This Is What It's like for Women in Interior Design |
Ever Wondered What It’s Like to Be a Woman in Interior Design?

Ever Wondered What It’s Like to Be a Woman in Interior Design?

"A theoretical shift appears to have happened without all the anticipated reward"

Written by –
Jess Ng
on March 8th 2018
Jess loves good design! She spends her weekends exploring the sights, sounds and architecture of the world. Another favorite activity is taste-testing local delicacies.

When it comes to interior design, women have traditionally been the forerunners and leaders of the industry. The first ever interior designer was, after all, a woman – Elsie De Wolfe. Since then, all time greats such as Ruby Ross Wood, Rose Cumming, Frances Elkins, Kelly Wearstler and Victoria Hagan have gone on to ensure women reign supreme. But what does all of this actually mean? Is interior design the most female-friendly field out of all the design industries? Is there really parity and equal opportunity here? I caught up with three of the industry’s leading ladies to find out what it’s really like to be a woman in interior design.

Rowena Gonzales

Founder and Principal of Liquid Interiors

With over 12 years of international interior design experience, Rowena is an award-winning designer and now founder of her very own Hong Kong-based studio, Liquid Interiors.

Women in Interior Design: Cool-toned calming bedroom design by Rowena Gonazalez of Liquid Interiors |
image source

What inspired you to become a designer?

When I was a young child growing up in Montreal, I spent my summers in my backyard building very elaborate club houses with fully fitted out kitchens, skylights and decor out of cardboard boxes. Becoming an interior designer with a focus on healthy and sustainable living just came naturally.

Women in Interior Design: Rowena Gonzalez, Founder and Principal of Liquid Interiors |
image source

Gender inequality in the workplace has become a hot topic lately. What has been your experience as a woman in the interior design industry?

In Hong Kong the industry is quite even, male and female. Our office also has a 50/50 split. I have worked with very talented designers on both sides, strong at all stages of the interior design process. In general, there is a stigma that women have a better eye for colors and materials, and that men are stronger at technical details. In our office, it’s the opposite. Among employees, interior design may be one of the few industries that are quite even in Hong Kong. The only place that I really see a noticeable difference is in company ownership – that is still unfortunately male dominated.


What advice do you have for young girls wanting to break into the industry?

In the case of company ownership, I highly encourage women to start to think entrepreneurially at a younger age.  To be an entrepreneur you need confidence, people skills and to think innovatively. In my case, I started my business way before having my first kid. I had nothing, which was good because essentially I also had nothing to lose. As well, join a women’s entrepreneur network and get a mentor. I feel very fortunate to have met wonderful influencers along the way, whether by reading about them or by joining events.

Christina Lai Cheong

Founding Partner of Lai Cheong Brown

Alongside partner Rowan Brown, Christina is the founder and principal of Lai Cheong Brown – a Melbourne-based architecture and design practice with a focus on adaptive reuse and remote sites.

Women in Interior Design: Striking industrial exterior of a project by Lai Cheong Brown |
image source

What inspired you to become a designer?

The ability for designers to have a positive impact on both the day to day lives of people and the good of the broader community through craft really attracted me to architecture and design. Designing for a purpose, places for people to live and work, galvanizes the excitement and sense of satisfaction a project can bring.

Women in Interior Design: Christina Lai Cheong, Founding Partner of Lai Cheong Brown |
image source

What do you think needs to change in the industry for there to be gender equality?

It has been reassuring to see a great deal of discussion around equity in the Australian industry in recent years which has significantly increased understanding of the issues and has begun to form a framework for change. Ultimately, the issue in Australia seems to be how long it will take for this to translate into pay equity and women having parity at director level, as a theoretical shift appears to have happened without all the anticipated reward.


Do you have any advice for young girls wanting to break into the industry?

The advice I would give for all young designers is to understand that the demanding nature of the industry can be hugely daunting when you start, but that this can be readily overcome with careful hard work and perseverance. [As long as you have] an attitude that embraces challenge, there is really very little to stop you.

Marie Burgos

Founder of Marie Burgos Design

Multi-award winning French designer, Marie Burgos is a critically acclaimed interior specialist. Her eponymous company has global offices in both Manhattan and Los Angeles, serving clients from all corners of the world.

Women in Interior Design: Fireplace and natural wall art in a living room designed by Marie Burgos |
image source

What inspired you to become a designer?

A powerful early impact came from being born in Paris and being surrounded from childhood with the city’s architectural beauty, fashion and luxurious interiors. Another major influence came from my family’s native island, Martinique, where vibrant colors are everywhere and where nature provides a glorious ever-changing backdrop.

Women in Interior Design: Marie Burgos, Founder of Marie Burgos Design |
image source

What has your experience been as a woman in the industry?

I experienced gender and racial inequality in my prior corporate  profession, but now that I am fortunate enough to have my own firm, in a business where women-owned firms are more normal than not, I am able to make my own decisions and sidestep much of what many women experience in their work environments.

What do you think needs to change in the industry for there to be gender equality?

Gender equality in larger male dominated firms will come when more women are placed in charge of full projects. But this also needs to be addressed in design and architectural schools too.

Are you a woman working in the architecture or interior design industry? We’d love to hear your story! Comment below or send us a message via our Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.


Liked this article? Check out our round up of inspirational women of design’s past to see how they’re still influencing trends today!


No products in the bag.

Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.
Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest home tours and giveaways.