Swapping the city for interiors

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The Independent Online

Just over a year ago, Tommy Gordon's working day would have meant rising at four or five in the morning, making the forty minute commute to Dresdner Kleinwort Benson investment bank in the city and carrying out equity sales all day. He went straight from university to Dresdner and worked there for over seven years, but, he says, "My heart was never really in it, and I think that, unless it is, you’re never going to be a success."

It's why, last year, he decided to ditch the city, the commutes, the long hours and, yes, the big money, for a new career in interiors, selling Moroccan Berber rugs and decorative natural history such as clam and giant turtle shells, coral and fish skeletons with business partner, Errol Fuller, a world specialist in natural history.

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Tommy met Errol through his father, an antiques collector, and on leaving Dresdner approached him with a business idea to deal decorative natural history online. They now run Fuller and Gordon together. "I got him to take me under his wing, learn the business and meet the contacts, clients and suppliers," says Tommy, "he's really my mentor now."

So one year on, how does life compare for the city slicker turned interiors nut? Does he have any regrets?

"Obviously financially it doesn't really compare, but the quality of life is just fabulous. I take out what I need to live off and have to live pretty frugally – I'm not buying Ferraris or anything like that - but I wouldn't swap it for the world."

While Tommy is not paying himself at the moment ("I pump most of the money back into the business"), he hopes to start doing so in six months to a year. He was fortunate to have bought a house while he was earning well in the city, and now relishes working at home with his wife and new daughter, though he admits, "I do miss my corporate credit card for the odd lunch here and there."

While equity sales and interiors might seem miles apart, the sales training gained in the city applies to Tommy's new business, and the discipline of getting up at five has, he explains, helped him to focus when working at home with all its distractions. The contact list obtained while working at Dresdner, he says, has also "been very useful" with high earning friends and contacts in the city proving to be "pretty good clients since I've left."

While Tommy enters the second year of his new life in interiors, Jacx Golze, an accountant who left the CFA at the end of April this year is just beginning her adventure as an interior designer for her own business, Jacx Golze Designs.

She started working for Deutsche Bank Sydney straight after university before moving to London, where she has worked as an accountant for the last ten years. With a designer mother and a landscape designer father, Jacx has design in the blood and was keen to pursue her love of interiors full time. Making the leap has taken careful consideration, says Jacx, who spent a year doing home courses in her spare time, before deciding to sign up for a two year interior design course at KLC, a highly respected design school, based in Chelsea.

Giving up the accountant’s salary was "a bit of a shock and it still is," says Jacx, "I basically had to save up for six months to get to a position where I could work for myself. It's not that easy to leave work and not get paid."

The benefits however are there in spades: "It's great because I work for myself now – the commute used to take an hour from home. I really like accounting, but this let’s me explore my creative side. Working with numbers is really different to coming up with a concept for someone's living room."

Making a career swap from the city to interiors is a big decision and one that should be carefully thought out. There will be less money and less security for starters, but if it's something that you love, then there's every chance that you will make a success of your new career. As Sonia Murton, founder of Belle Interiors, who ten years ago left the IT recruitment industry after fifteen years to pursue an interest in antiques, says, changing careers was the "best thing I ever did. If you have a passion of interiors, just go for it. You can't worry about the salary difference as it is a totally different industry and if you work hard to build up your new career you will reap the rewards financially in the long run."

Emily Jenkinson is interiors writer for furniture and interior design website mydeco.com.

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