How to Become a Furniture Designer in the UK

This comprehensive guide should help you on the path to becoming a furniture designer in the UK. Follow these steps, gain these qualifications and you could be starting a career as a furniture designer in no time.

Are you searching for a new career? Do you love interior design but want to design the feature pieces which make the focal points of well-dressed rooms? Are you a careers advisor, or a student about to graduate from high school? Either way, this guide to how to become a furniture designer could help you open some doors to the future.

Furniture design can be an inspiring, rewarding, and creative career path. Designing any product from the ground up is a process reserved for the especially talented. Furniture designer careers often attract those who study the arts as it does have that creative flair to it. Are you a creative looking for a functional career path? If so, then a career as a furniture designer could be for you.

The Role and Importance of Furniture Designers

The modern furniture designer aims to create functional furniture that is aesthetically pleasing, The more people find the furniture pleasant, the more of it you can sell. A good designer has the ability to become a household name.

While furniture design careers are creative, there is an element of money making to the fun. Furniture which doesn’t perform well to purpose will never sell well, regardless of how aesthetically pleasing it may be. Similarly, if you are employed by a large furniture chain, you may find they are driven towards cost cutting rather than comfort or sumptuous fabrics. Essentially, the easier the item is to mass produce, the more of it they can sell.

Furniture designers have the difficult task of predicting which colours and fabrics will be on trend in the coming years. They then create the furniture based on functionality, and style it based on ergonomic design choices. They walk that fine line between fashionable enough to make money, and interesting enough to retain the original spark of inspiration which created the design to begin with.

Famous Furniture Designers include Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Jasper Morrison.

Educational Pathways to Becoming a Furniture Designer?

This highly sought after job is not hard to get into if you have the right qualifications. You might even skip the original qualifications and go straight for an apprenticeship, too. Here are your options about becoming a furniture designer in the UK.

Furniture Designer Qualifications

If you want to take the educational pathway to becoming a furniture designer then you will need as many GCSEs as possible. Most courses look for 4/5 at a good grade. You may wish to apply for an arts and design degree straight out of school if your grades are good enough.

If you do not get good grades then don’t panic, you can still get your furniture designer qualifications by going to college and studying a diploma. This will count towards entry into a degree course later on.

College Courses

The HND in Furniture and Product Design will get you into the world of furniture design. Once you learn how to manufacture, market, and improve a product range, all that is left is the design. You could also specialise in other areas, such as 3D design crafts, interior design, or even a technology based furniture building course.

Other college courses which may be of interest to you include the Level 3 Diploma in Furniture Design and Making or a T Level in Craft and Design.

College courses typically require 4 or 5 GSCEs at grades A-C (9-4) or the equivalent. For a diploma over a national certificate those GSCEs might also include English and Maths.

University Courses

You can take a foundation degree in furniture design or take a degree in design and specialise in furniture later. You can also that the Degree in Furniture and Product Design as a continuation from your college course. Some universities will allow you to use a two-year college diploma as the first year of your university studies.

University courses typically require that foundational college course or diploma before they will consider your application. Since most university courses require a diploma in art or another design related course, the entry requirements will also include 1 or 2 A levels or may accept multiple A levels in place of the diploma.


Lastly, you have the option of choosing an apprenticeship in order to become a furniture designer. There are typically entry requirements for apprenticeships, too. Usually this includes 5 GCSEs at grades 9-4, and may include English and Maths, too.

There are three options in apprenticeship specific to the furniture designer. These include:

  • New Furniture Product Developer Apprenticeship

This apprenticeship is a specialisation of the New Product Development apprenticeship, which deals directly with furniture. You will learn how to interpret market needs, predict customer expectations, and meet those needs with functional furniture. This apprenticeship allows you to learn about product testing and experience creation in a variety of different locations – from the factory floor to the private studio.

  • Fitted Furniture Design Technician

A level 3 apprenticeship as a Fitted Furniture Design Technician teaches you how to take a product from the idea stage into the paperwork and planning stage. Part of creating furniture ranges involves pitching ideas for new designs. The savvy furniture designer has a portfolio full of ideas which a new customer may wish to take on. Studying this course allows you to work on custom made furniture for clients. This is handy if you plan to strike out on your own as a designer.

