Home Interiors – Clients Guide No1 – Interior Designer / Interior Decorator – What’s the Difference?

“Do you do Curtains & Cushions?” As a professional Interior Designer that’s the phone call we dread to receive!

It happens more than you may think; I then have to go on to explain (without sounding patronising) what this person really needs is an Interior Decorator, this will then no doubt follow-on with me having to further explain what the differences are between the two disciplines and try to steer them in an appropriate direction.

I don’t blame these people for getting the two mixed up; the general public have been feed hours and hour of TV “instant” make-over programmes and continuous glossy magazine features all under the misleading label of Interior Design. Also this has prompted those in the Interior Decoration and Soft Furnishing business to elevate their tile to Interior Designers; again I don’t blame them for doing this, it makes good business sense to up sell yourself. But the lines have become blurred as to what these two very different services offer – there is a market for the two approaches, but where confusion resides with the customer this has to be a bad thing!

So here with this Home Interiors – Client’s Guide – series of articles I will address the key aspects for client’s that have a Interior Design project in mind as to how they should go about searching for a Designer, what to look for, how they work and charge, how to get the best out of them and how a project gets off the ground to become a finished built reality.

ABOUT HOME INTERIOR DESIGN

Home Interior Design is not to be confused with Home Interior Decoration, as this tends to be only a skin-deep treatment to give a style change or “make-over” to a property. Home/Residential/Domestic Interior Design (whatever one may call it) is a much more fundamental approach to the way you live in a property and how a building can be made to work for the individual owners needs. This will not be just a coat of paint (some new curtains and cushions) it is likely to start with a in-depth rethink at how the property is planned and may involve some considerable changes put in place before one even thinks of decorations.

Interior Designers who specialize in Home Design can be viewed as Interior Architects, and their abilities should cover all aspects of building and architectural work to a property included minor/major structural alterations and building extensions etc. They will go on to cover all the “decoration” elements such as colours, finishes and furnishings, but this is not necessarily the starting point for a project. Kitchens, Bathrooms, Staircases etc are some of the core planning elements that can structurally and technically change a buildings layout; the flow and shape of a property can change dramatically when approaching these areas.

All the technical services that make up an Interior Design project will be undertaken by the Designer; Electrics, Lighting, Plumbing, Heating and Ventilation etc, all are fundamental that need to be design-in at the early stages of a scheme, even if it is just the principles of how these may work. It is becoming even more important these days with the opportunity for client to add-in to their project energy efficiency solutions for the whole building.

Many Clients only have a very basic idea or framework of what they wish from a project; it is however the Designers role to gain that information and drawer out of the Client the full details of their requirements, this then forming the project brief. This can be a very personal experience with the Designer asking questions on how you live now and changes you wish to make to your life style. Be as open as you can as this forms an important foundation for any new design, remember that the Designer is designing for you and not for them, so they need to know how YOU tick!

For most Clients they really enjoy this consultation, as this may be the first time that they have truly thought about their life style and what they really need from the project, apart from a floor, walls and ceiling. A good Designer will have the talents of a “pick pocket”, you will not know that so much information has been taken from you until you see the first concept design, and then you will realise that the smallest details have been included that reflects you and your life style.

HOW DO YOU FIND A GOOD DESIGNER

Personal recommendations are always good, but remember, the Designer has designed for the person who gave you the recommendation, so even if their project is not to your taste this does not necessarily mean that the Designer cannot design to your taste. If they were satisfied that the Designer produced a sound creative solution that matched their brief, then this Designer would more than likely be able to satisfy your project requirements.

Web Sites are a good way of looking at a Designers portfolio of work without making direct contact. Use the search engines and directories to track Designers that are within the broad area to where you live. It is no good having a Designer from Scotland if you live in London, and vice a verse, so aim relatively local of around a 50 mile search radius! Also be aware of companies that call themselves Interior Designers, but are really Home Furnishing companies and they are only really interested in selling from their shop or showroom. Offers of “free design service” will always have a sales agenda behind it. A true Design Consultant will be totally independent of any affiliated retail business and will use the global market to source what is right for your project, no commission or incentives involved.

Professional Bodies such as The Chartered Society of Designers have registers of designers in your area and can be contacted for a list. They also have a web site at you could visit. The Chartered Society of Designers is a body that vets individual designers to make sure they meet a professional standard, it starts with a student quantification “Diploma Member” and then “Member” (MCSD), and the highest level is “Fellow” (FCSD) and you should look for these qualifications or similar from your Designer.

I hope this has given you an insight into the world of Home Interior Design and if you are considering employing a designer is of help as to how to start to make a selection. Part of that selection process will be that first (no obligation) meeting with them; what can you expect to come out of this? Look out for the next article in this series by Chris Page.

Colleges Offering Accredited Online Interior Designing Programs

Wish to enter the field of interior designing? Constrained by personal and/or professional limitations? Online interior designing programs are useful for those aspiring future career options as interior designers, interior decorators, consultants, floral designers and numerous others such specialized career options. The following factors should be taken into consideration by aspiring students before enrolling in an online interior designing program.

Accreditation
For any successful interior designing program, accreditation is the only aspect of successful grading of your career path. If the chosen online institution is an accredited one, than students should have no worries at all about the acceptance of their degrees and job feasibility options for their career. Accreditation is important, considering the fact that many employers have particular selection criteria for employees in which accreditation is at times considered a major factor, so you need to make sure your chosen online college or university is accredited.

