're ready."

It's no surprise that Jamie's greatest challenge is finding time for everything. "For me, the details of design can sometimes be overwhelming, especially working alone. I've had to learn a lot on my own and on the job. Like anything though, practical experience and spending time in real life situations are priceless."

But it's all worth it.

"I love it when a project comes together and all elements are in sync," Jamie said. "Nothing makes me happier when all the work I've done pleases the client and they let you know that you listened well and really figured out what they were looking for."

Sometimes we just have to do things ourselves. Jamie, a mother of two, knew she wouldn't be happy with her kitchen renovations unless she did the job herself. Thanks to our interior design classes, she was able to make her dream kitchen with her own two hands!