Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Should I Hire a Designer or a Decorator?

"Should I hire an interior designer or an interior decorator?"

That's where we left off in the last post.  Here's the deal, you have to decide what type of professional you'll need based on your individual project requirements.  That might not sound very helpful, but here's what you don't want to happen:

You don't want to hire someone and find out half way through the project that they don't possess the specific skills needed to complete your project to your expectations.  This doesn't mean that you have to know how it should be designed (that's why you're hiring someone).  But you do need to have a pretty good idea of what the final outcome will be.  Not exactly what it will look like, but how you anticipate your room will feel and function.

For example, do you need help picking colors, deciding on some drapes and accessories?  Or is your entire room or house in need of a complete overhaul?  Is it strictly a cosmetic overhaul, or will it require some demolition, construction, electrical, or plumbing work?

You have to determine your needs beforehand so that you can make a good hiring decision.  If you require other professionals (like an architect, contractor, plumber, etc...) then you need to know that the person you hire to design your project understands how to navigate that entire collaborative process.  You will need a "designer." 

You will NOT be able to determine if a person is a "designer" based on what they call themself OR their services!

Let's face it, people don't know what they don't know. This is true in all industries, but especially in Interior Design, because there's so much confusion about the difference between design and decorating.  Even amongst professionals.

Many people who exclusively provide decorating services don't even know that's not really design.  They think that what they do, decorate, is ALL there is to design, that they are the same thing.  They don't know there's an entire design process and that they are just providing the last step of that process.  Therefore they innocently continue to refer to themselves as designers.

To complicate things further, many actual designers, those who know and employ the process, often take on decorating projects but they still call themselves "designers" and their services "design."  For whatever reason, they do not draw any kind of distinction between the two, confusing the issue even more.  This is probably because it's so hard to articulate the subtle difference between the terms.  Obviously - as evidenced here by my ramblings!

It's my hope, that if you get only one thing out of these ramblings it's this:

Not all projects require the entire design process. Sometimes they just require the last step...decoration.  If that's the case then a person's title really doesn't matter.  A designer or a decorator could get the job done.  Without your own understanding of your project needs, you will not be able to assess your potential designer's ability to complete your project.

If you determine that your project does require a designer, be sure to ask your candidates about their process...this should tell you everything you need to know!  And of course you'll also want to carefully consider their credentials and previous work, but the most important factor is how well you connect with the person you ultimately end up hiring.

The journey is just as important as the destination.

And speaking of credentials...you might be wondering if it's important to hire a design professional that has the 3E's (Education, Experience, Examination)?  Again, it depends on your project, but all other things being equal, I'd choose the 3E's everytime!  But that's a TAWNT.  I don't know about you but I'm ready to move on to a new topic!  Like maybe the actual design process itself...