Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Designer...Decorator...Is There a Difference?

THREAD:  Design VS. Decorate

A designer is someone who designs.  A decorator is someone who decorates.

Isn't that clear as mud?  If it were that easy then I wouldn't need to write this post!

The reason the difference is so hard to explain is because everybody has a different definition of what interior design really is! And most of the time we are trying to describe the two terms as "people" (designer or decorator) which as we've already discovered is not easily done.  Inevitably we fall back on the explanation that an interior designer is someone who possesses the 3E's (education, experience, examination) and a decorator is someone who does not.  But guess what?  Most "decorators" do not agree with that premise!

So we can't just go around making this claim without any concrete evidence to back it up.  That's why the definition of interior design becomes so important.  Even if you asked a 3E designer what services they provide, many would describe them exactly the same way as a non-3E/decorator would.  Just because you went to school doesn't change the fact that you're practicing the exact same way as someone who didn't.  Sure, you elevated your credentials and increased your capabilities, but you also made the CHOICE to focus your practice on services that don't necessarily require those capabilities. 

Don't get me wrong...as a 3E designer myself I am not saying that our credentials don't mean anything, because they most certainly do!  All I'm saying is that the 3E's alone do not give us exclusive rights over the entire profession known as "interior design".  But they should give us the ability to distinguish ourselves, differentiate our services, and allow us to practice to the fullest extent of our capabilities (if we so choose). Capabilities that actually have some crossover into the practice of architecture.  BTW - most architects oppose this point if view - TAWNT.

I've come to realize that the terms "designer" and "decorator" MUST be defined, not by "who", but by "what". If you can make sense of the what, then the who becomes an entirely different discussion. This thread is about sorting through all of that confusion and trying to make sense out of the whole debate.

Now if you're a casual interior design enthusiast, you might be reading this and asking yourself, "What confusion?" But keep reading my blog and you'll soon learn. There are all kinds of fights out there in this country.   Interior Design legislation being proposed and opposed in almost every state. It's an ugly argument for sure, but one that I personally think is one BIG misunderstanding! So hopefully you'll stick with me as I try to paint the BIGGER picture of what interior design truly is...and if you've known me long, I think you just might be surprised! I hope we can still be friends when this is all said and done! Because Interior Design is a HUGE arena and there's room for us all!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What Is an Interior Design-ist?!

THREAD:  Design VS. Decorate 

I don't know if you've ever noticed but interior designers get REALLY bent out of shape when you refer to them as "interior decorators" - oh the horror!

Early in my marriage and in my career I was at my Mother-In-Law's house for some kind of get-together.  She was introducing me to some of her guests and this is exactly what she said:

"This is my daughter-in-law, Kim.  She is an Interior...oh what do you call it?...an Interior Designist?...Is that right Kim?  (turning back to her guest) She doesn't like to be called a decorator!"

Ha!  It was in that moment that I realized I had been so adamant to my friends and family that I was a designer, NOT a decorator, that I had scared them into making up words! Not only that, but after trying to explain the difference countless times, they still, truly did not understand.

The problem was, and still is, that a good, succinct explanation of that difference does not exist.  Oh sure, you can find many definitions and explanations floating around out there, but absolutely NONE of them have ever been compelling enough to convince people outside of  the design profession that there is indeed a difference.

The most popular argument seems to be that a designer is someone who possesses the 3E's (Education, Experience, Examination).  If you don't have the 3E's then you are a decorator.  But this position falls apart pretty quickly when challenged by non-3E designers who refuse to be called decorators (as evidenced by the forced changes to existing ID legislation going on all over the country - TAWNT).

The fact is that there is a difference, and unfortunately it is not as simple as just claiming the 3E's!  The lines are so blurred that it is going to take some serious unraveling to clear things up.  So let's go ahead, jump right in, and start this conversation of "Design vs. Decorate".  Buckle up!  Cuz it's goin' to be a bumpy ride!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Wait A Minute! You Said There Are No Rules!

THREAD:  Rules of Interior Design

By this point you might be thinking:

Wait a minute Kim! According to your own rules, there’s nothing that you ALWAYS have to do to make a room work. There are "no rules."  But now you’re saying that you ALWAYS have to use these Principles of Interior Design.  So wouldn't that mean Principles are really just Rules?

