Most clients have no prior experience or understand the complicated processes involved in building or remodeling a home. Nor do they comprehend the somewhat mysterious roles and responsibilities of the design parties involved in a project.
Selecting the right design professionals can alleviate significant headaches because choosing the wrong ones can have the opposite effect! The following information will guide you in your search and provide you with the proper tools to interview and hire the right professional.
What is Interior Design?
Technically, interior design is the process or art of designing the interior and frequently the exterior of a room or building. In a more subjective sense, it is about how we experience spaces. Interior design is an essential part of everyday life and it affects how we live, work, play, and heal. When we observe and experience comfortable homes, functional attractive workplaces, and even beautiful public spaces, we are seeing interior design at work. Interior designers are able to create spaces and forms that anticipate our needs and appeal to our emotions. They do this because they are able to shape the experience of interior space through the manipulation of special volume combined with surface treatment.
Interior design is a multi-faceted profession that includes the development of a concept and the management and execution of a design through the communication with the stakeholders of a project. It is distinct from the role of interior decorator which is a commonly used term in the U.S. An interior designer or team of designers can coordinate and manage civil engineering projects. They work with architects, engineers, contractors, craftsmen, furniture dealers, and business and homeowners. To become successful in the profession, you need a well-rounded education and the skill set to engage with many disciplines including architecture, graphic design, decorative arts, and furniture, textile, and lighting design. An interior designer needs to have a working knowledge of:
· Structural requirements, health and safety issues, and building codes.
· Textiles, materials, color, space planning, and sustainability.
· Software applications for 2D and 3D computer-aided design (CAD) and building information modeling (BIM).
History of Interior Design
No description of 19th century interior design could have any validity without referencing Owen Jones. Owen Jones was one of the most influential design theorists and practitioners of the 19th century. Beginning as an architect, he became a significant figure in popularizing and making accessible interior design theories to the middle class. His theories on flat patterning and ornament continue to resonate two hundred years after his birth. His innovative theories on the use of color, abstraction, and geometry became the basis of his seminal publication, “The Grammar of Ornament”, a design sourcebook which formulated 37 key principles of interior design and decoration—and which was still in print 150 years later.
Prior to Jones, England was dominated by historic styles such as Gothic Revival and Neo-classicism. Eschewing those conventions, Jones searched for a modern style and sought to recognize the common tenets behind the best examples of historical ornament. An internationalist, he looked for inspiration in the Islamic world. At the age of 23, he embarked on a grand tour which included Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Egypt before arriving in Spain to study the magnificent Alhambra Palace. The publication of those studies established architectural polychromy as a topic for discussion. Jones reached another milestone in 1851 when he decorated and arranged he exhibits for the immense Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition. Using only the basic colors of red, yellow, and blue for the interior ironwork, Jones generated significant criticism and debate. However, the building was unveiled by Queen Victoria to great acclaim and ended up receiving six million visitors. He chose objects from the Great Exhibition to be included in the first School of Design which was founded in 1837. Later, Jones was by Henry Cole, a prominent figure in design reform, to design a series of galleries known as the “Oriental Courts” which was made up of two galleries: a Chinese and Japanese Court and an Indian Court. Click here for pictures of Owen Jones’s works.
Mid-to-late 19th Century
From the middle-to-late 19th century, interior design services expanded in the industrial economies of the West. As the middle-class in Europe and America expanded in size and prosperity, they began to want the domestic symbols of wealth to showcase their new status. Large furniture firms began to evolve into general interior design and management, offering full house furnishings in a variety of styles. English feminist author Mary Haweis wrote a series of popular essays in the 1880s in which she criticized the enthusiasm with which aspiring middle-class people furnished their houses according to the rigid models offered to them by the retailers. She preferred the individual adoption of a particular style, customized to the individual needs and preferences of the customer. In the 1850s and 1860s, upholsterers began to expand their businesses. They presented their business more broadly and in more artistic terms and began to advertise their products. To satisfy the growing demand for contract interior work on projects such as hotels, offices, and public buildings, these organizations became large and complex. In order to service their expanding clientele, they began to employ furniture and textile designers, builders, joiners, plasterers, and artists, as well as technicians and engineers to execute the job requirements. Companies started publishing and circulating catalogs with prints for different extravagant styles to attract the attention of expanding middle classes. Agnes and Rhoda Garrett were the first women to train professionally as home decorators in 1874. In 1876, their work, “Suggestions for House Decoration in Painting, Woodwork and Furniture”, promulgated their ideas on artistic interior design to a wide middle-class audience. In 1882, the London Directory of the Post Office listed 80 interior decorators. By 1899 with the founding of the Institute of the British Directory, there were almost 200 decorators throughout the country.
