Talk about timing: When the creative minds behind Havenly—the Denver-based interior design service that digitally delivers custom redecorating ideas for as little as $79 per room—decided to launch Havenly University to help wannabe and established designers brush up on their digital design skills, they had no idea just how in demand their offering would be. But, as the COVID-19 pandemic spurred career changes, new hobbies to pass time spent at home, and home-renovation projects large and small, a growing number of design aficionados began considering how to take their passion for gorgeous interiors to the next level. Here, Sarah Miller, Havenly’s vice president of people and culture, and Havenly senior designer Lyndsi Lee share how Havenly University is meeting that need—with free online coursework available to anyone with a computer and internet access—and sparking exciting new careers and interiors in the process.

5280 Home: What is Havenly University, and who was it designed for?
Sarah Miller: Havenly University is a great supplementary training program to help designers improve their technical skill set, but it is not intended to replace traditional interior design schooling. We’ve focused the initial programming around creating visualizations, including concept boards, floor plans, and 2-D room renderings. This can be useful to those who are looking to improve their e-design skills for their career or for their personal projects and hobbies. After completing the coursework and practice assignments, learners should be able to create these deliverables from scratch. We have seen many [students] without any prior experience do really well, with some even going on to join Havenly as a home stylist or e-designer.

Havenly University students learn to use Photoshop and Homestyler software to create a vibrant, 2-D rendering like this—an invaluable tool for visualizing a design before investing in new furnishings and decor. Rendering courtesy of Havenly

Havenly University’s May 2020 launch seemed perfectly timed to help those considering pandemic-driven career and hobby changes, but these current conditions were unimaginable when you began developing the concept. What sparked the idea?
SM: Havenly University is something we’ve wanted to do for some time. As a company, we’ve taken great pride in the fact that we create entrepreneurial opportunities for hundreds of interior designers who are able to build businesses and names for themselves through the work they do with Havenly. We have always wanted to open that up to more people, and as we continued to grow and needed to recruit more designers to work with us, Havenly University became a big priority. These plans have been in the works for a while, but we feel really great knowing that the coursework is timely and may be useful to those affected by the current economic conditions by helping them gain a new skill set, find a new passion, work remotely, or take on an extra project during quarantine.

What do the lesson plans cover?
Lyndsi Lee: The program is divided into two sections: The first section focuses on creating visualizations for e-design, which can be very overwhelming, even for experienced designers, so we broke it down into eight modules that include everything needed to build a beautiful design [in Photoshop]: importing and placing objects, selection tools, color and transparency, layers and masks, shaping and scaling objects, correction tools, and adding highlights and shadows. The final module brings everything together in a tutorial that teaches users how to arrange a concept board.

The second part of the program dives into the [Homestyler] software we use at Havenly for rendering rooms. This includes building a floor plan, making architectural changes, adding furniture, and producing a final rendering.

Coursework covers more than simply placing furnishings in an empty box. Students learn to build floor plans and make architectural changes to a virtual space before adding decor and producing a final rendering. Rendering courtesy of Havenly

How were these specific topics identified?
LL: When creating the content for this program, I actually worked in reverse. I thought about the final products that designers are expected to deliver, and then I worked my way back through the skills to get there. I also collaborated with a fabulous learning and development coach who helped categorize and condense the information so that it made sense to the learner. There were also times when I removed myself from the “expert” role and absorbed information from newer designers who are still learning. This helped me get back to the basics, which was extremely important in building the program.

Speaking of newer designers, is this coursework appropriate for students who appreciate great design, but have never attempted to actually create a great design?
SM: Our learners are split 50/50. Half are experienced interior designers looking to brush up on their technical skill set and/or make a transition into e-design. The other half are design enthusiasts and creatives who are interested in turning the passion they have into a career—or just learning something new.

The finished product: This real-life living room is the result of a Havenly designer’s virtual design. Photo courtesy of Havenly

How can students who love design—but not the idea of a design career—use these new skills?
SM: If you’ve ever worked with an interior designer or gone through the Havenly design process as a client, you know there’s a magic to the work that interior designers do. Those who are looking to redesign their own spaces or help family and friends should be able to use the Havenly University coursework to achieve a better outcome. It’s really helpful to learn how to put together a board of items, see a visualization of those items in a space, and then, as a result, feel more confident when making bigger furniture and decor purchases. And if you love interior design and like to learn new things, we think this coursework is also just really fun.

What to know: Anyone can register for Havenly University and the programming, coursework, and practice exercises are free. To sign up, visit to request access.