Designer or decorator — there’s a difference

Sunday Signal

Sooner or later, we all spend money on some sort of interior decoration, whether it be a home filled with furniture, flooring for one room, window treatments, wallpaper, fabrics, etc.

One of the biggest challenges you’ll face, if you choose to accept it, is to find the right person.

An interior designer has complex skills. In fact, few other professions encompass so varied a combination of abilities.

People often ask, “What distinguishes a designer from a decorator?” The response can usually be answered by a simple statement: A designer is knowledgeable in all areas of design from space planning, environmental control, drafting, lighting, acoustical controls, millwork or furniture design, custom design of materials and the integration of equipment. A decorator simply uses found materials and furniture to improve the aesthetics of a project.

The designer’s training provides an understanding of history, an in-depth knowledge of design theory and practice, knowledge of architectural structure, drawing, detailing, reading blueprints and familiarity with methods of construction and building codes. A designer must also have psychological insight and the ability to approach a problem analytically, a basic knowledge and appreciation of the visual arts and a grasp of the vocabulary and methods of related professions and trades. In other words, the designer should know the wallpaperer, carpenter, tile layer, painter and all the other labor people’s jobs as well as the person doing the work.

The designer must be able to identify behavioral, emotional, attitudinal and functional needs of their clients. They must provide responsible supervision of the composition and installation of furniture, fabrics, wall and floor coverings, accessories lighting, art, and all the other elements used in the interiors they design. It goes without saying that this kind of knowledge takes years of education and training in the field.

A professional designer also knows about the effects different colors have on different clients, how the feel of different textures affect people, traffic flow, wiring, different types of refinishing on different types of wood, and they know what’s on the market at your price. And he or she can save you money because they are repeat customers.

There are also financial benefits to hiring a designer. A good designer has clout with stores and contractors, and they can get the work done better and cheaper than an amatuer. The designer can save you from making costly mistakes. This is something I have seen happening over and over.

Designers today, like lawyers, doctors and other professionals, more and more are specializing in certain areas of design. But even more essentially, the scope of the designer’s role has changed, because today the professional designer who is educated and trained belongs to organizations that have high standards for education and experience.

Remember also, that today a “decorator” is also usually a craftsman, such as a painter or a wallpaperer. A “designer,” the more accepted term now, is something like an interior architect. You want someone who’s an expert, but willing to work with your tastes and ideas. And it’s always a good idea to check references.

The point is, you don’t always want to look for discounts — look for good design. Or to put it another way: Don’t buy a sofa, buy a service.

Communicate to the designer who you are, what you respond to, what your lifestyle is like, and what your budget is.

Be sure to get across your ideas. Photos clipped from home decorating magazines help show the feelings of the colors, textures, mood and environment you want. Emphasize  any deadlines you have for finishing the project. Explain your priorities. Expect the designer to talk with you about your plans for the project, your lifestyle, your tastes and not the designer’s. You have to live in the room long after the designer is done. Expect the designer to do scale drawings if needed. (This is something an amateur is incapable of doing.)

A few things to remember about a designer, is that he or she should: have professional training and references you can check; have the skills required to complete jobs, such as drawing, detailing, reading blueprints and familiarity with methods of construction and building codes; order no merchandise without your approval; and have different options in which to work with you and your budget.

The designer’s function is to exercise their skill, knowledge and experience, and translate the needs and tastes of their client into a well coordinated, attractive, comfortable and functional environment with drama, unity and balance. Their responsibility is to see that this is done to their client’s satisfaction and within the client’s budget, and that the client receives fair and good values.

Ken Dean has been a award-winning professional interior designer, interior design teacher and writer for 40 years. His website is He can be reached at (661)251-0170.

The average cost of remodeling

Each year, a “Cost vs. Value” report gives homeowners a greater understanding of how much popular home projects will cost across the nation, as well as which renovations will offer the greatest return on investment.

According to research, these projects improved in value between 2017-18 and can be smart choices for homeowners looking to add popular features to their properties. Below are the popular projects and the average cost of the renovations.

• Midrange bathroom addition: $44,717

• Midrange bathroom remodel: $19,134

• Midrange deck addition (wood): $10,950

• Midrange entry door replacement (steel): $1,471

• Upscale garage door replacement: $3,470

• Midrange manufactured stone veneer: $8,221

• Midrange minor kitchen remodel: $21,198

• Midrange siding replacement: $15,072

• Midrange universal design bathroom: $16,393

• Upscale window replacement (vinyl): $15,955

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