From IT to interior design with AutoCAD


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Courtesy of Gina Diaz Photography

AutoCAD transforms a career

Interior designer Sarah Wilson always wanted to be an interior designer. But, for years, she followed an IT career. Once she made the decision to pursue her dreams, she learned how to use AutoCAD and it became incredibly vital to get her burgeoning business off the ground.

Goodbye, IT. Hello, interior design.

Sarah Wilson first found her passion for interior design as a child. As a preschooler, she could often be found behind the counter at her mom and uncle’s upholstery store in St. Croix (US Virgin Islands). Growing up in both the continental United States and St. Croix, Wilson never lost her love for textures and colors.

After graduating from college and then receiving a master’s in Information Technology, she worked for many years in IT. Quite a world away from interior design — but it was always in the back of her mind. Facing a two-hour commute each way and the opportunity for an early retirement and full vesting of shares, Wilson decided to take the plunge and go back to school at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) in Los Angeles. She was finally going to make her interior design dreams come true.

Sarah Wilson, Chansaerae Designs

Sarah Wilson, Chansaerae Designs

Starting Chansaerae Designs

“I actually learned AutoCAD at FIDM,” Wilson says. “After working with computers for a long time, I picked it up really quickly. Now I always start with AutoCAD for Mac. I draw my floor plan, do the furniture arrangement, and everything is in AutoCAD.”

After graduating from FIDM, Wilson founded her interior design firm Chansaerae Designs, which is a combination of her and her two sisters’ names. In her business and interior designs, AutoCAD has become indispensable.

For a recent kitchen remodel, she had to change the floor plan five different times after they came up against plumbing and electrical issues and a myriad of other problems. Even though the final 3D model given to the client didn’t need to change, Wilson and the contractor could keep going back and forth with the files in AutoCAD.

“AutoCAD has been really instrumental because I don't go to the site on a regular basis,” Wilson says. “It's great to just quickly change the floor plan and then send the contractor another drawing. I used it for the cabinet elevation so that when he went to buy the cabinets he knew what I wanted the wall to look like and which cabinets should go where.”

Kitchen remodel, Chansaerae Designs

Courtesy of Gina Diaz Photography

Giving advice

Wilson has also found convenience and time-saving with CAD blocks and uses them anywhere she can. “If a company has a block for their products I'll go and get it instead of trying to redraw it… it makes things a lot easier,” she says. “For example, Bosch is great for that because they have CAD blocks for many of their products. I love that.”

For other interior designers, even those with small practices, Wilson encourages them to take a closer look at AutoCAD.

“It saves so much time over having to hand-draw your floor plan or to move furniture around,” she says. “Working with contractors and having so many changes, I can’t even think about having to redraw the plan each time. Because I'm a sole proprietor and a one-person LLC, I need to be able to put work out quickly. I have more than one client at a time, and so for me it's an absolute must to do it electronically. This is one expense for your business that is so worth it.”

Kitchen remodel, Chansaerae Designs

Courtesy of Gina Diaz Photography

Making it personal

Outside of technology, Wilson’s philosophy and approach toward interior design is personal. Her goal is to take the designer out of the interior design end result.

“With my consultation, I really sit down with clients and talk for a couple hours… and not just about the space,” she says. “I talk to them about their family and what’s important to them.

"At the end of the day, I feel like your home is ultimately your space, a place of relaxation, and it should be a great reflection of who you are. You shouldn’t walk into a room and just think ‘Oh, yeah. They had an interior designer.’ If my client has a friend over, I want them to say, ‘Wow, this place looks great. I love it, and it looks so much like you.’ My ultimate reward is if my clients responds and says, ‘Oh, yeah I hired an interior designer. She was great and I loved it.’”