Delgado A-Z: Interior Design

By: Dee Shedrick
"You have to be tenacious, self-motivated and organized," said Erin Sanders, department chair and associate professor of interior design. Some people think that interior design and interior decorating are the same, but they are two different things. In interior design, decorating is involved, but interior decorating does not involve interior design. Interior decorators do not have to have any kind of formal education and they are just limited to picking finishes (finishes are things like paint, flooring and wall paper). In the state of Louisiana, you have to have a license that restricts who can call themselves interior designers and who can practice interior design. Licensed designers can recommend layouts, configurations, move walls or plumbing, and draw up lighting plans.

According to the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ), interior design is a multi-faceted profession in which creative and technical solutions are applied within a structure to achieve a built interior environment. These solutions are functional, enhance the quality of life and culture of the occupants and are aesthetically attractive. Designers are very concerned and go to school to make sure that they are knowledgeable and that they maintain and protect the health, safety and welfare of the public at large—and they can receive this training right here at Delgado Community College.

Interior design is a skills-based major where students learn hand drafting, computer animated drafting, hand rendering and computer rendering (rendering is making a two-dimensional image look real by adding light, color and shadow). Interior design courses are referred to as studios instead of classes and students go through what is called studio sequences: studios one, two, three and four. Inside these studios, instructors will lecture and show students how to apply skills; for example, in introductory studio, students learn how to hand draft a floor plan.  Afterwards, students have lab or studio time to work on their projects before completing their projects at home. "Students have to produce projects weekly and the outside work load is pretty intense. Students can't wait until the last minute to whip out a project," said Sanders.

Interior design is very similar to architecture. Architects learn the same thing, but they focus on the exterior; interior designers focus on the interior. Just like architects, interior designers use AutoCAD software (AutoCAD is the industry leader in two and three-dimensional CAD design, drafting, and modeling software). Students also use 20-20, Revit and Adobe Photoshop software, art supplies and drafting tools such as T squares, triangles, drafting pens and pencils. And because of this background, many students end up working for architects and architecture firms.

Interior design graduates have many choices to choose from after graduation. They are qualified to do more than just homes. They can design hotels, restaurants, doctor’s and lawyer's offices and even be staff designers at major corporations. "I worked as a commercial designer in a hospital before I came to Delgado," said Sanders. Students can take their degree and go into many adjunct fields, such as staging, event planning, facilities, project or construction management, product sales and real estate development. Graduate Liz Hartman Lawson is a prime example of that diversity.

Liz Hartman Lawson with her dog Gracie after graduation
Lawson graduated in May of 1998 with honors and was a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. She immediately found a job and went to work at an interior design firm called Lisambiance.  "Lisambiance was a great place to start my career, because it was where I learned the foundation of how an interior design firm operates. We did both residential and commercial design work,” said Lawson.

From there she went on to work for Norwalk Furniture, where she sold furniture, accessories and fabric. After that she worked with Wikoff and Mestayer, an architect and design firm.  Ed Wikoff was actually one of her professors at Delgado.  While at Wikoff and Mestayer, she transferred his hand drawings into CAD drawings. "It was fascinating to see a design from an architect’s point of view. Ed is an extremely talented architect. He taught me a lot at Delgado and it was a pleasure to work with him," said Lawson.

Living room designed by Liz H. Lawson
Later on, Lawson moved to the Georgia Mountains after Katrina where she worked as a designer for a boutique shop.  "It was a very different design experience coming from New Orleans to the mountains to design.  The end result was the same though, sharing one’s talent to enhance someone else's world," she said.  She was also one of the staff designers at Mountain Marble and Tile, where she custom designed kitchens, bathrooms and hard surface flooring. Although Lawson has experience in other areas, she has always maintained her own design firm, "ehl designs."

Master bedroom designed by Liz H. Lawson
Lawson is not the only interior designer who walked through Delgado's doors to have an illustrious career. Although he did not graduate from the College, New York Interior Designer Marc Charbonnet attended the school for three months. Charbonnet went on to design Michael J. Fox’s Manhattan apartment and his Connecticut estate.  He has also designed many residences on New York's Fifth and Park Avenues, and in his hometown of New Orleans.

Not only is interior design a creative profession, but it is very intimate as well.  Designers have to go into their client's homes or businesses to help them change their living or working environment.  "More times than not, my clients become my friends, which says a lot about my business.  It is very exciting to go into someone's home or office and transform their dreams with my vision into a dream come true. The expression on my client's faces when they see the finish product, well, it really is an amazing moment.  Of course they have been helping to make decisions along the way, but it's just pieces to the puzzle. The joy in their eyes is worth it all in the end. The bottom line is I that love what I do, but the real gift is that I can do what I love, and bring happiness into my client's lives," said Lawson.


  1. Marc Charbonnet rocks!

  2. Marc Charbonnet rocks!

  3. Delgado's interior design program includes the courses to acquire the knowledge needed to combine with my personal experience to seek and enjoy a career I have longed for, specifically remodeling older homes.
    Having a daughter who is a licensed interior designer, I knew what was entailed in the program.

    With my background and experience in the construction field, there were avenues to get into the field without going back to school. But what was important to me was the affirmation that I knew as much as I could to offer my clients service with excellence.

    The instructors at Delgado have well-rounded backgrounds with knowledge and experience to give me the education needed to pursue these goals and to bring out the talents that I never knew I had.

    The Department of Interior Design recently held their student exhibition, and it is a joy to see the work and progress of many students who have come into the program.

    I look forward to the next two years of learning, experiencing and enjoying the path to complete my degree in interior design.

  4. Enjoyed this blogspot very much.

  5. In this video Marc Charbonnet mentions Ellen Kennon’s Full Spectrum paints. Ellen is a family friend with many years of design experience; she even took some of her Interior Design courses at Delgado! She has a blog and a wonderful quarterly newsletter.

    It is interesting that we all have training in this business, possibly different content and from different schools, but we come out the other side with a very defined sense of style with no two alike. Marc believes that art walls should have color that accentuates the art; I generally prefer the gallery aesthetic of white walls so that nothing detracts from the art. But, you learn that most everything in design is a case-by-case basis and very often there is more than one right answer.

    Going through the Delgado Interior Design/Fine Arts programs has helped me not only hone my skills, but define with confidence my path moving forward.