Independent Designers Take Over in 1914
By 1914, general interior design and management firms began to be usurped by independent, often amateur, designers. This paved the way for the emergence of the professional interior design following World War II. Beginning in the 1950s, spending on the home increased. Formal interior design courses were set up which required the publication of textbooks and reference sources. The historical accounts of interior designers, separate from the decorative arts specialists, were made available. Organizations to regulate standards and practices, qualifications, and education were established for the new profession. Since interior design has many ties to other design practitioners which involved the work of industrial designers, architects, builders and craftsmen, and engineers, the regulation of interior design standards and qualifications was assimilated into other professional organizations which involved design. Organizations such as the American Designers Institute, founded in 1938, and the Chartered Society of Designers, established in the UK in 1986, oversaw different areas of design parameters.
Popular Home Décor Styles
Contemporary: Contemporary and modern are two styles often used interchangeably. What makes contemporary distinct from modern is that it describes design based on the here and now, while modern is a strict interpretation of design that began in the 20th century. Contemporary style is more fluid and has less adherence to any one particular style. As an example, contemporary style may include curving lines, whereas modern design does not. You can refer to a modern vs. contemporary article for more information.
Modern: Modern is an encompassing design term that characteristically refers to a home with crisp, clean lines, a basic color palette, and the utilization of materials which can include metal, steel, and glass. Modern design embodies a sense of simplicity in every element, including furniture. A word that is frequently used to describe modern style is sleek. Typically, there is not a lot of clutter or accessories involved with a modern style.
Industrialist: Industrial style as the name connotes, draws its inspiration from a warehouse or an urban loft. It has a sense of unfinished rawness in many of its elements and one can view exposed brick, wood, and ductwork in industrial style settings. An iconic industrial design theme residence would be a renovated loft from a former industrial building. Picture old timber, dangling metal light fixtures, and high ceilings with sparse functional furniture. One might find in industrial style settings one or two pieces of abstract art or photography to add a dash of panache to an otherwise neutral color scheme derived from the primary materials of wood and metals.
Minimalist: The minimalist concept is popular in Australia. It uses aspects of modern design and simplifies them even further. Furnishings are simple and streamlined, color palettes are neutral and airy, and nothing is excessive or flamboyant in décor or accessories. Minimalism is ultimately defined by ultra-clean lines and a sense of functionality.
Mid-Century Modern: Mid-century modern is a throwback to the design style of the mid-1900s, primarily the 1950s and 60s. There is a retro nostalgia which can be seen in Mid-Century Modern Design combined with some elements of minimalism. Functionality, free of any fuss was the main hallmark for mid-century design. This style emphasized simple fabrications, pared-down forms, easy-to-use contemporary designs, and natural or organic shapes such as an “egg-shaped” chair. It works well with any interior and also assists with seamless transitions from interior to exterior.
Traditional: Traditional design style, rooted in European sensibilities, is typified by classic details, luxurious furnishings, and an abundance of accessories. Traditional homes often feature a rich variety of color, dark, finished wood, and a variety of textures and curved lines. Furnishings contain elaborate and ornate details and fabrics such as silk, velvet, and brocade, and may also include different patterns and textures. Traditional designs emphasize depth, layering, and dimensionality.
Transitional: Transitional is a very popular style because it borrows from both traditional and modern design to create a space that does not lean too closely to either. It has a sense of balance that is both appealing and unexpected. A transitional design may incorporate modern materials, such as steel and glass, and then combine them with plush furnishings. Transitional design also includes relatively neutral color schemes which produce a relaxed space that feels both stylish and sleek, as well as warm and inviting.