  • Bespoke Furniture Maker Apprenticeship

A Bespoke Furniture Maker Apprenticeship sees you responsible for taking the initial design from the lead designer and developing this into a physical piece. This apprenticeship allows you to combine both working under an experienced furniture designer with learning the tools and tricks of your trade. This apprenticeship encourages you to interpret designs and challenge them if you have to. A good furniture maker can suggest product improvements without dismissing the ideas from the initial design.

Which Furniture Maker Apprenticeship is the Best?

The best course for your depends on what you want to do. Realistically, the best furniture design apprenticeship depends on whether you want to be a lead designer, or whether you want to start from a team level. When you begin working with a company, the chances are they will place you on the design team, not as a lead designer. Ultimately, a combination of both would be best.

Career Tips for the Aspiring furniture Designer

Does a career as a furniture designer sound good? If so, bookmark the following career tips to be sure of furniture making success.

Research Your Niche

Those who get work as furniture designers are those who have studied hard. This doesn’t necessarily apply to your qualifications, either. This means reading about which trends are hot this year and which are out. It means knowing the names of top designers, top fabric manufacturers, and reliable wood and materials sources. Research everything you can learn about your niche. It will give you the edge in job interviews.

Maintain a Portfolio

Maintain a portfolio of work to showcase your design skills to potential clients or employers. A portfolio is a collection of examples of your work which you have polished to a fine shine. If you can create excellent work to highlight your skills, you can easily show this to potential employers or clients. It is good professional practice to add to your portfolio biannually.

Attend Design Fairs and Exhibitions

Stay updated with current trends in furniture design to ensure business longevity. The best way to do this is to attend different expos in your field. Go to the fabric shows, visit the warehouse to choose materials, and don’t be afraid to explore trends and new styles.

Follow your Favourites

Follow your favourite designers, furniture brands, furniture makers, and social media influencers. This helps you connect to your audience, learn what people like, and gives you ample inspiration and industry insights.

Don’t Stop Studying

The moment you decide not to study the new trends is the moment you will lose your hold on the industry. It is one thing to stand out for thinking outside of the box, it is quite another to sacrifice functionality for the sake of quirkiness. The best of the best furniture designers tread a fine line in between.

Entry-Level Positions are Great starting Points

Even if you study how to be a solo designer with your own studio for years on end, do not expect to walk into the industry and immediately earn the respect of those around you. Starting at the bottom lets you learn the ropes without the big risks of making design faux pas’ when you re fresh off the starting line.

Professional Development

Joining the professional bodies associated with furniture design will help you gain accreditations. Association with entities such as the Chartered Society of Designers gives you access to opportunities for professional development training. This helps with technical advice and information on setting up a successful business of your own.

Independence as a designer is the main goal for every budding furniture designer. However, you might prefer working for someone else and as part of a design team. Should you choose this route there are still opportunities for growth. You could become a team leader, supervisor, or manager.

Skills and Qualities of a Successful Furniture Designer

As well as looking at your qualifications, employers will look at the skills and personal qualities you have which may lend themselves to the role. Skills and qualities you might associate with a furniture design career include:

  • Patience – you may be public facing, especially if you make custom made furniture.
  • Problem solving – your clients will constantly present you with new challenges to conquer.
  • Personability – front facing furniture designers need good people skills.
  • Excellent fabric knowledge
  • Excellent knowledge of building materials
  • A good working knowledge of big brands and designers.
  • Great attention to detail
  • A keen eye for improvements
  • Creative – designing furniture requires constant creativity.

If you think you’ve got what it takes, you could be designing new fireplaces in no time.

So You Want to Design Furniture?

If becoming a furniture designer sounds like a career you would be interested in, then all that is left is to wish you luck. This is a competitive marketplace with far more furniture makers than successful designers. Don’t be put off by the challenge. Instead, study hard at college, take a university degree in design, or start your apprenticeship in furniture design with passion and vigour. The world will always need furniture and the people who know how to make it.

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