Student Success - Susan Dobrovolny

By Sarah Van Arsdale on March 19 2008

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.

NYIAD Graduate Susan Dobrovolny

We've all heard the adage that the most important factor in real estate is "location, location, location." For many people, in one's work it's "variety, variety, variety" — especially for creative types drawn to the work of interior design.

After completing the NYIAD Course in Interior Design, Susan Dobrovolny has found just the right amount of variety to keep her excited about each new day on the job.

"On any given day we could be formulating presentation boards and a conceptual plan for our clients, designing custom window treatments, or my partner and I could be in sneakers and jeans 'shaking up' a client's environment, using what they have and adding some new elements with our redesign service," Susan said.

Susan was drawn to the NYIAD Course in part because of the extensive teaching which gave her a range of lessons, from those on how to analyze a room to those covering the practical side of running one's own business.

"In addition, I was extremely thrilled that I could study at my own pace, especially since I was employed part-time and raising two very active young teenagers," she said.

NYIAD Graduate Susan Dobrovolny interior design
Susan Dobrovolny design

The flexibility the study-at-home model offered is something she also enjoys about doing the work, now that she's a self-employed residential interior designer, working in Southern Maine. Susan runs her own firm, and makes her own hours.

Susan Dobrovolny living room photo

"In addition to calling my own hours, what I like best about my present work is the feeling of expressing my creativity," Susan said.

She also enjoys being able to help clients make their home look the way they dream it can be.

"I love the sense of relief I give to the clients who are daunted by 'getting it right' in their living environment. NYIAD's serious teaching of 'functionality' has made each one of my projects a success."

After completing completing NYIAD's Complete Course in Interior Design, Susan found it easy to start getting work. She did a staging gig for a local builder, and once he saw what she'd done "he walked right into our studio and said that he was tired of his environment and wanted to know if I would be interested in assisting with the update of his living room, den, breezeway and kitchen," she said. "Needless to say, I was eager to really put to the test all I had learned. I created presentation boards, drew floor plans, and gave him a budget proposal and time-line."

Not that she didn't have first-job jitters; everyone does.

"Although initially I was nervous, I approached the job with confidence. The work encompassed a facelift for the fireplace, new flooring, trim, furnishings, custom window treatments and soft goods, color palette, lighting, accessories and finish selections. The end was result a streamlined, soothing and functional environment," she said.

Susan Dobrovolny den interior

Sometimes the flexibility and constant change in the work can be a challenge, Susan told us, juggling different projects, each with its own scope and style.

"Another challenge I have faced is that sometimes, there is no pleasing certain clients," but when she doesn't see eye-to-eye with a client, Susan simply passes the client on to another professional whose style may work better with that client. She takes such things in her stride, saying that "many a night's sleep has been lost — but that is also when some of your best ideas come to you, so jot them down."

Still, by completing the Course, Susan was able to learn what she needed to know, so that she can build a successful design business.

"NYIAD has taught me to always converse with a room, assess my client's lifestyle and be respective of their budget. Also invaluable were the lessons about 'mood, function and harmony' — three little words that resonate big in the outcome of a successful project."

"If you have a passion for design and a belief in yourself the world can be your oyster," she said. "And never think of any job as too small — a home is refuge of what our world dishes out. So even if you are contracted to assist in the design of one small room, you have made a difference in a homeowner's life."