Bohemian: Bohemian, a popular style for home design and fashion, reflects a carefree lifestyle with few rules, except to follow whatever your heart desires. Bohemian homes may include vintage furniture and light fixtures, globally-inspired textiles and rugs, collection displays, and items found in widely varied sources such as flea markets and sources from one’s travels. Bohemian style can feature floor pillows and other comfortable seating spaces. This eclectic style can mix a well-worn rug, an ultra-glam chandelier, and a mid-century chair. With the Bohemian style, there is a laissez-faire attitude where anything is acceptable as long as you love it.
Rustic: Rustic design is drawn from nature employing raw and often unfinished elements including wood and stone. Rustic design may include accessories from the outdoors with a sense of warmth emulating from the design. Architectural details might contain include features such as vaulted ceilings adorned with wood beams or reclaimed wood floors. Many designs now incorporate rustic design with more modern furnishings and accessories.
Mountain or Colorado Contemporary: A traditional mountain rustic home suggests images of shelter, warmth, and protection in response to the often harsh environment in the high country which employed construction techniques and materials available to builders in the past. However, advances in technology have opened up new options for contemporary mountain design that embrace the outdoors while still providing warmth, comfort, and security. Contemporary mountain forms bring the outdoors in, as opposed to the sheltering, enclosing shapes of traditional mountain designs. Improvements in window and glass technology enable contemporary homes to have entire walls of operable glass, creating a sense of being outside, yet still fully comfortable and protected. Small, easily-concealed radiant heaters can be placed so that they heat our body rather than the air, which gives the ability to be comfortable outdoors on a deck or patio in cooler weather. Contemporary gas fire features can be any shape and size and can feature sculptural steel elements that radiate warmth, while also providing a design element when the fire is off. Former practices of lighting an entire room are being replaced with efficient and controllable LED lighting that penetrate into specific spaces. Products utilizing recycled glass or quartz often add a delicate sparkle to interior finishes in contemporary homes. For images of mountain contemporary style, click here.
Scandinavian: Scandinavian design is typified by functionality, simplicity, and minimalism that emerged in the early 20th century, and which reached its peak in the 1950s in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland. Today, rooms designed in the Scandinavian style tend to have white walls to emphasize light, a neutral-heavy color palette with bits of color, natural textures such as wood and stone, a lack of window treatments and carpets, and simple layouts that emphasize an elegantly minimalist aesthetic. Swedish design is considered minimalist, with an emphasis on functionality and simple clean lines, particularly with furniture. Norwegian design also has a strong minimalist aesthetic. Designed items include lamps and furniture. Qualities emphasised include natural forms, durability, beauty, functionality, and simplicity. Danish design emphasized simplicity and functionalism, especially with furniture but silver, ceramics, glass, textiles, and architecture also benefitted from the trend. Finnish design includes engineering design, clothing, furniture, glass, lighting, textiles, and household products. Iceland has limited options for manufacturing and choice of materials which forced designers to be innovative, though wool remains a staple material.
Coastal: Coastal style, also called Hamptons style, originates from the classic American beachside areas. Common features include light, airy color styles with cool neutral shades paired with greens and blues. Furnishings are often beige or white. Rooms can contain elements of wood and accessories which are inspired by the ocean. Pillows with white and blue striped patterns, large windows, painted white wood, and white plush sofas are also common fixtures of the classic coastal style. The idea is to foster a relaxed and comfortable environment that is inspired by the beach and ocean.
For pictures of all other design styles, click here.
How to Define Your Design Style
How do you go about determining your interior design style? Before you begin any design project, you need to have some sort of inspiration in mind. If you’re fully aware of which design styles you’re consistently attracted to, finding your style should be fairly easy. If not, it can be difficult to even figure out where to start.
There are a couple of suggestions for determining your interior design style. One is to look at pictures of different designs and pick out elements you are attracted to. Another suggestion is to ask yourself a few questions concerning different dimensions of styles.
Are you more attracted to past or present styles? For past style fans, consider contemporary, French country, or traditional. For those more attracted to present styles, look into modern, Scandinavian, or eclectic?
