So What Does an Interior Designer Do?

July 9, 2022 - Michelle Murphy

I think the most common response I get when I tell people I’m an interior designer is…”Oh that must be SO fun!”. I usually respond with something like…”well I do love it, but it’s a lot of work!” Whether it’s a family member, a friend or a potential client, I always get asked about what I do or what an interior designer does. Most people think of what they’ve seen on HGTV – “designers” picking out paint colors, shopping for pretty pillows and fluffing your space for the cameras. While this is not wrong, it’s not the whole picture.

Interiors designers are professionals that are highly trained at understanding how to make an environment not only look beautiful, but functional. In other words, we are space experts! We also act as therapists, accountants, researchers, shoppers, movers and so much more! Interior designers specialize in understanding how a space is used, who occupies this type of space and what their needs are while also considering how to make the space look attractive. Form follows function should be true for all design professionals, meaning that a space can always be beautiful, but making the space work for the user(s) is the top priority.

Modern living room with curved staircase

For example, a designer designing a corporate office space needs to know about how the users work in the space, how many users need to fit in the space comfortably (and be realistic about how many people CAN fit in the space), what kinds of equipment may be used in this type of work and even considering the ergonomics of the furniture selected for the users. Whatever can be done to make the space usable, comfortable and functional for the employees is the top priority. A designer working with residential clients needs to consider the needs of the family, anything from storage to seating to how the family functions in the home on an everyday basis. Maybe one person in the home has mobility issues, so making it easy to move around the home is critical. Or maybe both parents now work remotely from home and need to be able to share an office comfortably. Designers can consider how to layout the space well and accommodate the needs of those using it.

Home office design inspiration

Whether it’s through formal post secondary education, online certificate programs or on-the-job training, interior designers are well versed in the design industry. A lot of hands-on experience allows designers to understand what challenges they may face and how to address them. Every project is unique and no day is the same, but by sticking to the design principles and applying what you’ve learned, any space can become it’s best.

Interior designers look at the elements of a space. How a space may flow into another or how the lighting illuminates the room or even how comfortable it is to reach to the upper cabinets in your kitchen. Attention to detail is critical because there are so many pieces to the puzzle. Have you ever thought about the fact that your light switch is in a hard to reach spot? Or how your front door swings open into the foyer and blocks your way into the rest or the home? Or maybe even how the layout of the living room with low windows, a fireplace and French doors to your patio leave no room for a good furniture layout? A space shouldn’t limit what you can do or how well you do a task, so let’s make the space work for you! That’s our job as designers, to notice those details and help you apply the best solution.

A lot of interior design work is about solving a problem. Whether a client is struggling with how to layout their new living room or what size rug they may need for their bedroom or even if they are unsure of what budget is needed before they start their kitchen renovation, designers can help. While keeping in mind best practices and the design principles, a great designer also uses creativity and experience to design a space to each individual client. Just like every space being unique, so is every client. You need to adjust and tweak those “standards” to fit each client and give them the best solution for their needs.

Interior designer fabric samples of various colours

Another part of interior design that people probably don’t think about is safety. A designer should always consider anything that might be a safety hazard and what can be done to avoid those dangers. Sometimes there are “rules” around design which come in the form of Building Codes, Fire Safety Codes and more. These are codes that need to be followed by everyone in the design and construction industry. While these may be required, there are also things that a designer can consider, known as “best practices.” This means even though it may not be a “rule” or “regulation”, they are the best way to handle a situation and something to consider applying in your design. A great example would be the “working triangle” in a kitchen. This may not be a safety concern and definitely isn’t a rule or code, BUT it can make sure a difference in how a user functions in a space. The working triangle focuses on the 3 main appliances/fixtures in a kitchen. It focuses on the layout of the space and how the fridge, stove and sink are orientated with one another. By presenting a good working triangle, the flow of the space and how the user functions while prepping, cooking or cleaning can be so much more functional and allow for a more productive environment.

Modern kitchen

Overall a designer works on coming up with a big picture design for spaces and what it takes to get to that big picture. From small color selections to complete kitchen design plans, interior designers can offer a lot of value by providing clients with the right resources.

Thinking about starting a new project soon? Let’s chat! Michelle Murphy Interior Design offers lots of services to fit your needs. Whether you just need some advice/inspiration/guidance on your next project or you’re ready for a helping hand through the whole process, I’m here to help. Some of the services that MMID offers include: design consultations, staging consultations, color consultations, e-design/virtual design, drawings (floorplans, elevations, 3D renderings), product sourcing, product ordering/purchasing, and so much more! Check out our services tab above to see all the services available. I offer local interior design services in Calgary as well as virtual services anywhere!

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