Designing a new career

Editor's note: This corrects an earlier version. The name of Lori Michelle Newman's start up company is Instyle Design.

NEWPORT BEACH — For former real estate agent Lori Michelle-Newman, moving to Newport Beach presented the perfect opportunity to launch her third career: interior design.

Michelle-Newman is one of hundreds of students enrolled at the Interior Designers Institute on Camelback Street. The private college offers a 12-week certificate program and associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees.

The institute attracts students of all ages looking to carve out a niche in a tough economy and share a common passion for design, said institute spokeswoman Leslie Deladurantey.

"The job field in interior design is very age-friendly," Deladurantey said. "An older firm may look to hire a younger student because that age group tends to be more computer-savvy, while a younger firm that hasn't been around as long may be looking for someone with a different kind of experience."

The institute will open its doors to the public from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday for a quarterly open house

On display will be student work like three-dimensional models, some crafted with imaginary clients in mind. They include a "blinged" chandelier and dining room for Beyoncé or a sweeping desert architectural design for a residence themed "Arabian Nights."

Students, alumni and professors will also be on hand to answer questions and give classroom demonstrations.

For many in a tough economy, the first questions are about viability and finding a job.

"We take job placement very seriously here," Deladurantey said.

She said the institute has more than a 95% success rate of placing students with bachelor's degrees in top-ranked design firms and is accredited by the Council for Interior Design.

Through internship placement assistance, networking with industry professionals and even a freelance board — where local homeowners and businesses post contract jobs specifically for college students — many of the students begin working before graduation.

Michelle-Newman, who will graduate with an associate's degree next year, said she has already seen success with her start-up company, Instyle Design.

"There are not a lot of people out there learning the gamut of things that are taught here," Michelle-Newman said of taking courses that range from design history to computer drafting. "That's why students are so qualified. Even people who have been in the business for 15 years are finding out how things have changed so much."

The institute's extensive curriculum also gives students a strong background in building codes and changing state regulations, which can give them an edge in ecodesign careers as legislators become more environmentally conscious.

"There is a big difference between designers and decorators," Michelle-Newman said. "The students here are designers. They have the qualifications to go on and do so much."

If You Go

What: Interior Designers Institute open house

Where:1061 Camelback St., Newport Beach

When: Noon to 10 a.m. Saturday

July 10

Information: (949) 675-4451

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