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Friday, February 20, 2009

What is an Interior Designer

Funny question, huh? But in our world today there does seem to be some debate about the subject. In many states there has been legislation introduced that limits who can or cannot call themselves an Interior Designer. In those states, a 3 day long test (given in three sections) known as the NCIDQ Exam, must be passed and a certificate rewarded to the designer before they can be considered a licenced interior designer. Can you imagine, these folks would never let anyone call them a "decorator" after accomplishing such a detailed and technical test of their design knowledge. So far, we do not have to take this exam in WV, though most 4 year education programs prepare students to take the exam, no matter where they will be practicing. I have several young collegues that have taken and passed the exam, and I have given some thought to preparing for it and taking it at some point in the near future. I just wanted to add my two cents, for what it is worth and to explain my reasons for becoming a designer.

I have had the most interesting week working with some new clients and with one dear friend who is redoing her townhouse. I think the reason that a lot of people choose design as a carreer is that the field has so much potential for creative expression. It seems like such a fun way to make a living and to make the world a more beautiful place to live. I know that was one very important reason for my choosing the field. I thought design would be all about color and fabrics and paint and furniture....ahhh. I never once realized just how technical it would all become. After my first couple of semesters in college that included classes in architectural drawing, lighting, codes compliance, art, photography and art appreciation, I began to realize that my newly adopted carreer field fell somewhere between artist and architect. In fact, most of our clients have no idea about the amount of technical, behind the scenes work that is involved in their projects: everything from choosing colors to the best type of lighting and light bulbs to use in their space.

You see, we start out just sitting down with our prospective clients asking questions, gathering information about their favorite (and least favorite) colors, fabrics, styles and such. During that first visit we usually measure the room or rooms that will be designed and we also talk about things that will be staying, and those that will be going. Designers need to know these things, you know.

The next phase is where the technical stuff comes in; we begin with sketches. Concepts dancing in our heads that get jotted down on paper to allow us to visualize the possible end results. A floor plan is drawn of the space, including all of the doorways and windows. Next, the furnishings that will be in the room are drawn onto the floor plan (this often turns into a series of plans, thank goodness for the copier). Then there is all of the searching for just the right products to go into the new design. In one single room you could choose as many as 100 assorted fixtures, finishes and furnishings. Well, in today's market, that is not an easy task-there is just so much to choose from. This is where it is very important to have that information from the client interview so that you have a clear direction for the design-otherwise it gets VERY confusing.

After about a week or so, it is time to visit with the client to present your ideas and to discuss any concerns that they have with your selections. There is usually some fine tuning of the plan to come up with something that you both agree on. Now for the fun stuff, ordering those items that are most essential for completing the design. There is additional measuring for fabrics, flooring and any cabinetry that will be installed to make sure that we are ordering the right amount for the job. The installers are usually called on for this for accuracy even though the designer has done the preliminary calculations for the work. This helps to eliminate the possibility of ordering too much or too little of the materials needed for the space.

Finally, once all of the new materials have arrived and are installed, the beautiful new living areal are complete. Sometimes this happens in a fairly timely manner, other times there are unforseen delays. Oh the frustration of ordering the perfect fabric or flooring only to find out that it is on backorder or that it is no longer available from the manufacturer. This is especially frustrating if you just checked on it before your presentation and were told by someone that, "there is plenty of it on hand". (SIGH) This usually means finding the closest possible substitute upon approval of the client, and starting the ordering process once more. The final stage, is the placing of accessories-the jewels of the room, the icing on the cake. This is the phase that often earns us that "decorator" title, but it is my favorite phase. In the long run, the end result is well worth all the waiting and selecting and installing that is involved. The reward is wonderful; a satisfied client as they view their new room, rooms, house. A beautifully functional, three dimensional work of art, inspired by their individual vision of what a cozy home is to their family. It is no wonder, then that most designers ask you most graciously, "please, don't call me a decorator".

Until next time, Stay Cozy,
Charlotte
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