Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What is an Interior Designer

There is a misconception about what an Interior Designer is exactly, what we do day to day, and why you would want to hire one.  Let me just take a second to give you my take.

My 8-5er is at a large architecture firm where I sit at a desk in a cubicle behind a computer and draft floor plans, design details, and custom millwork for large hospitals, corporate office buildings and laboratories about 75% of the time.  I spend about 15% of my time pulling fabrics, furniture, paint, carpet and doing "the fun stuff" and the remainder is spent in meetings with clients, consultants, engineers, etc.  Glamorous eh?  NOT.  Don't get my wrong, I do love my job, but the reason I started this blog with Fallon was to have a more creative outlet to express my love for the decorating aspect of design and expand my clientele into residential projects where I can really have some fun and flexibility in my career.

Now, contrary to popular belief, designers and decorators can be two different professions.  Wikipedia defines Interior Design as a multi-faceted profession in which creative and technical solutions are applied within a structure to achieve a built interior environment.  The interior design process follows a systematic and coordinated methodology, including research, analysis, and integration of knowledge into the creative process, whereby the needs and resources of the client are satisfied to produce an interior space that fulfills the project goals.In jurisdictions where the profession is regulated by the government, designers must meet broad qualifications and show competency in the entire scope of the profession, not only in a specialty. Designers may elect to obtain specialist accreditation offered by private organizations. In the United States, interior designers who also possess environmental expertise in design solutions for sustainable construction can receive accreditation in this area by taking the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) examination.  (ps. I am a LEED accredited professional)  Not to be confused with interior decoration, interior design, which evolved from interior decoration, involves a multitude of technical, analytical, creative skills, and understandings of architectural elements. There is a wide range of disciplines within the career of interior design. Domestically the profession of interior design encompasses those designers who may specialize in residential and or commercial interior design.  Interior designers often work under stress to meet deadlines, stay on budget, and meet clients' needs. In some cases, licensed professionals (that would be me)  review the work and sign it before submitting the design for approval by clients or construction permitting. The need for licensed review and signature varies by locality and relevant legislation, and scope of work. Their work tends to involve a great deal of traveling to visit different locations, studios, or client's homes and offices.

An Interior Design degree includes instruction in architecture, structural systems design, heating and cooling systems, occupational and safety standards, interior design, specific end-use applications, and professional responsibilities and standards." Interior Design stands at the intersection of architecture, design of the built environment, and conservation. A designer addresses the design issues intrinsic to the re-use and transformation of existing structures through both an innovative and progressive approach.  We work very closely with architects, contractors, engineers and different consultants.

The main difference between is designer and a decorator is that designers typically have a 4 year degree, additional accreditations, and require continuing education classes to keep their license active while decorators can get a certificate.  Depending on how and where you practice, design can certainly mean doing quite a bit of decorating (ie: pulling fabrics, designing window treatments, furniture placement, etc).

Now the important stuff: want to hire an Interior Designer?  Here are some things I think you should keep in mind.  We do this stuff day in and day out of a variety of different project types for a variety of different clients and end users.  We have experience in what looks good, what works, how you can get the most bang for your buck, and what will add value to your space.  Most designers work one of two ways: They charge for their service or they mark up merchandise.  I personally charge for my service only, which means I give a bulk rate to complete an entire job.  I believe it's more honest and easier for both parties to know exactly how much money is going towards design fees.  I still get all of the discounts that are 'To the Trade', but I pass them directly to my client.  I think that is one of the benefits of hiring a designer and sometimes, the discount on furnishings can help offset the costs of hiring a professional to help you.  Now some designers will mark up the merchandise they buy and make a little fee that way.  The problem I find with this is that sometimes it persuades the client where to and not to shop.  My end goal is to make my client happy, create a beautifully functional space, and hopefully spend their dollar wisely.  I want to be able to go to a garage sale and pick up a piece for $25 if that is what they want/need and I don't want to feel like I have to take them to a certain store to get my fee.  There are also designers that do a combo and will charge an hourly rate and make a bit of fee from merchandise mark up.  Other ways designers can make money include marking up window treatments or custom pieces or receiving kick-backs from certain contractors.  I do none of those.

Well, I know that was probably drawn out and pretty boring, but hopefully it helps you understand what I do and why we started O+P.  Design is what I love.  I'm good at it and have great passion towards it. 


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