Do you prefer bright, bold colors or neutral colors? Those liking bold colors could enjoy contemporary, eclectic, or traditional. On the other hand, people feeling more comfortable with neutral colors may prefer modern, Scandinavian, or coastal.
Are you a “less is more” person or a “more is more” person? For those of you who are less is more, look into contemporary, Scandinavian, or modern. More is more people will probably prefer eclectic, contemporary, or French country.
Finally, are you a city or a country person? People feeling comfortable in the city may appreciate modern, contemporary, or Scandinavian. Those preferring being in the country will probably like rustic, coastal, or French country.
Remember that it is perfectly fine if your preferred style does not fit neatly into one category. A talented professional designer can work with that situation.
Furniture and Possessions
How do you feel about your furniture and other possessions? Do you really like them or do you have a group of hand-me-downs that having nothing to do with your style? Hand-me-downs are not necessarily bad. You can always repaint, reupholster, or reconfigure an older piece of furniture to your tastes. If you like the design of a lamp but would prefer a different shade, you can always replace the shade.
What about your valuable possessions? Can you find something in common with them? That may tell you something about your tastes. Do any of these qualify as heirlooms or have a particular sentimental value? Do you have any signed pieces of furniture or pieces that are historically important?
In determining what to keep and what to get rid of, finding the answers to these questions can help. Do not let inertia keep you from removing eyesores that have bothered you for some time. Another person’s opinion of what to keep or what to toss may also have value. These furniture items and possessions will all contribute to the “feel” you want your home to embody.
The Right Feel for You
Your choice of design style will play directly into the feel you want for your residence. Is feeling relaxed a priority for you? For some persons, that is more important than anything else. Are you attracted to minimalist style? Is arriving at the right feel for your home more important to you or for the impression that will be made on the guests that you will be entertaining? After asking yourself all these questions, maybe you have a customized style in mind that combines elements of different standard styles. You may want to take your time arriving at that feel or you may prefer to reach that point quickly.
Your Home Defines You
Although there are some who would argue to the contrary, for most of us, our homes do define us. It is true that in the contemporary Western world, perceptions of home are consistently colored by factors of economy and choice. However, according to an article entitled “The Psychology of Home: Why Where You Live Means So Much” by Julie Beck, “No one is ever free from their social or physical environment. And whether or not we are always aware of it, a home is a home because it blurs the line between the self and the surroundings, and challenges the line we try to draw between who we are and where we are.” With this in mind, why not take the necessary steps to make your home just how you want it? What you put into it, it will give back!
Finding an Interior Designer
Understand Your Inspiration
The very first step in your quest to find an interior designer is to find your inspiration. Your inspiration can come from different places, different experiences, your travels, your observations of other cultures, and an uncritical look at elements that appeal to you for any reason. If you have an inspiration, that is great—you can present it to the designer. However, if you do not, do not fear because this is an area where the designer can do a lot of the creative thinking for ideas. In fact, this step is an integral aspect of their repertoire of skills.
Returning to your furniture, an exercise you can do is to catalog furniture items into two lists, one list for those items you love and another for those items you wish you could replace. Gather together items that you prize the most including clothes. Find the articles that bring you the most joy.
Picture homes you have loved and then picture your dream home. Did you have a relative or friend that had a home you particularly adored? For this exercise, let your imagination go. Was there a particular house or even mansion that always stuck in your mind? Was there a home you saw on television or in the movies that made quite an impression on you?
Do not limit yourself to your own state or country. Think back to your travels abroad. Other countries can be excellent sources for design inspiration as Owen Jones found out. Globalization has had the positive effect of exposing other cultures. Different cultures can contribute some amazing design ideas and pieces of art. You can take advantage of a shrinking world for inspiration.
Remember to include all the elements that appealed to you at an emotional level. This is an inclusive exercise. Then look for the common threads such as their design, colors, materials, shapes, and their overall vibe. This will increase your ability to make good decorating choices.
Develop Your Project Budget
Once you feel reasonably confident about your inspiration, you are now ready for the tangible step of developing your project budget. Strategies for developing your project budget fall into three general categories:
1) Start with a list of things you want to change. Here, your designer can assist you in deciding on the level of quality and embellishments you desire. Based on that knowledge, they can generate a design concept along with a budget for you to evaluate. They will help you determine where to spend and where to save.