What to Expect in an Online Interior Designing Program
A good online university integrates the theoretical and practical aspects of interior designing fundamentals and concepts in such a way which provides balanced, yet in-depth learning of the subject. What is important here is that a student must have flair of reasoning, creativity and planning to gear up his/her successful acquisition of degree and attainment of a good career in the competitive field of interior designing. This means that simply acquiring a degree will not do the trick; you need to be creative and innovative to prove yourself in the job market.

College and Universities Which Offer Interior Designing Programs
The Council for Interior Design Accreditation lists various online schools and institutions, which currently offer online courses in the field and sub-field of interior designing. All of the listed online colleges and universities have been ranked as quality institutions in America. Some of them are:

o The University of Cincinnati in Ohio
o Pratt Institute in New York
o Kansas State in Kansas
o Cornell in New York
o Arizona State in Arizona

In addition to the above listed colleges and institutes, the Council recognizes two major online interior design programs offered by:

o The Art Institute of Toronto in Toronto, Canada
o American Intercontinental University in London, UK

The Art Institute of Toronto
This institute offers a student-centric curriculum and various practical insights to equip aspirants about the fundamentals of interior designing concepts and subject matter on the whole.

American Intercontinental University in London, UK
This university offers an associate and a bachelor’s interior design degree program for its aspirant online students. The bachelor’s program is well-acclaimed for its professionalism edge and student-centric approach. To earn an online associate degree, aspirants have to shell a tuition cost of around 4,000 British pounds per quarter.

The choice of an institute and college offering specialization certification courses and post-graduate diploma courses can be many but it is up to a student to choose wisely the kind of degree course best suited for his/her future career needs.

What are the Main Pros and Cons of an Online Interior Design Programs?
The main advantages of acquiring an online interior designing degree is definitely the ability to acquire it online, which saves time, money and other valuable resources. An aspirant can make use of online resources and reference database of knowledge mostly without spending money on it. Moreover, many web-based tools are available for streamlining the e-learning method to help students in transcending boundaries of conservative learning methodology.

The main disadvantages of acquiring an online interior designing degree is its accreditation factor, impersonal interface between trainer-student and lack of proper understanding of practical problems and on-site demonstrations in absence of proper guidance and motivation like that available for students learning in conventional class room settings.

Interior designing degrees can now be acquired online, thank to the wonders of the internet. But it is not as easy as it might sound, considering that there are not many online colleges and universities which offer the program and then comes the accreditation factor, which makes the process even harder. But after deciding upon which online institution you wish to go to, the online learning experience can be very interactive and upon acquisition of the degree, graduates can expect to hold good positions in the job market.

Department Store Buyer Becomes Interior Designer

A man contacted me about promoting his commercial interior design firm that he was starting. At that time he was working as a department store buyer where he was very bored in his job. He was interested in making a career change to interior designing. He had no formal training but had educated himself in interior design and had worked on some very small showroom and office design projects in an assisting role.

After meeting with him and learning his goals, I did some research into office and showroom designs, and the correlations between new designs and increased business. I discovered that office interior designing was a lot more plentiful but more competitive. The larger design firms concentrated on the office designing market. I decide for my client that it would be best if he would concentrate his efforts on the showroom design market which was less competitive and easier to break into.

I helped my client create a web site that would express his unique approach to designing showrooms. The web site allowed clients to request information on the different types and styles of showroom designs that my client has to offer. There would be articles and links to articles that would be of interest and help prospective clients with what type of showroom design would be best for their business. The web site would provide examples of other projects that were successfully done.

I wrote articles on the positive correlation between new designs and increased business and distributed them on the internet were clients would be looking for information. I included links in the articles back to my client’s web site. I created a newsletter for my client that contained helpful information to prospects by explaining several different ways of how new showroom designs can increase business. The newsletter contained links to my clients’ web site as well as links to articles and sources of information that would be of assistance to any potential prospects.

I created a print ad for the New York Real Estate Journal and wrote an article under my clients’ by-lines that appeared with the ad. After the article and ad appeared, I ordered reprints, wrote a solicitation letter, and bought a list of approximately 500 real estate lawyers (new showroom tenants typically have their lawyers negotiate their leases). The solicitation letters gave my clients web site address and where to find his newsletter. The solicitation letters were mailed with a bulk mail permit from a local post office. They were also sent via email.

A few weeks later after sending out the solicitation letter and reprints, a lawyer who represented a men’s suit designer company responded to our ads. I prepared for my client a four color brochure, a PowerPoint presentation, and a script to follow during his presentation. My client was up against 3 other firms competing for the contract. My client was rewarded the contract. The contract was for 1.5 million for a showroom on a very fashionable Manhattan street.

Five months after getting the contract to design this showroom my client completed the project. The showroom turned out to be a huge success for the men’s suit designer company. The company even recommended my client to an accessory manufacture and design company that the suit company was doing business with.

With the permission of the men’s suit designer company I arranged for several stories about their work to be published. I made changes on their web site to include the success that my client had with the suit design company’s show room design. I also included it in the next company newsletter that was going to be published. I repeated the process with the mailing list both of them (conventional mail and e-mail) promoting the success of my clients work. As a result, my client got three additional clothing design companies each of whom required large showrooms and offices

The success of the first contract allowed my client to break into a new market segment which is designing offices, which is the largest and most profitable in the interior design business. Here is where my client decided to expand his business; and in order to do this he must hire others who have the skills to execute the appropriate tasks at hand.