Interior design viewpoint

posted on Thursday, 29th March 2012 by Simon Cavelle

Design  Residential 

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I just hate it when I'm at a diner party and I'm asked what I do. I have found myself trying to explain without using the term "Interior Designer" as this generally is received with a certain look, as they make assumptions about what my job entails. Lunches, shopping, cushion plumping all flash before their eyes, followed by something along the lines of "I have this difficult room, what could I do?" 

I have, in the past, fallen into the trap of trying to justify my existence, but no more. As a profession, I am determined to get away from the 'tricks of the trade,' 'quick fix' and my personal hate 'makeover' that undermine what design is really about. Our profession is one of the most highly publicised and profiled occupations on the planet, but unlike any other it has failed to show its true value in the marketplace. Why is that?

The commercial sector has paid for design for many years, as have the retail and hospitality industries. If buying professional design advice is proven to be a successful commercial strategy, why is it seen by the majority of the general public as something that is a flimsy "emperor's clothes-like" exercise?

I believe that we have to look back a little way to see the development of what is a very young profession. Early in the last century there emerged the 'Decorator' who would help those of their social set decorate their homes. They were knowledgeable in the arts, taste and style; they were erudite networkers and strong on aesthetics. They would instruct architects and craftsmen and help in the acquisition of art and furniture.

On the other hand, the Designer at this point in time, was a draftsman working away in a garret on the technical details. The Designer was more focused on the technical/architectural elements and less on the colour scheme and soft furnishings.

It was only in the 70s-80s when the world went Designer mad that there started to be a muddying of the waters. Decorators, who were tired of being mistaken for painters and decorators, renamed themselves Interior Designers, feeling this helped make their image more professional; however it set the cat amongst the pigeons when it came to trying to work together.This was exacerbated by 'makeover' TV shows that rode on quick, 'good for the camera' tricks, with plenty of MDF! The Interior Designer was suddenly getting lots of media, but the public began to think that they could have their homes made over for £500 in 48 hrs.

In order to turn Interior Design into a profession, we need to firstly invest in the future, and ensure that the young are advised properly on a clear career rout. It is accepted globally that the only route to take is through a degree course. 98 per cent of Interior Designers in the USA are degree graduates. The European Council will not recognise an organisation unless it has adopted a degree as a minimum qualification. You would be right in thinking that many top professionals working in the industry don't have a degree. This should not be a reason for not looking forward, any sound organisation would adopt an induction model that would take into consideration the amount of experience gained and offer the appropriate transparent membership levels.

There are already degree courses in Interior Architecture available. This is an indication of a group wishing to rename what it does and differentiate itself, however even after completing such a course, you cannot be titled Interior Architect within the UK. There are a myriad of private courses that do not offer degrees that have great marketing budgets but offer a dubious range of education, from correspondence or online courses to one-year courses that purport to be professional.

Others have suggested the name 'Interiorist' which is not only difficult to say, but also misses the point. Surely we need to come at this from the other way, the consumer should be supported and assured that when they engage a professional that they will be employing someone who has reached an acceptable standard of competence.There have been many organisations in the past that represent sectors of the greater profession, they tend to ebb and flow in membership levels and the same old faces appear at the boardroom table. The politics and egos rotate and nothing much changes apart from a name or a logo. I fervently believe that Interior Design, in its true professional guise, is a valuable and extraordinary profession.

I also find it astonishing that a Job that entails making choices regarding the services, structure and reconfiguration of a building, not to mention, environmental impact and health & safety, can do so in the UK today without any education or training whatsoever! I also am amazed that members of the public, who wouldn't dream of having a guy down the road service their brand new car would allow their most valuable possession, their home, to be remodelled or redesigned by someone who 'has a good eye.'
 
My response is always: "what happened to the other one?"

Simon can be found at Scarib Design

Simon Cavelle

Simon launched London based SCARIB Ltd in early 2008 and was short-listed for the commercial section of the International FX Design awards in 2010.

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