No.  And here's why...Because a “rule” is a definitive action or non-action, like you must “always DO something” or you should “never DO something.” The Principles of Interior Design are not actions. They are feelings. Feelings that are created through design. Feelings that can vary slightly or greatly between people and cultures. There are no set-in-stone rules for creating these feelings.

However there are several tools that are used in many different ways to evoke them.  These "tools" are better known as "elements" and there are infinite ways to incorporate and combine these elements in order to design a successful space.  I'm sure that you are already familiar with them, but just in case...

Elements of Interior Design:
Line, Space, Shape, Texture & Value, Color & Light
(Let's revisit these Elements in more detail, in a later thread).

Another important tool in the design process, perhaps the most important tool, is the CONCEPT.  You see in a design project, all of the Principles will exist to some degree, but they will not exist equally.  You must choose which ones to emphasize and which elements you will use to achieve that emphasis.  All of your choices and design decisions should be determined by your concept, which simply put, is the main idea or theme of your space.  When dealing with your personal home I would call the concept your “Style”.

So I hope this is all making sense.  What it really boils down to is that all well designed spaces have a sense of order to them.  A purpose.  This Order can only be achieved by emphasizing certain Principles, determined by your Concept or Style, using the Elements of Design.  The possibilities are endless!  That is why I say there is nothing that you ALWAYS have to do, or should NEVER do.

Literally - There are NO RULES!!!  Enough said!...Unless you have something to add!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It's All About Balance

THREAD:  Rules of Interior Design

To me it really is ALL about balance - in design and in life!  Think about it for a minute.  Can you think of anything where balance is not an important element?  It is essential in music, food, politics, finances (you know - the dreaded balanced budget), art and photography, sports, stories and books...I could go on, but you get the point.

You always hear self-improvement gurus talking about balance in your life.  Balance between work and home, spiritual and physical, financial and social.  You've probably experienced that guilty feeling when seeing these six spokes on the "wheel" of life and having to admit that you're woefully out of balance in at least one of these areas (in my case more)!

Balance is also critical to our physical well-being.  You know if you have an inner-ear imbalance it will  make you feel dizzy or "off".  That's why I think Balance is THE most important Principle of Interior Design.  Without it your room will just feel "off".

I consider Balance to be an inherent quality within all of the other Principles of design in that they just don't work without it.  For example:

We discussed that a successful room should have common elements to tie everything together (Unity) but in order for it to not be boring, you have to introduce something unexpected to liven it up (Variety).  And that's the trick - there has to be balance between Unity and Variety.  Too much of either one is unsettling.

Every room needs a focal point, but it also needs a counter-point to balance it out.  Otherwise the room will feel "heavy" on one side.  If elements are arranged in such a way that they are out of balance, this will disrupt the rythm of the room as well.  Your eye will get stuck on anything that's out of balance, throwing off the sequence or the flow of the room.

You've no doubt heard designers say that the scale or proportion of something isn't right.  That's because you're comparing two or more elements and they are not relating to each other well.  What it really means is that they are not balanced.  You see in design, balance is all about "visual weight" and every item and element in that room has this weight.  Therefore everything in the room needs to be arranged so that the weight is evenly distributed or balanced.

There's a reason why you shouldn't put a big, bulky, dark-colored sofa next to a petite, little, wooden, white chair.  They are not in scale with one another and would feel unbalanced.  If the two are next to each other, assuming there are no other elements to help balance them out, your mind processes them like they are on a teeter-totter.  The visual heaviness of that sofa makes it feel like that little chair is about to be catapulted into outer-space.  Not exactly a place you're going to want to sit.

So, I hope I've given you a glimpse into how imperative Balance is to the design of your space.  That is going to be the subject of my next THREAD.  I'm going to dive in deeper with more examples of how to achieve visual balance and we will explore the different kinds of balance:  Symmetrical, Assymetrical, and Radial.

