Welcome to this course on becoming an interior designer! It will provide you with an overview of interior design as a discipline, establish the qualities and qualifications an interior designer needs in order to launch a career in the field and outline the practical issues you need to bear in mind when starting your own business or working on a freelance basis. In addition, most of the modules within this course contain practical instructions that will give you a grounding in design principles and the factors a designer takes into account when working within a particular space. Whilst the emphasis is on residential spaces, this course will also be of interest to those looking to design commercial interiors.
What is interior design?
At its most simple, interior design is about optimising indoor spaces so that they serve a specific purpose. The way in which a space is designed can make all the difference, when it comes to the safety, comfort and general convenience of those making use of it. Interior design can be employed on a grand scale – for example, in designing the interior of a lavish new hotel – or on a more modest level, such as the partial renovation of a small terraced house. Interior design is sometimes associated with wealth, a perception that is based partly in truth – those with lots of money can and do spend money employing people to make their dreams a reality. However, “normal” people and public organisations also employ interior designers, when optimising their homes and buildings.
What exactly do interior designers do on a day to day basis?
An interior designer typically works on a project-by-project basis, aiming to fulfil the brief they receive from their client. Some designers work for a design company, where they often hold a job that requires them to work regular office hours. Along with desk work, a significant proportion of a designer’s time is spent on site. Site visits are an essential element of this work, as it allows a designer the chance to become intimately acquainted with the project space. Many designers, especially those who have accumulated experience in the field and have built up a portfolio of work, operate from home. They will meet with clients on site or in their home office, when discussing the scope and intended project outcomes. Wherever they work, designers often specialise in one or more types of project. For example, they may work for a company that creates commercial spaces, or run their own business specialising in decorating small urban homes. A designer may charge on an hour-by-hour or project-by-project basis. They may request that their client pays them once they reach particular milestones, such as drawing a floor plan or presenting a colour scheme.
At the beginning of a project, a client may have a very specific brief outlining what they want the final space to do and how it should look, or they may be more flexible and willing to seek a designer’s advice. A designer must ascertain why the client is looking to create a particular style of interior, what purposes it is intending to serve, what the budget for the overall project will be and the time frame in which it is to be completed. They must then advise the client as to whether their stipulated requirements are realistic and draw on their experience and design knowledge, in order to provide a feasible cost estimate and time scale. Depending on the complexity of the project, the designer’s schedule and the extent to which other renovations or building works will be taking place at the same time, a project may take anywhere from several days to several months, or beyond.
The next step is for the designer to put together their proposed design – or vision. They will often use a range of tools and techniques to do this, from mood boards and drawings, to high-end interior design software. Some clients may find one format preferable to another and the designer needs to present their concepts in a manner that the client understands. At this stage, the client may make further suggestions as to how the design would better suit their preferences. It is the designer’s task to produce an interior that leaves the client happy, but at the same time is in keeping with professional design standards.
It may take a couple of revisions and meetings, before a client is satisfied with the proposed interior. Once they have been approved by both designer and client, the practical work can begin. A client may use a designer’s vision when working with decorators and builders, or in the case of a relatively simple renovation, replicate the design themselves. For example, if a designer has recommended particular shades of paint, a specific floor layout and an idea for a unifying theme, the client may decide that they are capable of putting it into action. Commercial projects and those that require a designer or a team of designers to work with a large organisation will need extensive logistical planning.
The history of interior design
People have always been interested in decorating the spaces in which they live and work. As far back as the Stone Age, people decorated their living spaces using drawings and patterns daubed in natural pigments from plants. The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all paid great attention to the appearance of their most important buildings, with the Romans making a point of showing off their wealth with lavish interiors. There have been periods in history – most notably, the Dark Ages – whereby people paid less attention to interior decoration, but the general trend has been one of increasing emphasis on interior design as a display of personality and lifestyle. In most countries and cultures, architects have been responsible for choosing the décor of interiors and the role of “interior designer” is a relatively recent development.
Until the 1700s, elaborate interior design was the preserve of the rich, but as the 18th century wore on, the middle classes had the chance to make use of mass-produced, affordable ornaments and textiles. By the 1800s, the middle classes started to use materials and styles that would previously have been considered too luxurious for those not in the upper echelons of society, such as wallpaper. There have been numerous interior styles over time, including eclectic, classical and rustic - and some are still popular inspirations today. Interior design as a distinct profession has been in existence for approximately 100 years. The first officially recognised interior designer in the West is thought to be Dorothy Draper, an American “Interior Decorator”. The first publication to use the expression “Interior Designer” was Interior Design and Decoration magazine, which was first published in the 1930s.