I was watching the BravoTV clip from Episode 1 of Top Design and one of the designers says something to the effect that they were "decorating, not designing". These clips engendered a lot of posts on my fellow TD blogger sites - Blogging Top Design and Project: Top Design. There is often confusion about the difference between what Interior Decorators do vs. Interior Designers with the general feeling is that designers are somehow better than decorators. The term "better" is very subjective, however. It really depends on the job at hand. Commercial projects such as those in the hospitality, health or business fields generally require certfied and often licensed interior designers to work alongside the architects and builders. Government oversite, public safety and large budgets make this an absolute necessity. However, for the majority of residential projects - all this may not be required.
Interior Designers are well educated - generally having both bachelors and masters degress in interior design. They are also required to fulfill a certain amount of hours in internship positions and to pass the NCIDQ examinations. They must also maintain ongoing Continuing Educational Unit credits. This is very similar to what registered architects must achieve. One difference is that throughout the country, architects must be registered and no one can claim to be an architect without this registration. On the other hand, interior designers have not acheived this nationwide status and in some states, anyone can claim to be an interior designer. The ASID and other groups are currently working to make it a nationwide requirement.
In truth, anyone can hang out their shingle and claim to be an interior decorator. Furniture stores that offer design services often refer to their sales staff as decorators/designers, when in fact they are selling only their own products and may have no formal training.
Many top design schools offer Decorative Arts certificate programs which are taught by the same architecture and design professors teaching the degreed programs. These programs offer a rigorous educational experience. I attended the Boston Architectural College and can attest to the fact that the program was more about fundementals of design, planning, drafting and history and much less about the "pretty parts". Color theory was a technical class, not about what colors look nice together. Lighting design was about lamps (known as light bulbs to regular people), lumens and kelvins, not about lamp shades with tassels.
Below is a report by the NCIDQ on what the responsibilities of Interior Designers are. I've highlighted the items in the bullet point section which are also the responsibilities of a qualified interior decorator on large residential projects.
NCIDQ Definition Of Interior Design
Interior design is a multi-faceted profession in which creative and technical solutions are applied within a structure to achieve a built interior environment. These solutions are functional, enhance the quality of life and culture of the occupants, and are aesthetically attractive. Designs are created in response to and coordinated 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, whereby the needs and resources of the client are satisfied to produce an interior space that fulfills the project goals.
Interior design includes a scope of services performed by a professional design practitioner, qualified by means of education, experience, and examination, to protect and enhance the life, health, safety and welfare of the public. These services may include any or all of the following tasks:
* Research and analysis of the client's goals and requirements; and development of documents, drawings and diagrams that outline those needs;
* Formulation of preliminary space plans and two and three dimensional design concept studies and sketches that integrate the client's program needs and are based on knowledge of the principles of interior design and theories of human behavior;
* Confirmation that preliminary space plans and design concepts are safe, functional, aesthetically appropriate, and meet all public health, safety and welfare requirements, including code, accessibility, environmental, and sustainability guidelines;
* Selection of colors, materials and finishes to appropriately convey the design concept, and to meet socio-psychological , functional, maintenance, life-cycle performance, environmental, and safety requirements;
* Selection and specification of furniture, fixtures, equipment and millwork, including layout drawings and detailed product description; and provision of contract documentation to facilitate pricing, procurement and installation of furniture;
* Provision of project management services, including preparation of project budgets and schedules;
* Preparation of construction documents, consisting of plans, elevations, details and specifications, to illustrate non-structural and/or non-seismic partition layouts; power and communications locations; reflected ceiling plans and lighting designs; materials and finishes; and furniture layouts;
* Preparation of construction documents to adhere to regional building and fire codes, municipal codes, and any other jurisdictional statutes, regulations and guidelines applicable to the interior space;
* Coordination and collaboration with other allied design professionals who may be retained to provide consulting services, including but not limited to architects; structural, mechanical and electrical engineers, and various specialty consultants;
* Confirmation that construction documents for non-structural and/or non-seismic construction are signed and sealed by the responsible interior designer, as applicable to jurisdictional requirements for filing with code enforcement officials;
* Administration of contract documents, bids and negotiations as the client's agent;
* Observation and reporting on the implementation of projects while in progress and upon completion, as a representative of and on behalf of the client; and conducting post-occupancy evaluation reports.
As you can see, there is considerable overlap. Not all residential jobs require each of these items, but they do required most of what I've highlighted. A qualified decorator has the education, experience and skills to create the design, work with the contractors and see the project through to completion. Given the amount of time and money interior designers spend in achieving their level of expertise, it's not surprising that the vast majority work in the commercial sector and not in general residential.
On a final note, as far as I can tell (and please correct me if I'm wrong) neither Todd Oldham or the rest of the Top Design judges are registered interior designers. And no one would say they are somehow lesser designers because of it. Talent will always win out.
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