But before we go there I want to wrap up our THREAD on the "Rules of Design", because I have a feeling that some of you might be thinking that I've totally contradicted myself.  On one hand I claim that there are no rules, and on the other I turn around and spout off all of these Principles saying they must be used to have a successfully designed room.  You're probably wondering why I don't consider these Principles to be "rules".  Especially if I'm saying that you must ALWAYS use them...and didn't I just have a whole post where I went off on designers making ridiculous assertions that you must "always" do such-and-such?

Well yes I did...but of course I can explain why I seem to be saying two different things, and why Principles are not actually rules.  So tune in for next week's final post (for now) in this THREAD "Rules of Interior Design".

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Principles of Interior Design - The Closest Things to Rules

THREAD:  Rules of Interior Design

Today I want to talk a little more about the Principles of Interior Design that I eluded to in my last post when I revealed my Top 5 Rules (aka "Non-Rules") of Interior Design.  In case you've forgotten, here are the first three:

#1 - There are no rules!
#2 - Rules are meant to be broken.
#3 - The closest you'll come to "rules" for interior design are the Principles of Design.

Let me back up a little here because while I don’t believe in any “Rules of Design”, I do believe in the certain “Truths” of design. These truths are better known as “Principles of Design” and a space cannot be successful without them.  So given their importance, let's discuss what these Principles are and what they mean.  Depending on where you look, this list can vary slightly.  For our purposes I will list the Principle and any other word I've seen to describe it.

Unity (Harmony) / Variety (Contrast)
I can give you a really bland definition of Unity like the "...arrangement of elements in an artistic work so that each contributes to the main theme"* but that's not how I would actually explain it, or how you probably want to hear it.  And I'm pretty sure that you basically already get what it means.  But just in case, I'll put it this way:  Unity means that there has to be something in your room (and/or your whole house) that ties everything together.  Some sort of common element.  (TAWNT - we will explore the various Elements of Interior Design in future posts).  However, even though it's the opposite of Unity, Variety is also included in this Principle because without it your space will be BORING!!!  In other words, don't make everything "matchy-matchy"!

Rhythm (Arrangement)
The way in which you arrange elements in a space should create some kind of rhythm, or sequence.  Rhythm is most often achieved by repetition and contrast.  Both will create movement.  When done properly, they keep the eye moving throughout the space in a pleasing and rhythmic sort of way.

Emphasis (Focal Point, Hierarchy)
Now I know you've heard of that all-important "focal point".  Every room has got to have at least one.  There can be more than one (especially if there's more than one way to enter a room) but they should not compete with or take away from the main focal point.  That's where Hierarchy comes into play.  Every element within a space has a certain level of importance which you dictate through your design decisions.  I like this explanation:
"...hierarchy occurs throughout an arrangement and reflects a complex series of decisions, which grant the totality its character.  Hierarchy grants the room its key moments of importance."*  Again, not how I would have put it, but much more eloquent!

Scale & Proportion
These two are by far the most complex Principles and although they are different, in interior design we often use the terms interchangeably.  I think that's okay because both are about comparing at least 2 objects.  With Scale you are dealing more with comparing size, and with Proportion you are dealing with mathematical ratios...WAKE UP!  I know this is turning into a snooze fest!  The important thing to remember is that objects in a space are going relate to each other.  It's up to you to make sure that they relate properly, and the best way I know to do that is through the Principle of Balance...

By far, this is my favorite Principle, and I don't think you can use any of the other Principles successfully without it.  That's why it is its own Non-Rule:

#4 - The MOST important non-rule or Principle is BALANCE.  I will explain this in much more detail in my next post.

One more thought that I want to leave you with is that when you are designing your room, you are designing an experience. You are NOT designing for a photo shoot. A room is not meant to be stared at from a fixed point. It is made to be experienced sequentially. You and your friends and family will be walking around in the space and viewing it from a variety of different angles. It's important to remember this so that you create a pleasing atmosphere, not just a pretty vignette. That right there is probably the biggest difference between Design vs. Decoration, but that's a TAWNT that we'll explore another time, in another THREAD.

Stay tuned...and please feel free to ask me any design questions that you may have!

