Designing a career based on strong fundamentals and artistic flair

Theresa Murphy graduated with her Associate’s degree in Interior Design from Berkeley College just days after September 11, 2001. And while the world as we knew it has changed drastically since that fateful day, the fundamentals she learned and the skills she developed still hold true today.

The principles of design never go out of style

“The technology may have changed greatly over the years, but Berkeley instilled in us a strong understanding of the principles of what really good interior design is,” said the Fair Lawn, New Jersey resident. “Styles change, trends come and go, but understanding your clients’ needs and how a particular space works will always be critical.”

Finding the right fit

With an artistic flair, Theresa has tried several different art programs, but was looking for a design education that would prepare her for a career. Not wanting to go away to school, she discovered the Berkeley College Interior Design program, which was then in Waldwick, New Jersey.

Faculty that made an impact

“I knew right away that the program was strong,” she continued. “Many of the professors were tough, but if you paid attention, you learned the material. They shared ideas from their professional experiences, which were very valuable. And along with key skills like drafting, they emphasized the core principles of interior design—space, color, form. And that is so important in being successful. We really learned about how things fit in a space…and the difference between bad design and good design.”

Gaining real-world experience

An internship with a local design firm helped Theresa find her niche—kitchen and bath design. “In addition to developing my skills, I learned a great deal about the business of interior design and about dealing with all kinds of people,” she remembered. “The hands-on experience was very valuable—beyond what I learned in the classroom. I really came into my own as a designer.”

For young interior designers and those considering the field, Theresa has some advice. “Take advantage of all the opportunities you’re presented,” she recommends. “You may find the doorway to a new area you’ve never thought of. You’ll discover what you like and what you don’t like.”

Never stop learning

In interior design, as in most career fields, it’s essential to keep up-to-date and continue learning to maintain your skills and develop new ones. While working from home during the current pandemic, Theresa decided to return to Berkeley College to brush up on her technical skills, and registered for an online course. In addition to Undergraduate and Graduate degrees and Certificate programs, Berkeley offers Continuing Education programs in which students and professionals—young and old—can learn new career skills and enhance their existing knowledge.

Continuing to evolve as a professional

Today, Theresa works with a number of design firms on a project basis and provides services for clients of her own. (You can visit On Hand Design on Facebook.) She specializes in kitchen and bath design and is known for the renderings she creates for real estate companies as well. She loves the diversity of the work and the freedom to take on interesting projects. And with two decades of experience, she still relies on many of the “non-technical” skills she learned at Berkeley College. “I still can’t stress enough the importance of getting to know your client, their style, their needs, and their plans.”

It’s an approach that has helped her design a very successful career.

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