Have designs on that perfectly welcoming living room, rustic kitchen or zen-like spa bathroom? Even if you’re talented at all things aesthetic, you can’t go amiss by hiring an interior designer, interior decorator, or both.
So, do you need a designer, decorator or both? While there are similarities between the two, there are distinctive job specification differences, as well as differences with regard to accreditation and the professional training required to qualify.
A designer is more concerned with structural changes to your home such as changing a wall, adding arches or pillars or creating more opportunities for light by adding extra windows or skylights, for example. Interior design has to do with actual interior building design, safety and the creative use of space. As such, your designer is your go-to person if you want to change the layout of your home through minor renovations works. Your designer will usually work closely with an interior architect.
A decorator, on the other hand, is all about the aesthetic – how things function yes, but mostly how they look. Your decorator will advise as to a particular style for your home and may choose a theme such as minimalist, country and cottage, industrial or modern. Textures, décor touches and finishes – these belong to the decorator’s domain.
Given that London skies are often grey, your interior designer may structurally pave the way for more light by adding window fixtures. Your decorator would be the one deciding on the window furnishings and treatments – blinds versus curtains, Venetian blinds versus Roman blinds or softwood, and so on.
Another example would be you approaching your decorator in London with a solution to enhancing or lighting up the mood of your inside space, given London’s grey skies and near constant drizzling. Instead of adding windows or skylights, your decorator may suggest allowing in more light by moving around any furniture blocking window light or removing heavy drapery. Then, he or she may add wonderfully warm, neutral, bright or cheery decorating touches such as wallpaper, rugs, vases and scatter cushions to create the ‘lighter’ ambiance you’re after.
As designers need to be able to work out the best layout for a room given its function, they are concerned with spatial planning. They’re also concerned with interior renovations. These are technical skills requiring formal training and credentials. They work closely with architects and in the same way that architects can build scale models for your completed project, designers must be able to draw up initial floor plans.
There are many accreditations and top-notch qualifications available, but preferably your interior designer in London should be affiliated to the British Institute of Interior Design (BIID). There is no one singular, mandatory or specialist organisation that assesses or accredits interior design courses but you could look for the following:
An Interior Design, Interior Architecture or Spatial Design course completed at a UK government-recognised university or college
A course in one of the above disciplines completed through an independent contractor, but validated by a college or university recognised by government
A certificate or diploma by a course provider, that provider having been accredited by the British Accreditation Council, the Open and Long Distance Learning Quality Council, or another official accrediting UK body. An accreditation by The Society of British and International Design (SBID) is one such highly regarded body that accredits professional interior designers.
The title of BIID-registered interior designer®, which was launched in 2016. The standard adopted is that of the International Federation of Interior Architects/Designers (IFI). A vigorous selection criteria is used, including at least six years’ study and professional experience.
Of course, word-of-mouth referrals are as critical today as ever, as are directories on carefully compiled platforms such as homify.
No professional qualifications are required, but do ask for client references and look for a good portfolio. The portfolio is important as it will indicate the range of styles the decorator can execute, and you’ll genuinely be able to get a ‘feel’ for what they can do that way. They are also sometimes referred to as interior stylists.
It’s best to hire someone who has studied styling and related courses such as design styles and periods, suppliers, fabrics and finishes.
As they will be involved with working on the most intimate aspects of your physical space, it’s paramount that there is a good – even friendly – rapport between you and your decorator. They should also be able to appreciate your ‘no’, style boundaries and style choice or choices. They are there to execute the best possible version of your vision, not theirs.
An interior architect should be able to do the following:
· Solve challenges around the use, function, quality and safety of the interior environment
· Perform services related to spatial planning, work inspection on site, interior building construction
· Work within the parameters of building regulations as they pertain to the inside of your home
· Advise on structural building materials and furnishings as they relate to your inside renovations
· Prepare plans, drawings and documents as needed to accompany, guide and possible approve your internal design plans.
An interior decorator should be able to do the following:
· Execute the aesthetic vision that belongs to you, the client
· Choose a style or mix of design styles best suited to your personality, needs or lifestyle
· Add decorative touches or complete overhauls within budget as agreed upon
· Source suppliers for furniture and other aesthetic aspects, and be able to arrange for bespoke design items
The following kind of internal renovations generally require Building Regulations approval:
· Walls (adding, removing or changing in certain instances)
· Staircases, and walls around staircases.
You won’t need permission if you’re making minor alterations such as changing the felt in your roof, replacing floorboards, inserting new washbasins or laying new carpets.
Your interior designer and architect should advise as to which approvals are required, and have them submitted and signed off.
Fees for both interior designers and decorators vary greatly and there are no set parameters or scales, according the BIID. They advise that the following factors influence fees:
· the experience of the designer/decorator
· the degree of complexity involved/amount of work, especially on bespoke projects
· the kind of renovation or design style chosen
· the location of the designer – while a London designer may be more expensive than in the rest of the UK, they are likely to be intimately connected to the best London suppliers, contractors and manufacturers suiting your needs. They can negotiate on your behalf and in some cases, this will be a cost saving. If they’re overseeing local sub-contractors, they’re responsible for on-schedule delivery within the specified budget.
Looking for a London designer or decorator? We’ve collated the cream of the crop for every budget and style.