*Quotes taken from "The Interior Dimension:  A Theoretical Approach to Enclosed Space" by Joy Monice Malnar and Frank Vodvarka

Friday, September 23, 2011

Top 5 Non-Rules of Interior Design

THREAD:  "Rules of Interior Design"

In our last post (which you can read here) I told you the Top 2 Rules of Interior Design, which basically state that there are no rules.  That's why the Top 5 list is titled "Non-Rules".  But before we get to that, I had promised to tell you why, if there are no rules, designers on TV and in magazines are always telling you that there are.  So here goes...

Because even if they use the word “rule” what they really mean is “tip, trick, key, secret, etc..."  They are merely suggestions of what might work in your space.  It’s possible that they have their own personal rules. Maybe it’s their “signature” or something they always do. But I tell you what, I cringe every time I hear a designer use the word “always” (which to me implies “rule”) because I just don’t believe it’s true.

For example, I recently heard a designer on a TV show say that you should “always have live plants in a room.” Now I’m not arguing about whether live plants are a good thing or a bad thing. I’m just saying that they are not a “must” an “always” or a “rule”. The reason they’re not is because you can have a successful room without them.  You can also include them and your room still be an epic failure.  And while live plants do make for great photos they are often not very practical in a real life, everyday scenario.  Those babies demand attention!  So, while I agree that using live plants is a good “tip” for achieving maximum visual impact, I do not agree that you ALWAYS have to use that tip to create a successful room. Therefore, it’s not a RULE…and if you think it is, then just remember that it’s meant to be broken!

In the last post I also promised to share 3 more non-rules to round out the Top 5 List.  Here they are:

Rule #3:  The closest thing you’ll get to a rule is a Principle of Design.  I will list and discuss these Principles in more depth in Monday's post.

Rule #4:  The MOST important non-rule or Principle is BALANCE.  After we've defined all of the Principles, I'll give you my take as to why "Balance" is the most important.  I'm sure some will disagree, but that's part of the fun.
Rule #5 – The design of your space is always about you!  Yes I said, "always."  So I gave in and added a real, "always" rule.  I just broke Rule #1, but hey - that's OK, because I was just following Rule #2!

Seriously though, I hope you're getting the point that in design there are certainly things you can and should do in your space, and I fully intend to address them through this blog. I just don’t want you getting too hung up on them. Don’t go buy something black solely because you once heard someone say that “every room should have something black in it.” Although I admit that I do like that tip – remember - it's just a tip!

Monday, September 19, 2011

The #1 Rule of Interior Design

So here is the long awaited, highly anticipated, (a girl can dream can't she?) first real post in my first THREAD - "Rules of Interior Design"

Pay close attention here because you NEVER want to break this one. This is the #1 Rule, THE biggest secret of Interior Design…

Rule #1:  There are NO RULES!!!

Now before you write me off, please let me explain. The reason there are no rules is because every room, every project is different. What works in one space may or may not work in another. Not only that but there’s always more than one solution to creating a successful space. To me, the word “rule” means something that you must obey EVERY time, in EVERY situation. In design that’s just not possible. That’s why there are no rules.

For those of you who are sticklers for rules and just can’t fathom the thought of not having that kind of structure to guide you, then this rule is just for you…

Rule #2:  Rules are meant to be broken!

Okay, so maybe this is sort of a repeat of Rule #1 just stated a little bit differently. But I really want to reinforce the fact that there is not a single thing that you can do every time in every situation that will always work.

So that’s it – those are the rules. Easy enough right?!

Now you might be saying to yourself, “Come on! That can’t be it. Without rules how can you bring order to chaos? And if there are no rules then why are designers on TV and in magazines always telling me differently?

Well I'll tell you why...in my next post.  Plus I'll add three more non-rules to round out the Top 5 Rules of Design.  Confused?  Curious?  Tune in Friday as this THREAD continues.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Why This Blog?...Aren't There Enough?

Interior Design...where do I begin?  There are so many ID topics that I want to share and explore with you.  I think I'm just gonna have to dive right in!  But first I want to start by explaining "Why This Blog".  I mean aren't there enough already? 

