What Exactly Does an Interior Designer Do? (Tasks & Duties)

In Apartmentsby Maria Fredgaard

Many interior designers have businesses of their own. But you also find interior designers working for architectural firms, design departments of large institutions or industries, interior design firms, and retail.

But what exactly do they do? Let’s dig into the details.

What Exactly Does An Interior Designer Do?

Interior designers help to make building beautiful, functional, and safe. They help with selecting lighting, colors, materials, and other essential and/or decorative elements.

Interior designers must have a firm knowledge of inspection regulations, building codes, and accessibility standards. They must also have certain abilities and skills, such as reading, drawing, and editing blueprints. 

Interior design cuts across multiple work and living building situations. Some of the building specialty of interior designers include; homes, hotels, restaurants, banks, and hospitals. But interior designers can also work on are stage sets, the interiors of airplanes, ships, etc.

Why Do I Need An Interior Designer?

In this age of DIY, every task seems doable. However, it still doesn’t remove the importance and value of hiring an interior designer. Especially if you have the budget for it. Interior designers have the professional touch and will handle your project with finesse.

They know what colors are appropriate and what alterations will give your space that welcoming feeling.

Here’s a roundup of why you need one;

  1. An interior designer will speed up your decision by helping you narrow down your ideas.
  2. Interior designers provide better suggestions to achieve your desired look and feel.
  3. Most interior designers have a rich network where they get trade discounts from furniture retailers and discounts from contractors. They can pass these discounts onto you while drafting your shopping list.
  4. Modifications, alterations, and renovations for improved accessibility and functionality are sometimes necessary and interior designers are trained and licensed to do so. They stay up-to-date on local and federal building codes, as regards plumbing, rewiring, walls, etc.
  5. You get enough free time to focus on other stuff since interior designers manage every aspect of the project.

But, just because it’s necessary to get one, doesn’t mean every project is worth the expense.

When Do I Need An Interior Designer?

For those with budget considerations, here are some instances where an interior designer would be worth it;

  1. Your home is poorly laid out and needs some alterations to improve home traffic flow like resizing all rooms, adding more light, and more storage space.
  2. You plan on selling your home and you would like to stage it professionally to improve its market value.
  3. You plan on temporarily renting out a part of your house like a room.
  4. You need help designing and decoration a newly purchased home.

Now, let’s see what interior designers do “in essence”.

What Are The Most Typical Tasks For Interior Designers?

Interior designers have tasks that typically include the following:

  • Source new projects and bid for them
  • Understand the goals of the client 
  • Determine the requirements for the project
  • Maximize space usage, while considering easily mobility through the space
  • Make sketches of the initial design plans, including partition layouts and electrical considerations
  • Specify furnishings and other materials like flooring, lighting, wall finishes, furniture, and plumbing fixtures
  • Outline and determine a project timeline for the interior design project
  • Estimate all cost components of the project
  • Oversee the execution of the project, including the installation of all design elements
  • Coordinate and oversee construction with the general building contractors
  • Visit the building after completion to make sure the client’s needs are completely met and the client is satisfied

While many interior designers specialize in particular building types like homes, hotels, hospitals, etc., some further specialize in specific styles or specific rooms like kitchens and bathrooms.

Let’s take a quick look at some major types.

General Types Of Interior Designers

Apart from making homes livable, there are other interior spaces where the skills and expertise of interior designers shine through.

