In my interviews with Ajia Monet and Deanna S Dewey, we saw two kinds of approaches – one, based on hands on work designing rooms and the other based on going to school and getting degrees – to entering the interior design industry.

Are those the only two ways?

Meet Nicole MacIntosh, founder and designer (or ‘redesigner’) at Altered Interiors, an interior redesign and staging firm in San Diego.

She’s been a realtor for the last half decade and gained valuable experience which she put to good use in setting up Altered Interiors.

I was lucky enough to get some time with her to gain an insight into her work.  

How long have you been in the industry and how did you get your start?

I have been redesigning homes for 20 years. But just started Altered Interiors this past year.

For the past 5 years I’ve been a realtor and I’ve done dozens of flips and staged hundreds of homes for my own properties and for those of colleagues.

Image Source: Wayne Hill, Altered Interiors


What would you say have been your biggest successes and biggest struggles working in the interior design industry?

Getting into the trade through the side door as I have has opened my eyes to the genius I feel it takes to become a Top Interior Designer.

There is still so much to learn.

I’m blessed to be in this industry however, I wish I had started years ago.

It’s often hard to compete against industry professionals but my down to earth nature and the economic value I provide always allows me to do so much more for my clients. Beyond the aesthetics more personal touches and emotion goes into what I do.

So sometimes that can be trying. I have empathy for my clients who most of the time become and are my friends. Their struggles become mine I guess.

I have a client currently with a dad who has Alzheimer’s and a mom dying of cancer she just sent her son off to college and has an 11 year old with autism. She lives with her family on a beautiful property and we had begun talking renovations when her mom became ill.

Ironically and sadly it’s the same illness that killed my father 12 years ago. I believe God, fate, the universe puts us in places you need to be in the times you need to be there. I guess their struggles become mine as well.

I try to have contact with her everyday either by text or call or email and it’s not always, actually most of the time, not related to their renovation.

I try and do this with all my clients. I care about my clients (friends) deeply. Friendship as I’ve said many times is my superpower lol.  

Image Source: The Lake Houzz, Altered Interiors


In the course of your daily work, what do you find to be the biggest sources of pain & aggravation (i.e. what are your biggest daily hurdles)?

The paperwork!

I have the ideas and words in my head and I can tell anyone and describe the loveliest spaces but until it’s all mapped out. I have a hard time writing it all out.

It’s like my brain won’t allow it until my vocabulary can personify the space I’m designing.  

What do you do to keep up with the latest trends in the industry?

I’ve always had my pulse on fashion design and architecture I believe these two mediums complement interior design immensely.  

How would you say that you are able to differentiate yourself from the competition?

I have a unique perspective not coming from the trade but designing my way in, home by home, and also being a realtor I feel an emotional connection to the space through my client.  

Is there anything that you know that you wish someone had told you when you were getting started in the business?

I am always learning there are some amazing professionals in this field and every day I’m learning more. Maybe too much to mention.

So there you have it.

Even if you’re in a different industry altogether at present, there is absolutely no reason for you not to be able to enter interior design. If you’re a realtor, interior design is a straight value addition since you can advise your real estate clients on flipping and staging.

Having an emotional connection with clients, to the point they become like your friends is always a good idea.

Finally, fashion design and architecture complement interior design well, so be sure to keep a tab on those two fields to succeed in your interior design business.