30 May 2023Written by Emma Woodward

“Believe In Yourself!” ISCD Graduate, Lisa Tonkin

Lisa Tonkin is a down-to-earth go-getter with a passion for design. With two young kids and a packed life, she knew she wanted more and to have her dream job. Find out all you need to know about Lisa, and how she made it as an interior designer.
spiral staircase inside building

The excitement Lisa felt when she started her studies at ISCD continued through to graduating with her Diploma of Interior Design and stepping into her new role as an interior designer.

Lisa loves to support up-and-coming design students, to help them take control of their dreams and empower them to take the leap into the industry.

Hi Lisa, thanks for talking to us today. Can you tell us a bit about your background and your studies with ISCD?

I have always been in a creative field of work. When I left high school, I wanted to study interior design, but the timing was not right, nor my budget, and so I started my working career in admin. That quickly led to marketing and from there I completed short courses in visual merchandising, interior design for beginners, graphic design, interior decoration (beginner), and photography, and landed in some amazing marketing and event roles that saw me be able to be creative. 

When the time was right, I started with ISCD and found the experience to be rewarding and challenging at times. The course is designed to set you up at the end to have the skills and knowledge to implement into your new career.

What are some of the opportunities that came about during your studies?  

There were always opportunities from ISCD, you just had to look out for and act on them. From joining the team for expos, to being a part of the seminars, networking with the teachers and industry greats who they would have on for sessions, to the blogs and information they have available. 

I was lucky to be selected for the BOWERBIRD Interiors placement and this was a great opportunity to be able to be hands-on and be in the industry to learn about all areas of a styling business. I greatly benefited from that as I picked up new skills that I took forward in my next role. 

Another great offer ISCD have is the job board. From this, I was able to start my first contracting interior design role with Jane Thomson Interior Design to get a start within the industry (as my diploma was coming to an end) and see how an interior design business operates. 


Lisa styling a room during her BOWERBIRD Interiors placement.

What has life been like since graduating from ISCD and starting a professional interior design career?

When I first resigned from my events role after doing something for 16 years I felt like I was taking a leap of faith. I started a contract-based role with Jane Thomson Interior Design and although it was great to start it wasn’t enough hours of work for me so I went looking for more.

I always knew beginning my career in design that I wanted to work within a business to have a mentor along the way and build my confidence in going out on my own in the years to come. I also have two young children in only a few days of daycare, which meant I was limited in investing the time into starting up a new business and this was not something I wanted to begin at this moment in my life.

I have since joined the team at ANSA Homes as their interior designer for new home builds, and love being able to put my skills to good use being able to custom design homes for the clients. One of the best things about this builder is we aren’t limited to sticking with only certain products and have the ability to work with many vendors over lots of range.

In my downtime I am enjoying doing consulting work, which allows me to work with all styles, designs and budgets so I can really get creative. And I have had a great mix of clientele and built my presence online.

I am also enjoying a new partnership with a homewares company local to me – doing their styling of products and being featured as their interior designer/stylist for any clientele… so, I like to juggle a few things at once.


Lisa working on flat lays for ANSA Homes.


Where do you get your design inspiration from? 

I feel a lot of my design inspiration comes from social media platforms, like Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube. When studying through ISCD I concentrated on some amazing Australian designers. I love the work they do, and I read a lot of their website blog content and listen to their podcasts. 

Travelling has also been a huge part of my design inspiration, where I can go and see stunning work in person to really appreciate it.

Thank you so much for your thoughtful answers, Lisa. Is there any parting advice that you would like to give to aspiring designers? 

Believe in yourself! Don’t regret putting yourself out there. Think outside the square when it comes to your approach on things, and never feel like you shouldn’t DM someone to ask questions. Networking for me was one of the best things I did during my time at ISCD, it helped me build rapport with designers who helped me through my course or offered input along the way. And also, realise everyone starts somewhere, so try not to compare yourself to someone with a huge following or big jobs. 

ISCD has a 40-year proven track record of producing leading Australian interior designers. We know design intimately, from colour theory, to furniture selection to the latest industry trends.

Are you interested in studying interior design or decoration? Do you want to know more about our online courses and where a career in interior design could take you? Connect with us today to learn more about our Diploma of Interior Design, the Certificate IV in Interior Decoration or any of our industry-focused microcredentials.

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