  1. Corporate interior designers: From small to large offices and buildings, these designers set up professional workplaces across a variety of settings. They consider employee safety, functionality, and efficiency while designing these spaces without compromising elements of the client’s company brand.
  2. Healthcare interior designers: Interior designers in this field plan and renovate doctors’ offices, healthcare centers, hospitals, clinics, and residential care facilities. Their design specialty is mostly evidence-based.
  3. Kitchen and bath interior designers: Designers that specialize in rooms like kitchens and bathrooms have expert knowledge of fixture, cabinet, plumbing, appliance, and electrical solutions that suit these rooms.
  4. Sustainable interior designers: Some of these designers have a certification that indicates expertise in the use of sustainable practices for designing buildings and spaces. An example of such a certification is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) from the U.S. Green Building Council.
    The job of sustainable interior designers involves strategies for improving water, energy, and indoor air quality. They may also incorporate environmentally sustainable products like cork for floors and bamboo.
  5. Universal interior designers: Universal designers consider accessibility while designing and/or renovating spaces. These designers will often get to work with elderly and people with special needs. A good example would be an entryway without steps for wheelchair users or for easy mobility for people pushing baby strollers.

How Much Do Interior Designers Know About Construction Work?

Interior designers may or may not know much about construction work. When the work includes upgrades to the general floorplans, interior designers will typically work closely with civil engineers, architects, construction laborers, mechanical engineers, and construction helpers.

This collaborative work helps them determine the look and function of interior spaces, including how they will be furnished. 

Interior designers have to able to read certain construction materials like blueprints. They must also be well knowledgeable of inspection regulations and building codes.

Do Interior Designers Draw Floor Plans?

We’ve established that some interior designers draw plans and produce designs and other drawings for construction and installation.

But, do these include floor plans? 

Well, sometimes it does. Interior designers have a good knowledge of the building-plan software used by architects. And, given that they work closely with architects, they may as well know how to draw floor plans. 

Depending on the project, the products of their drawings sometimes include building permits, information for construction and demolition, as well as electrical layouts. All the preliminary designs may range from simple sketches to construction schedules, including other attachments.

For their drawings, some interior designers complete them freehand, while others use computer-aided design (CAD) software. To aid visualization of the entire design process, interior designers often use building information modeling (BIM) software to create three-dimensional (3D) visualizations that include construction elements like roofs and walls.

Do They Design Furniture?

Normally, an interior designer will not design the pieces that go into the design but rather help select the best pieces of furniture for the buildings and living spaces. however, some interior designers work for home-furnishings stores, where they provide design services, particularly interior decor – helping customers select the most fitting materials and furnishings.

Part of their drawings and plans include fabric swatches, color charts, photographs, along with original furniture designs.

These sketches and plans are presented to clients along with a total cost estimate of the job. Interior designers work flexibly and they allow for plan revision several times before final client approval. 

But, their work doesn’t stop there.

Do They Decorate As Well?

While the career titles ‘interior designer’ and ‘interior decorator’ are often used interchangeably, their job, in essence, is different, yet similar in some way.

After the final plan approval, interior designers go-ahead to order the products and materials and supervise the actual work of decorating. Interior designers may sometimes assist the client in shopping for furniture. Their job extends to proper furniture placement and continues until the client is satisfied.

However, the differences between these two careers are fairly significant, as discussed below:

The Difference Between Interior Designers And Interior Decorators

When designing, an interior designer prioritizes the client’s needs and wants to not only beautify the client’s space but to enhance the space’s functionality. They improve the living space by collaborating with architects and contractors to create the perfect look and ambiance for the client while staying within code and regulatory requirements. 

Things like research, analysis, technicality, and creativity are all part of the design process.

Basic knowledge about environmental sustainability and the ability to apply this has become more and more essential today.

More so, to become an interior designer, the individual must go through specific formal schooling and training. Examples include; a two-year Associate’s Degree Programs and Four-year Bachelor’s Degrees in Interior Design. Where individuals can acquire technical, aesthetic, and business skills required to be well-rounded interior designers.

In addition to a degree, several U.S. states and jurisdictions, as well as seven Canadian provinces, have laws and regulations that require professional interior designers to hold an “interior design” license.

Meanwhile, this license requires individuals to pass the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam.

Even while having a license, interior designers can’t start a business of their own unless they have completed an apprenticeship program with well-established interior design firms or experienced interior designers.

