Blurred Lines

Written by Cristie Schlosser

As I draw close to the completion of my own project, it has never been clearer to me how the industry and disciplines fit together. The past two years, I’ve been both the client and the Interior Designer. Of course, my husband Rodney is the real client, but I’ve chosen to play that role as well. My goal, when Rodney suggested we “build,” was to put together a “team” that could collaborate to design the home we plan to live in for the next phase of our lives together. Not only would this “team” collaborate, but also to have others to bounce my thoughts and ideas off of and get professional feedback was critical. I’ve enjoyed the process. I’m anxious for the completion and the results. I believe my shortcomings have challenged me to change the way I work, to improve my process, and to rise to a new level of expertise. I have come a long way, but have much further to go. I am a perfectionist to some degree – always thinking I can do better.

The blurred lines became apparent to me in multiple ways. Not only am I am the client and the interior designer, but I usually work on behalf of the homeowner to manage the contractor. I am also the project manager placing orders and following up on deliveries – in new construction this in normally done by the contractor. I am used to working with my own trades, many of which in this case our contractor uses. Funny thing is I had no prior experience with the architects or the contractor. In some ways, the blurred lines worked to our advantage. In other ways, it has been more difficult for the architects, the contractor, and me; but most importantly, I really enjoyed designing with this team. Putting all typical home building frustrations aside, I know we will be pleased with the outcome.

For as long as the industry has existed, there have been blurred lines between registered Architects (RA) and registered Interior Designers (RID). Both are creative and have vision. Both create design drawings and stamp drawings for construction purposes. RAs and RIDs can create lighting, plumbing, and electrical plans.

They can space plan and layout the flow and interior non-load barring walls of a structure. Both can specify finish materials, cabinet details, and interior millwork. Both can complete a built space with furniture and decoration.

So what’s the difference? Each discipline specializes in their specific area of expertise, which requires rigorous education, apprentice work, and intensive board testing. An architect’s area of expertise is the building systems and how the structure is melded into the environment. An interior designer’s area of expertise is a psychological examination of human nature and needs as they are affected by the built environment.

So where do contractors and designers (non-registered) fit into the picture? Contractors execute the design vision as it pertains to construction, and designers adorn and beautify spaces that require no building modifications. There is no education requirement, licensing, or maintenance of continuing education. There is no ruling body mandating regulations. There are great contractors who are very responsible and run impressive operations. Generally, these contractors are members of organizations that require CEUs and have certified programs. NARI is an example of such an organization. Some contractors are as naturally talented as some RAs and RIDs. Decorators who call themselves interior designers don’t quite understand the meaning of the term. They aren’t trying to mislead; they simply don’t realize what the big deal is. There are plenty of non-qualified talented designers whose experience counts. However, there are plenty that don’t know what the codes are, or how to resolve construction complications. Their role is to make selections that beautify the interiors. That’s just plain decorating.

So you get the idea now; there are plenty of people vying for your business. How do you know whom to choose? It certainly depends on your project, but the best results come from a collaborative effort. Respect between the disciplines and working together to create your dream home or office. Starting with your design team will lead you down the right path and through the process that flushes out the options and creates a unique space for you.

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