Over the years I have grown weary in trying to explain my field of study to the masses. There are many misconceptions about interior design that need to be undone. I do, however, understand that it is not anyone’s responsibility to fully understand this field, but to those who would like to be chaperoned on learning something new, this will broaden your understanding. As for those who wish to build a residential or commercial building, understanding this field could pave some stones your way.
What is interior design?
Interior design is the art of understanding people’s behaviour and creating functional spaces for specific interactions to take place.
What qualifications do you need to be an interior designer?
You would need a minimum Diploma certificate that can be completed in three years, full time. This can be followed by an additional year for the title of a Bachelor’s degree or BTech depending of the university attended. Either of the two qualifies you as an interior designer and experience is to be pursued.
Is interior design in high demand?
Employment of interior designers is expected to grow “19 per cent from 2008 to 2018, faster than the average for all occupations”, as stated by the Bureau of U.S Labor Statistics. This is due to the demand for interior design services from the healthcare industry. The retail industry is also beginning to acknowledge the work of interior designers as they realise that shopping online is creating less need to go to a shop. Therefore, by designing innovative hubs, services and interactive spaces, the younger generation is given a reason to leave the couch.
Is there a difference between interior design and interior decorating?
Interior design pertains to understanding people’s behaviour and creating functional spaces within a building, while interior decoration is the furnishing or adorning of a space with fashionable beautiful elements. In short, interior designers may decorate, but decorators do not design but can acquire the skill. This means that one ought to be careful when hiring a designing team. It is important to ask the designer for a portfolio of the work that was previously done. These could be pictures or referrals from past clients. ‘’A designer is only as good as their last job”, the words of my dear lecturer, Colleen Cocotos.
Where can one observe the work of interior designers?
This field ranges from designing the interior of hospitals, schools to residential homes. Other places you can find the craftsmanship of an interior designer is in retail spaces, pop-up shops, offices, festival structures, grand shop entrances or just a thought provoking piece of furniture.
What services are included in a project?
Services can begin with helping a client understand what they really want to achieve out of a certain project. This would lead to a conceptual understanding of the needed work. The development leads to concrete ideas that need technical drawing, for example, a house plan that shows all existing and new structures including drainage systems, air conditioners, electrical fixtures, floor and wall treatments. The designer can then head into contracting other companies that have specific specialisation. Depending on the scale of a project, an interior designer can either work alone to source all services or work collaboratively with engineers, architects and quantity surveyors.
Once contracting teams have been assigned tasks, the interior designer can head the team to make sure all work is done to the client’s contentment. A common mistake is to build a structure to completion and then call an interior designer to come and begin their work, at such a stage, an interior decorator should be hired. The work of an interior designer begins alongside that of an architect. This allows room for collaboration of the exterior and interior aspects of a building.
So when do you dig in your pocket?
A client recently contacted me to tell me that she was living in a construction site. This happened after I had helped her to specify a wooden floor tile. When it came to contracting, she mentioned that she knew someone who could do the job. Unfortunately, she paid the person half the amount a few days into the work… story cut short, the person was off work duty for some good weeks. It is important to pay workers in stages. This way, should they walk away; at least you have your money’s worth. Interior designers work and require payment in different work stages. This is for the client’s benefit in budgeting terms and also for our own security, should the client decide to end the contact or state that new needs have come to play.
The author is a qualified interior architectural designer based in Cape Town.