2) Begin with a budget based on what you have available. From what you tell the designer what amount of money you have to spend, they will come up with a proposed design budget. If that number exceeds the allowable budget, they can work with you to prioritize items into design phases. The advantage of this format is it provides a design blueprint which can allow you to progress to the next step when additional money becomes available.
3) A general remodeling guideline: A general guideline addressing the acceptable amount to invest in your home is 20 to 30 percent of the home’s value. As an example, if your home is appraised at $500,000, it is reasonable to invest another $100,000 to $150,000 in improvements.
A few general principles to keep in mind. The more research and planning you do before you begin, the more you will be able to keep costs down throughout the life of the project. Any modifications that are labor-intensive to the point of moving walls or beams will significantly increase the cost of your project. The same goes for making undue demands on the designer’s time and requesting changes in the middle of the project.
Should you desire, there are some remodeling cost calculators at the bottom of this article.
Gather Visual Proposals
One strategy is to meet with several designers and discuss potential ideas to increase your odds of having the right fit. However, you may find that you do not have the energy or time to spend untold hours searching the Internet, going through hundreds of portfolio’s and then meeting with designers that may or may not be the right fit. In that case, you can take advantage of a personalized referral service.
These services have the advantages of being familiar with designers and how they work, charge, and manage your project. By asking you a lot of questions, they are able to match your personality, design aesthetic, scope of work, timeline, and availability and set up interviews with selected professionals. Also, some companies provide this service for free.
Once you contract with an interior designer, you can begin to receive their visual proposals.
Decide What Level of Design Service You Require
Most designers offer an extensive list of services to cover these needs, including design consultations, site measurement and assessment, space planning, design concepts, purchasing or procurement, and project management. Depending on the company you work with, you may be able to create an a la carte selection that allows you to take on some of the tasks you can handle and outsource the rest. Always keep the cost in mind. Designers have their own individual fee structure; some charge a flat fee for their work, others work on an hourly basis. Some charge fees on each purchase they make while others take a percentage of the cost of the room as a whole. If you’re considering a designer, be sure you’re comfortable with how you’ll be charged before signing any paperwork. Having a firm end result in mind is extremely important if you’re going to hire someone else to take charge of your design. They will base their style decisions largely on the parameters they’ve been given, so if you’re feeling uncertain of your project, you could leave yourself open to miscommunication and hit-or-miss guesswork. One more aspect to consider is if you are someone who does not like to make decisions, you will run into trouble because your designer will be giving you decision options for every aspect of the room or home. For these decisions, he will need your final approval.
After the Meeting
After your initial meeting with your interior designer, you need to be very honest with yourself and ask the following questions: Did they listen to my needs and concerns? Did I trust the answers I was getting? Was there good chemistry between us? Did they demonstrate talent, creativity, and resourcefulness?
What you will probably find is that your gut instincts, the ones that have mostly served you well throughout your life, should be generally accurate in these situations. Most con men are fairly easy to spot, although, for sure, there are exceptions. If you have consulted an Interior Design Matchmaker, then you can be assured that the design professionals you met with are trustworthy and experienced to do you project.
Once You Have Selected Your Interior Designer
A true professional interior designer cares about your goals and concerns, precisely interpreting your description of your dreams and desires, guide you in the selection of materials and design options so that you have the right information from which to make decisions, and finally they integrate those elements together into one solid unified strategy. Interior designers must be great listeners and it helps greatly if the client is a good communicator. Remarkable results begin with a clear understanding of your goals and vision.
Many interior designers have a creative eye and artistic flair, but there is much more to interior decorating then choosing furniture, color, and fabrics. In addition to their in-depth knowledge of products, materials, and finishes, professional interior designers have the expertise to design, schedule, execute and manage your project from start to finish. They know and work closely with many vendors, contractors, and other service providers, coordinating the entire design team ensuring that every project is executed and completed with the utmost quality and attention to detail. They also provide specification and purchasing services to procure materials, furniture, accessories, and art, some of which you might not be able to find on your own.
The following stages represent a typical interior design process.
