Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Pulp- Decorator vs. Interior Designer

I can’t tell you how many times I have been called a Decorator. My own Mom still calls me a Decorator. As Seinfeld would say “Not that there is anything wrong with that." It just very difficult to be compared to someone who may only pick out pillows and drapery. There is a bit of resentment on my part, I have spent years in college, an internship and then sat for an exam to get a license just so I can practice Interior Design. I don’t like being compared to an occupation that has no foundation and has nothing required of them. Harsh, I know.

An Interior Designer is considered a professional occupation much like an Architect, Accountant and Lawyer. This is a very touchy subject with Decorators, Architects and Interior Designers. The Decorators want to continue working and doing what they have been doing for years and because of licensing, laws and regulations they are prevented from practicing and working in some fields of design. They feel they don’t have to take the exam to be an Interior Designer. Yes, they have natural talent and a gift that college and an exam can’t do for you.

Many Architects (not all) don’t have a clue what the Interior Design profession is either. They feel like we are “rag pickers” and what is worse, they feel like they do a better job at picking finishes. It’s a battle on all sides to prove that our profession has a place and is needed. There is an overlap in our professions of what an Architect does and what an Interior Design does. This best possible scenario is for both to work together from the beginning of the design process.

The problem is that the government or lawmakers can’t hold someone to a standard without setting a standard. Therefore the three E’s came about; Education, Experience and Examination. They require someone who wants to practice Interior Design to get a 4 year degree from an accredited college, have an internship for two years under a licensed Interior Designer or Architect and then pass an exam to get your license to practice. Once you have your license, you must practice by the guidelines they set for you. You must have continuing education of 8 hours every year. You have procedures in which to submit drawings. The reason for the three E’s is to make sure that the health, safety and welfare of the public is protected. We take an oath to uphold this principal. Interior Designers have to know the federal, state, and city codes; fire, health, building codes, accessibility, etc. Therefore, the lawmakers are making sure the public is protected from someone who does not possess the three E’s.

There are many reasons why this is a good thing; 1) A decorator may not know the difference in the type of fabric that can go in a 2-hour rated space. This is fire code. What if you design beautiful fabric walls for a ballroom and you don’t use the proper fabric required by fire code and a candle from a wedding ignites a fire and the place goes up in flames endangering lives? Could it have been prevented by making sure that an individual who is specifically trained and continually required to know the laws do the work. 2) It’s not all about having instinct and creative ability. You must know why something feels right or looks good. There is a science, or psychology that supports what we know to be instinct. I believe you must know history, design principals, etc. in order to support or reject them. 3) You can have the most beautiful design but if it doesn’t function well then it is pointless.

The laws are becoming stricter. You must be a licensed Architect or Interior Designer to be able to submit your project for a building permit to build new or remodel a project over $50,000.00. The laws and codes are there for a reason, to protect the public and too many times theses laws are broken or ignored. That’s a whole other topic of discussion!

Please comment or send questions regarding this. There are many sides to a story, what’s yours? ~ Brandy


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