This article will be in the next edition of Design | Build on the Kitsap Peninsula

Written by

Diana Kingsley ASID. IIDA. NCIDQ. NKBA. And a Business Marketing


When I graduated with an MA in Interior Design way back in 1985, there were not many interior design colleges offering the degree. There was no HGTV, no cooking channels, no cell phones, no GPS and believe it or not, no internet.  Students did not learn CADD or SketchUp and had to do everything with hand drawing.    Renderings would take hours, and only a few people across the country mastered the techniques.  People had no idea what a professional interior designer actually did unless they worked in a commercial firm.


Back in those dark ages, there were more “decorologists” than interior designers and it was just becoming a professional career.  Then and often now  I think today people think you just have to have a knack for it.  They don’t get that it takes years of training in space planning, lighting, structural design, history of art & furniture & architecture, textiles and you actually have to pass a two-day test to be called a professional.  But what does that all matter if you just watch HGTV and can see how to do it all.


Have you ever seen behind the scenes at Property Brothers or Flip or Flop or even Fixer Upper?  There are thirty or more people all working at the same time on a project. They have sources and they have money.  They have a whole crew that gets the job done.  In the real world, most people do not have a clue where to find the crews or all the cool stuff they incorporate into their designs.


Just take a sledgehammer and knock a wall down.  I will never forget a good friend of mine and a career attorney buying a small beach cottage and wanting to open up the space just started taking out walls.  She just kept taking out walls, not understanding structure till with one wall out too many, her roof began collapsing right in the middle of the house.  Luckily, she was able to get something to support it and no was injured, but it was pretty messy.


Earlier in the day, when I was about to write this article, I was copying some architectural drawings from a house where I am redoing a kitchen, bath and entry. The woman helping me at copy place asked if I was an architect and I said, no I am an interior designer.  Her comment back to me is one I have heard many times in my life: “I never got a degree in design but am pretty good at it.”


In many ways because of all the HGTV television shows people are starting to understand what designers do versus what decorators do. They are starting to understand that you have to have both sides of your brain working to be a successful interior designer. You need to be able to form an artistic vision and possess the math and construction skills to make it happen.


In teaching college-level interior design for eight years, I can honestly tell you that not everyone that signs up for college-level design classes has the “knack”.  Even as a learned skill there are students that are excellent; there are students that good and there are students that could not make it. Not everyone thinks they will be the next HGTV host makes it. Another part of interior design is the psychology involved working with couples that do not always agree. In hiring a designer people are starting to understand that mediation of partners makes it easier to get the job done.


One of the other things I laughed about when teaching were your contacts.  In the “good old” days, your Rolodex was your best friend, and I would call it in class your million-dollar wheel. You had all the good contacts and sources and knew who to call to get something done. Now it is who you have on your smartphone, but the list is still there, and the average homeowner does not have this list. They are starting to realize a good interior designer will have this list to get the job properly done. Professionals have great connections.


One of the questions I keep hoping homeowners will ask is about the education of the person they are about to hire. At the Art Institute, you could get a three-year bachelor’s degree, a two-year associate degree or a one-year certification.  There are a few schools that offer master’s degrees, but not many and very few where you can earn a Ph.D.


Keeping to a budget is another thing people are starting to grasp about interior designers. They work to keep you on budget. When the first woman interior designers designed, it was for the elite and money was no object. Now designers are taught that the budget is almost as important as the design.  You can design the most beautiful room in the world, but if it is two or three times what the client wants to spend then you do not have a workable design.


More people are starting to appreciate that a smart designer will not go over budget, but save you money when they can, and most importantly they will save you time.  I don’t know about you, but I really get tired of constantly searching Online for what I need.  Designers used to take their clients to one of the major design centers to make selections and in most cases, the client was totally overwhelmed.  Even though Online there is a lot to see, you can see it one-by-one.


Building codes and aging in place have become more prevalent in the marketplace and most clients need assistance with that.  They don’t want to put their home on the market and find out at that time that a lot of illegal construction took place. If they want to stay in their home as long as possible, designing it to make it easier to live in as we age is essential.


The NCIDQ is the National Council for Interior Design Qualification and to be a part of it the designer must pass a two-day test. So not only have they studied and earned a degree they are now recognized as a highly qualified interior designer, competent to meet industry standards not only for aesthetics but for public health, safety, and welfare. To date, more than 30,000 people around the world have earned the certification. This organization has been around since 1972.  Ask your designer if she or he has passed.


Knowledge is power; so, as people know more about what it takes to become a professional designer they will trust the industry more.


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