The first steps to bringing a design project to life are to have a thorough understanding of the client’s design needs and wants. An interior designer will do this by asking the client as many questions as they need to understand how they live in their home and what is working and not working for them.
· Information gathering of needs and wants
· Long-term project and lifestyle planning
· Lifestyle analysis, budget discussion. The budget discussion will occur whether the client has a set budget in mind or if the interior designer just knows the client’s desires and then creates a budget based on that.
· Evaluate flow, function, and use of space
· Inventory of existing furniture and equipment
Your designer will typically measure and photograph your space (if you have the as-built plans of your home this will save some time and money). The designer will also review and assess your existing furniture, paying close attention to the items you want to keep, repurpose, or replace.
Vision / Concept Development
The interior designer will want to view images you have been collecting, whether they are pulled out of a magazine or collected online (like Pinterest). If you have no idea of what you like or dislike, the designer will help determine your style by looking at inspirational photos together and asking a few more questions.
· Develop overall feel/mood of spaces, explore colors.
· Preliminary selections of materials, finishes, furnishes, lighting, and window treatments/fabrics
Next, comes space planning and detailed furniture plans. The designer and the client will decide together which floor plan works the best for them, discuss budget ranges, and then the project really begins!
It is during this stage that the interior designer explores different design ideas and develops decor concepts that will work wonderfully in your space, and which will provide the right flow and function for your home.
· Space Planning; finalize floor plans, provide sketches and elevations as needed
· Interior and exterior color scheme
· Custom design of furniture, drapery, and accessories
· Finalize selections of materials, furnishes, finishes, lighting, window treatments/fabrics
· Interior detailing of background elements, such as wall and ceiling designs
· Lighting and electrical plans
· Built-in construction drawings (if needed)
· Selection of appliances, plumbing fixtures, and flooring materials
· Selection of cabinetry, hardware, doors, and railings
· Presentation of materials; review, revision, and final approval
Construction Documents and Administration
If there is construction involved in the scope of the project, the interior designer will often consult a contractor in the Design Development stage to put together some preliminary pricing to assist in the understanding of where there the project stands in relation to the budget. At this stage, there is still time to get the project back on track within the budget if deemed necessary, or to add a few items from the wish list.
· Production of detailed construction documents
· Construction procurement; contractor bids and proposed timelines
· Draft and submit purchase orders for all of your equipment, interior finishes, and furnishings.
When it comes to any big, complex creative design project, all those moving parts means even a tiny problem or obstacle can derail the whole thing. If the client desires it, the interior designer will manage every piece of your project from start to finish. Making sure all the details are taken care of and that your expectations are met.
· Project budgeting and estimating
· Project scheduling
· Coordination of vendors, trades, artists, and craftsmen
· Procurement and expediting
· Project administration
· Regular site meetings
Sourcing and Installation
Once you approve selections, sign off on the purchase orders, and provide the requested payment, your designer will purchase the items. Most items will have a turn- around time of 2-8 weeks.
Items that arrive before the install date will be stored in a warehouse. Once all of the items arrive, the designer will arrange delivery and be there to install/place every item to assure everything is perfectly placed.
· Budget and estimates
· Procurement and expediting
· Coordinate the delivery and installation of your furnishings, accessories, and artwork.
· Coordination of vendors, trades, artists, and craftsmen
· Project administration
· Complete Turn-Key Installation s available down to the linens and towels
To ensure that nothing has gone missing or been forgotten, a detailed punch list is generated at the end of the project to verify that the designer has completed every aspect of your new design to your highest satisfaction.
The intent of this eBook is to give you a good idea of the complexity and the numerous things involved in implementing an interior design project from start to finish. One of the hardest things about building, remodeling or furnishing a home is finding the right design professionals. Most homeowners do not know that there is such a thing as a Design Matchmaker, who pairs you with the right professionals based on personality, the scope of the project, design style, and budget. In most cases, this service is complimentary, and there is no upcharge in fees.
Both the interior designer and the client are dynamic players in this process and the better they can communicate with each other, the higher the chances of success for completing the project to everyone’s satisfaction. Should you have an interior design project in mind, this paper should get you started and pointed in the right direction.
–Originally Published on Linked In
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