As an Interior Designer the three most common questions asked are: “What is it you do?”, “Ah! So you choose the fabrics?”, “What do you think of these pillows?” Even within the industry there’s confusion around what an Interior Designer does, and it only gets worse when throwing in comparisons to Interior Architects or Interior Decorators.
A degree of confusion is understandable: the role is of relatively recent invention and there is a lot of overlap. But this level of confusion?!
So, once and for all, let’s set the record straight!
If you’re thinking about updating your home, who should you talk to if you need professional advice?
You’ll find the answer in the sort of changes you want (and, of course, your budget).
1. The Interior Decorator
Let’s start with the easiest one: Interior Decorator. The Decorator is what a lot of people think of when you say Interior Designer. An Interior Decorator is likely to be a good fit if you’re thinking about anything short of structural changes. Fabrics, textures and colour choices all the way up to furniture suggestions; a Decorator could be a great person to speak to if you’re looking to refresh a room or make your home more cohesive.
2. The Interior Architect
On the other end of the spectrum is the Interior Architect, who probably does exactly what you expect: they’re an Architect specialising in Interiors. These are the people you want to talk to if you’re looking at the space you’ve got and how that might be structurally transformed into the space you want. They’ll advise you on the design and be able to create all the technical drawings to carry out the work, but they’re not necessarily going to be well-versed when it comes to putting things in the space once you’ve got it.
3. The Interior Designer
And so, that’s the gap the Interior Designer has evolved to fill. They bridge the gap between these two disciplines, giving a single specialisation with training in both the decorative arts and the technical know-how to advise on and develop the technical drawings for any structural alterations that might be necessary. They can look not only at the space you have, but the space you could have and be able to advise you how to use that space – in lighting, decorating and furnishing – to various effects.
A good Designer will have gone through similar training and exposure to numerous decoration influences as a Decorator. They’ll be able to listen to your brief and develop a number of options to guide you to a great new home. But they’ll also be equipped to propose and adapt to structural alterations that might enhance your space more than updated curtains and a new lick of paint.
It’s important to note that, while an Interior Designer may be trained in 3D modelling and the more technical demands of electrical and plumbed schematics, they’re not certified architects. Many may be perfectly capable of generating certifiable plans, but they’ll still need to be approved by accredited structural engineers.
The Interior Designer is a master of the art of a building, while an Interior Architect is more concerned with its science.
So Which Should You Hire?
The answer to that lies in your ambition and your budget. Hiring an Architect will cost you the most. They can approve their own plans but they’ll likely have to rely on another professional (or yourself!) to devise the final look.
An Interior Decorator will cost you the least and get you the least wide-ranging advice. Their time, experience and professional advice may be the perfect shortcut if you’re looking for ideas for a “simple” refresh.
And an Interior Designer covers all your bases from the outset without removing any options prematurely. It’s possible we’re a little biased here at Whole Mood, but any Interior Designer worth their salt will be able to work within your budget constraints and work to rates that suit the scope of the project. The advantage of being able to build a relationship with a single Designer, who can work with you throughout the project will, greatly improves your chances of reaching a final result that meets your real needs, not just what you thought you wanted when you started.
Like all projects of design or creation, to do it well is a journey; you want to undertake it with someone you trust. (By the end of the project at least, if not at the beginning!)
What if you want to become an Interior Designer/Decorator/Architect?
An interesting question!
Studying to become an architect takes years of study, followed by years of apprenticeship. It’s immensely demanding and technical, even before you get the opportunity to specialise in something so niche as ‘interiors’.
Interior Decoration is again the opposite: it doesn’t necessarily require a degree or diploma. Patience, a good eye and a budget can quickly create a portfolio for an aspiring Decorator, though there are a number of good short courses that might teach you the basics and some tricks to presentation, pitching, colour science and an overview of historical influences, which could be great inspiration if you’re thinking of dipping your toe in Interior Decoration or Design.
And once again, the Interior Designer has developed as the middle way. There are a growing number of diplomas and courses on offer, with varying lengths, costs and promises.
Because of the broad scope and ill-understood position held by Interior Designers there are a number of less reputable courses in London who will be more than happy to take a student’s money with too little course to back it up. Organisations like the British Institute of Interior Design (BIID) are taking strides to regulate these educators and ensure a basic standard of education, but they’re not quite there yet. Buyer: beware.
To give you a foretaste though, we’ll be starting a series of posts outlining the fundamentals of Interior Design. That way, and without you paying a dime, we hope to give you an introduction to the topics you’ll need to master on your own journey to being an Interior Designer.