Myth Busters | Misconceptions About Interior Designers

Interior Designers are the same as Interior Decorators

Interior design is the art and science of understanding people’s behavior to create functional spaces within a building. Decoration is the furnishing or adorning of a space with fashionable or beautiful things.

I can’t tell you how many times people have referred to me as a decorator, because they simply don’t understand that there is a difference between the two. But in fact, there is quite a large difference between the two from education, to practice, and what our jobs entail. The NCDIQ describes the difference between the two professional the best: “Many people use the terms “interior design” and “interior decorating” interchangeably, but these professions differ in critical ways. Interior design is the art and science of understanding people’s behavior to create functional spaces within a building. Decoration is the furnishing or adorning of a space with fashionable or beautiful things. In short, interior designers may decorate, but decorators do not design. Interior designers apply creative and technical solutions within a structure that are functional, attractive and beneficial to the occupants’ quality of life and culture. Designs respond to and coordinate with the building shell and acknowledge the physical location and social context of the project. Designs must adhere to code and regulatory requirements and encourage the principles of environmental sustainability. The interior design process follows a systematic and coordinated methodology—including research, analysis and integration of knowledge into the creative process—to satisfy the needs and resources of the client.”

You don’t need an Education to become an Interior Designer

Saying you don’t need an education to become an interior designer is like saying you don’t need an education to become an accountant. This may seem a drastic and shocking comparison to some, but we simply have a different set of skills that we constantly need to learn and hone. Not that I’m an expert of the subject or anything, but I actually do come from a family made almost completely of accountants! Do you know many people that can pick up a set of detailed architectural drawings and understand them? How about people who can create those drawings on AutoCAD? What about people who are well versed with the ins and outs of the Building Code? These are all things that interior designers must be able to do, on top of continuously educating ourselves on the latest materials and colour theories, and all the other “frilly” things we do. And we do it all while fluently translating a client's thoughts - who knows what they don’t like, but aren’t sure what exactly it is that they do like - to reality.

Out with the Old, In with the New

Many people think that the moment a designer gets involved in a project, they’re going to force you to get rid of all your belongings and start over. Which, in reality, would be completely impractical. Considering how many people are moving to larger homes where they want to incorporate their current belongings, or have sentimental attachment to certain items, or enjoy collecting vintage items, or simply don’t have it in the budget to throw all their belongings away and buy everything new. I’m sure you fall into one (or more) of those categories! A good designer can design a beautiful space for any client, in any style. And any good designer would be up for the challenge of including a few choice pieces and building off them to create the perfect space for their client. A great example of incorporating existing pieces with new pieces would be the living room at my Redstone Lake Home project. We reused all the current accent tables in the space (two side tables, and two console tables), brought new life to a couple of sofas, and supplemented with new pieces (a couple of chairs, large coffee table, and of course some accessories) to complete the look.

 
 

Hiring an Interior Designer is too Expensive

At first glance, I can understand how it may appear as though hiring a designer could increase your spending on a project. But think of how many times you’ve picked a paint colour for a room you wanted to makeover, only to discover that it doesn’t look quite the way you had imagined it would, and had to start over with a new paint colour. Or picked what you thought would be the perfect sofa for your newly designed living room, only to discover that the scale is too large, and you had to purchase another brand-new sofa. Mistakes like this can certainly add up fast, pushing you way over your original budget. A professional designer has a complete and detailed plan of every element of a design before the project truly gets started and before anything is purchased. Which means these mistakes are drastically reduced. Wouldn’t you rather hire a professional and do the project right the first time around, than do it yourself several times and it still not seem, quite right? On top of that, designers also receive discounts on virtually everything you would need for your home renovation project. When factored in, the discounts you receive generally pay the designer’s fees. Realistically, not hiring an interior designer is too expensive.

Interior Design is all about Décor

As I mentioned before, we do a lot more than play with fabric swatches and looking at paint chips. In reality, the pretty stuff that people assume makes up all of what an interior designer does actually only takes up about 10% of our design time. This description is typically what an interior decorator does: they take a square living room and make it look beautiful. Whereas an interior designer looking at the same living room would need to consider how much lighting is necessary (using actual foot candle calculations), or what is allowed according to the building code, and finally knowing how to construct everything (all those custom millwork pieces typically get built from detailed architectural drawings done by the designer). It isn’t until all these technical items have been considered thoroughly that we get to make things look pretty with our paint colours and fabric samples.

Interior Designers always want to be Trendy

Trendy is the last stage before tacky

- Karl Lagerfeld

Interior Design is a lot like fashion design – both designers like to push the boundaries to reinvent something new and beautiful. As a designer, I believe to some extent that trends exist solely for the homeowner who believes they don’t need the professional help of a designer, and that they can do it all themselves. Trends are typically started when designers create something that appeals to many people, which is then duplicated and copied, making trends generally a guide for the do-it-yourselfer to follow. This isn’t to say that interior designers don’t incorporate some trends into their designs though. We are often inspired by something that we’ve seen other designers create, and incorporate it into our own designs in a fresh new way. As a designer myself, I always try to keep the spaces that I design timeless with small accents that nod towards trends, but that can be easily switched out when they become passé.