Interior Decorator

An interior decorator is more concerned about creating an aesthetic interior environment by adorning it with fresh new colors, fashionable furniture, artworks, beautiful accessories, etc. 

Depending on the needs, wants, and style of the client, an interior decorator can upgrade or completely redo a space. They work with furniture refinishers, upholsterers, and sewers to translate the vision of the client.

Interior decorators can work and practice professionally without any need for a license and the career path does not require any formal schooling or training.

Even though formal education is not required for interior decorators to practice, they can validate their practice by taking courses, programs, and available certifications from organizations like Certified Interior Decorators International (C.I.D).

In short, interior designers may decorate, but decorators will typically not design the layout and floorplan of the rooms.

When Is My Project Too Small For A Designer?

No project is too small for interior designers to handle.

It’s all about whether you feel like you need one.

While some interior designers prefer to work for larger firms, they’re still independent contractors and entrepreneurs trying to build a client base like everybody else. 

Interior design clients range from homeowners to large corporations while interior designers range from students to experienced professionals. The rooms and spaces created by interior designers also range from simple indoor home environments to bigger office spaces and hotel buildings. 

Whatever the case, their primary concern is “improving your space” and their secondary concern is building a positive reputation in the interior design industry.

No matter the size of the project and the size of the space, every interior designer works towards safety, attractiveness, and functionality, with the client’s specific needs in mind.

Unfortunately, budget considerations are not always part of the size of the project. An interior designer is more concerned with a well-finished product and less concerned about the budget – unless this was expressly and strictly stated at the beginning of the project. 

Interior designers have their reputation as a top priority so they typically prefer to go with the best quality products and furniture. However, the right interior designer will furnish ideas on the necessary changes to make on a design plan, while staying within your budget.

Some Helpful Tips On Working With Interior Designers

When finding and/or working with the right interior designer, here are a few things to consider.

Are they credible?

When choosing what professional interior designers you can choose ones that are certified and licensed. The major certifications to look out for include;

  • The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID),
  • The National Council of Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ),
  • or the Certified Interior Designers (CID).

Do they have connections?

This is one of the things to discover while interviewing interior designers. Interior designers with years of practice in the trade will typically have lots of connections.  This will benefit you when it comes to passing discounts onto you, especially products like countertops and floorings. 

However, you should verify it.

Some interior designers (especially those new to the business) may exaggerate their connections just to get the gig and that may not be too friendly to your budget. Also, interpreting your ideas may be too difficult without these connections.

Budget comes first

A lot of interior designers will tell you – “we work within your budget”.

Well, maybe they do and maybe they don’t – depending on who you ask. So, it’s important to make it clear whether your budget is set in stone or flexible.

What I do know is that interior designers usually will try to choose the best features in structure and quality. The right designer will provide ideas on necessary changes while staying within your budget window.

Know what you want

Interior designers are trained professionals, not mind-readers, so don’t leave the options too wide open. Know exactly what you want and discuss it before the start of the project. 

A good way to present your preferences and taste is by showing your interior designer some pictures of interior spaces that you find lovely, colors you love, and fabrics that agree with your personality.

It’s okay to start small

It’s okay and very possible to start small and pay for only a set portion. For instance, you can fix your kitchen countertops and cabinets without a complete kitchen makeover.

What about used products?

Discuss all these possibilities with your interior designer. Some interior designers specialize in sustainable solutions that are kind to the environment. It’s a great idea to work with refurbished furniture items and your designer will typically have a list of contacts to bring into play here.

Yes to saying “No”

No professional interior designer will take offense at you for dismissing an idea. After all, it’s your project and you’re paying them to interpret your dreams. Their job is simply to deliver. So from furnishing and decorative elements to expensive features, be bold enough to say “No” when you don’t like something or when you can’t afford it.

References:

https://new.usgbc.org/leed

https://www.cidinternational.org/

https://www.asid.org/

https://www.cidq.org/exams

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