Don’t you dare call them decorators… There’s no quicker way to get an early 19th century shabby chic candelabra tossed at your head than by referring to an interior designer as a mere decorator.
The trendy design profession has progressed in the past two decades to be just that: a profession. Interior designers are a well-trained and focused bunch, offering their skills to elevate the architecture of a space to unparalleled heights. They are masters of colon and pattern, style and lighting. They know what works, how much it costs, and how the pieces come together in a way your average homeowner with a Houzz account only thinks they do. As far as interior designers have come, they owe some of their success to the recent improvements in 3D architectural visualization and 3D rendering software. In many ways, the emergence of these tools has forced the hand of the design community, creating a playing field that demands excellence in order to survive.
15 years ago, things were much different. A client meeting would consist of the reveal of a handful of hand-drawn and coloured renderings of the plan for the interior composition. Material samples were looked at and laid adjacent to one another to establish a palette both the designer and the client were happy with - a process that anyone who’s done it will use the words “excruciating” and “time consuming” to describe. At the end, all the client really had to go on was an educated guess of what the final product would be and look like, putting their trust and faith in the designer to do their job and do it well.
Now, please don’t feel I’m suggesting there’s anything wrong with this approach – there is not. You should trust your design professionals because if they sucked at what they did, they wouldn’t have a job. Vocational Darwinism at its best, however, computer technology has added immense value to the client-designer meeting that has taken much of the guesswork out of it. Clients become more comfortable, more trusting, and consequently more willing get out of the way and let you do your job.
3D Rendering software, including VRay, Maxwell and Mental Ray, has opened communication and allowed interior designers to showcase their eye for material and spatial organization by plainly showing the world what’s possible. The textures, the lighting, the depth of field, the furniture, the outlets, the glazing - everything you’d hope to see in the crisp clean transformation of your boring old living room is presented in perfect clarity.
Swap them out for bunches of grapes in the blink of an eye. Changes can be seen almost instantaneously, which turns an unproductive 6 hour meeting into a productive 1 hour meeting.
Interior designers are specialists. Like mechanical engineers, electricians, or concrete subcontractors, they have a dense knowledge base on a very specific niche. It goes way beyond simply having good taste, because good taste will gain you little more than an air of pretentiousness. It takes intense training, practice, and skill to know how to create something worthy of good taste. Never before have designers been able to showcase those specific skills than now. Clients, for the most part, have decent taste and can now recognize that better in your designs because of the tools provided by 3D Rendering software. And those who don’t? Even better. You get to show them what good taste is, and they will pay you handsomely for it!
Along with all this great software comes libraries upon libraries of furniture, textures, plumbing and lighting fixtures, moulding profiles and glazing treatments for interior designers to pick through on the fly. Having this wealth of resources at their fingertips, designers can quickly populate a 3D environment with real chairs, tables and pendant lights. In recent years, even manufacturers have begun digitizing their entire catalogue in 3D models so they can be easily represented by the professionals who would be recommending them. Kohler, Philips Lighting, and Duravit just to name a few…. It has forced designers to be more resourceful as a result, expanding their product base to provide clients with more options and at a faster rate.
All of this is well and good, but all that design power comes with great responsibility - something Spiderman taught us all. Advancements in technology can, in some cases, cause designers to become lazy. They succumb to the crutch a sparkly new design image can provide without putting in the work to get there from a design standpoint. Eventually, of course, if you are good at your job the end results will speak for themselves, but the new age of computer software has brought with it its fair share of posers and frauds. If you’re looking to hire a design professional, be sure they have plenty of completed jobs to assure you of their talent.
There’s no telling where the next 15 years will take interior design, but if the last 15 are any indication, the future is looking bright indeed. One can only hope they begin to garner the respect of other specialized design fields. Any smart architect will tell you a good interior designer is worth their weight in gold. They can elevate a good design to great, and a great design to WHOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
Thanks to advancements in 3D rendering software, people are finally coming to their senses. So next time you run into an interior designer: smile, nod, and give them nothing but your unbridled appreciation. And whatever you do… Don’t even think about calling them "decorators!"