Interior design is the overall design of interior spaces. An interior space is defined by its walls, floor and ceiling. Although the ‘interior’ in design implies that it’s indoors, over the years, it has come to encompass design of outdoor areas as well. Think patios, balconies, verandas and terraces.
Before I studied interior design, I had the impression it was all about expensive furniture, wallpaper, curtains, carpet, and designer lamps. A five-star hotel suite would pop up in my head when I thought about interior design. How cliché.
Over the years though, I’ve come to learn that interior design is so much more. It goes deeper than meets the eye. Literally. What we see is mere interior decoration. And there’s a huge difference between the two.
As you’ll come to learn, interior design is decoration and so much more, whereas interior decoration is just that—decoration.
The Difference between Interior Design and Interior Decoration
Interior decoration is everything you see in a space. It’s merely visual: wall colors, curtains, furniture, artwork, lamps, rugs, and accessories. It’s everything you add after the space has been defined by structural elements (walls, partitions, ceiling, floor, stairs, windows and doors).
When clients want their homes designed, they usually imply that they want them decorated. And that’s fine—it’s the most fun part of designing anyway! However, it is just the icing of the cake. The cake is the foundation that requires care and, in most cases, precision. Well, interior design is the cake as well as the icing.
The Process: Diving Deeper into Design
So how does interior design differ? And what are the phases of design before all the eye candy is added to a space? Interior design differs in that it is a whole process that goes before the decorating phase.
Working with Architects & Engineers
Ideally, interior designers work hand-in-hand with architects and engineers. As they plan the spaces within a building (even just a storey), a designer’s input is valuable.
Architects prioritize the exterior of a building as opposed to the interior. Structural elements are crucial to hold a building stable and safe for its dwellers. But more often than not, they don’t take into consideration how columns and beams can challenge the aesthetics of the interior.
Engineers work hand-in-hand with architects where they prioritize the implementation of an architect’s design. They care most about the technicality of the building’s construction and structure.
It’s ideal to bring on an interior designer during the process of planning a building and its interior spaces, but this isn’t always the case. Instead, interior designers are usually left with what architects and engineers have completed.
In the event that a designer gets to be part of the planning from scratch, it’s about space planning and allocating. It’s having the placement of structural elements thought through, in the light of an interior’s aesthetics. Not just columns, stairs and beams, but also where windows and doors should be, considering the amount of light in the space.
Working with Clients (Commercial & Residential)
In most cases, interior designers work directly with clients. In commercial or retail spaces (boutiques, restaurants, salons, etc.), owners seek out interior designers to make their spaces inviting to customers to boost sales. In that case, decoration alone won’t cut it.
Commercial or Retail Spaces
When working with retail owners or commercial spaces, it’s about creating a space that is inviting to customers. In boutiques, it’s about highlighting products to boost sales. In salons, it’s about comfort and rejuvenation. In banks, it’s about emanating an air of stability and trust. In restaurants, it’s about inviting people in and encouraging them to stay and spend. Interior designers would know the key elements to meet the purpose of each of these spaces and strategically plan how to reflect their business all the same.
In the case of residential spaces or homes, clients seek out interior designers to create an indoor environment which reflects their personality and taste. When working with personal spaces, it’s about getting to know those who use the space and how they normally, or would like to, use it.
Interior design doesn’t get more personal than it does in homes. Clients open up their doors to where they sleep, dine, get together with their loved ones, and so much more.
In this case, the very first step would be to know the client. This is important to get to know their personality, likes and dislikes. This is where decoration plays its main role—reflecting style. The next step and probably the most important one, is to know how they would like to use the space/s. This is what’s most important because this addresses the function of the space.
And as the old adage of good design goes: form follows function. This basically entails achieving a smooth flow within a space to address the main function as top priority.
Interior design is the overall design of interior spaces, which also extends to outdoor areas where people sit and relax. It differs from interior decoration in that interior design is a whole process that goes before decorating the space: space planning and allocating, designing according to the form-follows-function rule, implementing color psychology, and using decoration to precisely reflect a client’s personality and taste.