Now I know that if you've stumbled upon this blog because you have an interest or an affinity for "Interior Design", you're probably looking for some great ideas, photo eye-candy, and some "tips", "tricks", and "secrets" of interior design.  If that's you, I sure don't want to disappoint, but I'm opting out of the traditional design blog format.  As you've inevitably discovered, there's already a bazillion of them out there.  Some are really fabulous, some not so much, but after awhile even the good ones all start to look alike.

At least that's been my experience.  You see I am a professional interior designer and as such I just haven't come across anything on the internet about ID that makes me want to subscribe, follow, or even return anytime soon.  What I have found is that most design blogs focus on the "Who", "What", and "How", and while all of these are important and interesting I think they've neglected the most important question..."Why?"  This leads me to:

Why this blog?  Well - I'll tell you...because I'm going to answer your "WHY’s."

     -Why does that design tip work?
     -Why doesn't my room look like the magazine where I found that tip?
     -Why is that room successful?
     -Why do "Interior Designers" get so mad when you call them "Decorators"?
     -Why is Interior Design education important?...I mean you can't teach FAB!
     -Why is this list getting so long?...etc, etc, etc...

You might be wondering why I would even bother looking at these blogs and websites...Well, it's usually to find inspiration and to see what people are talking about in the Design World.  But typically I just get frustrated with the information (or lack there of) that’s out there.  There are plenty of fluff pieces with pretty pictures but that’s not real useful to me.  I’m not looking to hire an interior designer, I'm not seeking advice, and I already know the "tricks-of-the-trade" which most of the time are being spewed at me from novices, journalists, or other media personalities who have a quote-un-quote, "passion" for interior design.  Seriously?

Whoa! – My jaded side really jumped out on that last comment.  You’re probably thinking, “Jealous much?”  And perhaps I am.  Jealous because in my 15 years since graduating design school I’ve been chasing this ever elusive “dream” career.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tasted success.  It’s just never been as fulfilling as I had expected.  I’ve been too caught up in doing all the things I’m “supposed” to do.  So I’ll admit that I do get jealous of others who seem to have found their fulfillment through interior design without, in my opinion, putting forth any real effort.

They didn’t go to school for it.  They don’t have much, if any experience in it.  And they haven’t studied for, sat for, and passed the national qualifying exam for it.  They didn't do what they were "supposed" to do.  I’ve done all those things.  I played by all of the rules, so why do they seem to be having all the fun?  Why are they reaping what they haven't even sown?  

I'll tell you why...Because they sowed something different.  They listened to their passion, followed their bliss, and found their niche.  They used their professional training as a writer, a broadcaster, a carpenter, an artist, a celebrity, a DIYer, a teacher, a scrap-booker, a whatever; and fused it with their love of interior design to create that success.

Well I’ve decided to stop being a hater and to take a cue from their playbook.  Only I’m going to turn the tables.  I’m going to take my passion and professional training as an interior designer, and fuse it with my love of writing.  I may not be a professional writer, but I do know from education and experience exactly what I’m talking about. 

And so, this blog is born.  My hope is to start and to have serious (or seriously fun) conversations, with like-minded people about interior design, as both a passion and a profession.  "Like-minded" by the way does not mean you have to agree with me (although we'll get along a lot better if you do!).  It simply means that you have a serious affection for interior design, not just a superficial one.
I plan to share ideas, explain the "Why”, and shed some light on the ID profession as a whole.  I sincerely hope that my posts will engage and inspire design enthusiasts and professionals alike.  I don't want to be just another design blog.  I want to be different, interesting, enlightening, useful, unexpected.  A blog for all you thinkers out there!  I’m taking the road less traveled and I hope you’ll want to take it with me!

And don't worry...most of my posts will not be this long.  If you've made it this far - thank you!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Thanks for Visiting...Check Back Soon!

So I'm feeling very accomplished just to have set up this new blog page!  Notice on both blogs I've figured out how to add a link to the other one.  Don't mock!  This is BIG time for someone as technically challenged as me!

Now that I'm in business I just have to decide what to talk about first.  Decisions decisions!

Please check back soon for my first "real" post, guaranteed to blow your mind!  Okay so "guaranteed" is probably a strong word. What about "possibly" or "slim-chance"?

I hope to see you soon!