What’s in a Name..?

Posted by Phoebe Oldrey in Interior Design Advice

Swatches design mood board

Swatches design mood board

Presentation boards showing a Smartstyle Design

What’s in a Name…?               by Phoebe Oldrey

An “In” Joke round the interior design circles goes “An Interior Design and an Interior Decorator walk into a bar and there is an Elephant in it, The bar tender says “What should I do with this Elephant” – The Interior Decorator suggest they paint it, the Interior Designer asks “Why do you have an Elephant at all?” Not a joke that is going wow your dinner guest anytime soon but one that got me questioning what is the difference between a Designer and a Decorator and why are so many Interior Designers online so worked up about it.

In the USA the Interiors market is regulated and you can’t legally call yourself an “Interior Designer” without both qualification and experience. In the UK two Interior Design Societies SBID, who I am delighted to be a member of, and BIID are pushing for this but today anyone can call themselves an Interior Designer. In fact people rarely refer to themselves as Interior Decorators – everyone has adopted the title Interior Designer.

To add to the confusion there is a surge in the number of places people can access Interior Design services; from chain stores, Interior Design firms, such as “Smartstyle Interiors” and Architects. It was only yesterday I drove past a sign in Tunbridge Wells offering “Painting, Decorating, Wallpapering and Interior Design Services”. As a nation we have become more design savvy and the demand for our skills has risen over the last decade. Every year more and more people are graduating into the design market. However we are also still sitting in a long hard recession, so people are watching how they spend their money. We are often branded as an expensive luxury good. Sadly 25% of designers globally have quit the industry since 2009. I guess this is why Interior Designers want people to really hear what it is we do.

An Interior decorator is someone who can bring all the room scheme together, from furniture, wall colour, fabrics and accessories. Never underestimate what a skill this is and I would say 50% of the work I do involves this.

An Interior Designer is trained to bring more to both the design and the project. They are trained to produce detailed design drawings, design custom furniture, kitchens and bathrooms, and create lighting plans. As a professional we are required to have an understanding of how products work, not just at the time of installing it but over its lifetime. When designing for a client we must understand how they use a space and design with their priorities, functionality and lifestyle. More time is spent working with contractors to deliver a client’s project than designing. We must understand the finer details as well as have the skill to co-ordinate the project from start to finish. That’s not just checking on the progress of work but also managing all the ordering and delivering of items required and don’t even start me on the knowledge we have to have about safety and building codes. These are the things that you just can’t see in before and after pictures.

Why are all these facts important to a client? What does it matter if someone is a Decorator or a Designer? 

banksy open mouth elephant living room

Elephant by Banksy – can you spot him?!

I guess it goes back to the elephant. Sometimes changing a colour scheme, adding some cushions is all that is needed and can make a dramatic change to a room. But the training and skills a designer has can take the same room and show you on detailed working drawings how it will look if you remove the chimney breast (our Elephant), design intricate lighting plans and show you the furniture layout, as well as paint the room and add some amazing cushions. As a client this professional knowledge saves you time and in the costs of the whole project will probably save you money. You will have a proper idea of the cost, risks and effort involved before the project even starts. Good design will reduce waste and re-work, as well as create a better end product. As Interior Designers we can bring a lot more possibility to a design project and shoulder the stress of the process for you.  As one blogger said “We don’t simply buy cushions and arrange rugs”

So if you wish to know what to do with an Elephant in your house do you call your friend who’s good with animals or a trained Elephant handler?

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