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".