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Interior Designer or Decorator?

Many people call me an “interior decorator”, I don’t mind being called a “decorator” because it is part of what I do, but my education and experience go beyond mere aesthetics of my profession.

So what is the other part that I do? Technically speaking, I am a professional “Interior Designer”. There is still a lot of public misconception between the difference of “interior design” and “interior decorating”. If you Google search, “What does and interior designer do?", you’ll get varied explanations and blogs. I feel that the NCIDQ (National Council for Interior Design Qualification) has the most accurate description as found on their website:

“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”.

Becoming A Professional Interior Designer

To become a professional interior designer, one starts by attending a school with the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) accreditation, which is a standardized education methodology in which the graduating student can then begin their professional career path. The interior design student gains knowledge in many areas of focus including:

  • Classic art training

  • Art and architecture history

  • Design Process

  • Design Elements and Principles

  • Construction

  • Drafting

  • Manual or digital drawings

  • History and Theory

  • Human-Centered Design

  • Light Theory

  • Color Theory

  • Products and Materials

  • Environmental Systems and Comfort

  • Business Practices and Professionalism

Upon graduation, and after 6 years of professional experience, the emerging professional can then apply to sit for the universally-recognized NCIDQ examination. After passing the rigorous, three-part examination, the certificate holder can then apply for a professional license in applicable states and provinces within a regulatory body. In Florida, the Board of Architecture and Interior Design regulates the profession of interior design within the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

The Work of A Professional Designer

Not only is my work creative, but it is also technical. On any given day, not only am I selecting materials and furnishings that are aesthetically pleasing, but I am also considering human factors, scale, building codes, ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance, fire codes, safe egress, building systems, coordinating with other professional trades and practitioners, and project management. The education and training I have acquired through years of study and practice are of daily necessity. Also of great importance is staying aware of legislative updates pertaining to the industry, attending trade shows and seminars for continuing education, and regularly working with my suppliers to get the new products they offer. This is all done while handling multiple design projects in the residential, commercial, and hospitality realms.

I have management skills from years of working under other design professionals whose tutelage has prepared me to manage multiple projects with diverse needs and demanding timelines. The ability to effectively work with your clients is paramount to a designer. We must have the interpersonal skills to be able to satisfy a client’s goals via verbal, written, and visual communication.

When considering a design professional, what are their credentials? Has the candidate received an accredited education and have they been tested by examination and experience? Or are their qualifications merely the embodiment of a good sense of style?

Many jurisdictions require licensing for the professional practice of interior design on projects that are within the public scope. In Florida, interior design services within the public scope must be performed by a Florida Registered Interior Designer. When evaluating your project, think about your critical needs and check the statutes within your jurisdiction. This will help you make the choice in hiring the professional that best meets your project requirements.

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