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.

Do Interior Designers Really Need a Degree?

Many budding interior designers grapple with the dilemma of paying a small fortune for a design degree. But of course, there is the tempting idea of employing other affordable alternatives – like watching YouTube tutorials and building a portfolio from scratch. As an aspiring interior designer, you should be thinking beyond sustaining your dream. Dreams do not feed people and pay the bills – jobs do. There are good jobs in interior designing and they are available for the qualified.

So how do people who hire interior designers define “qualification”? Is a strong portfolio enough? Or is a Bachelor’s Degree in Interior Design a key factor to unlocking your future career?

Let us discuss your options:

How do you plan to begin your career?

Without a degree:

Starting your interior design career without guidance is like piloting a plane for the first time without training, auto-pilot, or GPS. To avoid an epic crash, you either need to have an extreme amount of genius, good luck, or both. Practicing the software skills you need may not be the largest challenge. But if you have plans to start freelancing on your own, you will lose out to students who took hands-on modules that taught them how to work with materials and industry machinery. This path is not recommended unless you have contacts in the industry and someone who is willing to teach you the ropes for free.

With a degree:

If you want some guidance from professionals by joining a big design agency, you will need the qualifications – Especially so when you want to work in competitive countries like Singapore. Having a degree also allows you to branch out into teaching the subject after you have gained at least five years of relevant working experience. Not to mention, graduating from a top design school looks good on your portfolio. It also boosts the confidence of your future clients whether you intend to join a design company or start your own freelancing services.

Do you have the skills and determination to make your own portfolio?

A design portfolio shows off your skills to potential employers. Whether you choose to go through a design course or learn on your own, most people will begin with close to zero knowledge or technique. To be a competent interior designer, you will need to master the following skills:

– 3D software like 3D Max Studio

– Various Adobe Creative Suite software like Photoshop and Illustrator. Web designing programs like Dream Weaver are helpful, but not necessary.

– Auto CAD for 2D and 3D works.

– Ability to work with traditional tools like pencils, rulers and other drawing instruments for concept sketches or detailed blueprints.

– Space planning, decorating, and finding potential beauty in a variety of places.

An ideal portfolio contains around 15-20 pieces that display the skills stated above.

It is possible to create an interior design portfolio without formal training. However, degree students have significantly higher likeliness of producing works of better quality because they have guidance of professional lecturers. Another plus of attending interior design classes at a good design school is that you simply learn much more. You will meet people who inspire or challenge you to do your best. And also, you will understand more about industry practices that are not available in textbooks. All your experiences in school will reflect in your portfolio. Going to school is one of the fastest ways to grow as a professional interior designer who is capable of handling multiple paid assignments.

How can you improve your career prospects in interior design?

If you already have a Diploma and relevant working experience, apply for a top-up degree to increase your chances of getting that raise you want. If you have just graduated from high school or want a career switch, look out for intensive courses so that you can gain both an Advanced Diploma and Degree in three years.

Looking for a fresh perspective? Consider searching for design schools abroad. Studying overseas looks good on your résumé because it shows your ability to live away from your comfort zone. It also increases your chances of success if you study in the country you want to work in.

In a nutshell, going to school gives you skills to make a great portfolio that can give you entry to a company that values design ability. A degree comes in useful when you want to avoid your job application being binned by HR personnel of large interior design agencies. Art directors normally screen through works only after a candidate has been shortlisted by their company’s HR department.

Why Interior Designers Need Websites

Nearly half of U.S. small businesses have websites, according to USA Today. Even before the financial crisis, small businesses and solo professionals had begun turning to the Internet to reach a global audience and to better serve their customers right next door. Experts predict that companies without a web presence will be at a disadvantage as customers in all industries now expect an online site as part of doing business.

So why should an interior designer have a website? Here are five reasons why an online presence is well worth your time.

1. World-wide exposure. Too many designers never receive the recognition they deserve because their work doesn’t reach a wide enough audience to ignite fame. With a well-designed website, your portfolio can reach millions of people all around the world-potential clients, reporters, bloggers and corporate decision-makers. That can mean increased opportunities for projects, show houses, commercial bids and interviews.

2. Qualified, 24/7 referrals. Your website transcends time zones to work while you sleep. Today’s customers are more likely than ever before to bypass the media when looking for a solution and go straight to the Internet. If you’re relying on traditional media for articles and ads to reach clients, you’re missing out on an increasingly large share of the market that relies on web searches to find what they’re looking for. If you’re not on the web, they don’t even consider you.

3. Credibility. Americans now expect to find companies on the web. Companies that lack a web presence look less professional, more limited in scope, and less stable than those with good quality websites. Even if a prospect finds you through word of mouth, they may rethink their choice if they can’t find out more about you online.

4. Competitive advantage. Your website defines you. It provides a chance to see your portfolio, read about your recent projects, view or listen to client testimonials and celebrate your show homes or awards. Without a website, you lose the chance to define yourself, and others may not define your work or speak to your capabilities as well as you would.

5. Websites are a great venue for self-expression and creativity. Just as your workspace or your business card make a statement about you, your website can make a striking visual impression on prospects. Through the design of your site, you can showcase your personality. Visitors will know right away whether you are bold or restrained, modern or traditional. A website can express who you are as a designer and allows potential clients to see what you have to offer them. With web audio and video, you can showcase your talent in whole new ways with plenty of drama and panache.

Interior designers with websites have a big advantage over those who don’t. We live in a visual world, so the more visual a website is, the better you can communicate your talents and ideas. Today it’s surprisingly affordable to build a great website. You’ll find other cost savings to having a website, including reduced costs for printing and mailing, since you can refer prospects to pictures on your site rather than having to reproduce and distribute these individually. Even better, the information on your website is easy to update, so if you change your phone number, your address or other details you don’t have to scrap a box of expensive brochures that are now out of date.

A website is living; it is constantly being viewed and can change with your needs. So let the world see through your eyes. Share your creativity and design-driven thoughts with the world. A great website will help you achieve things paper will never be able to do.