First, for the purpose of this article, it’s worth distinguishing between an interior designer and an interior decorator.
An interior designer will probably have taken a three year degree course and be fully conversant with spacial planning, lighting schemes, bathroom plumbing installations, etc. The emphasis will be more on the design of the space itself, with the ‘soft furnishing’ side the icing on the cake once it’s cooked.
An interior decorator follows the interior designer. He or she is also very spacially aware but with the focus on what is going to suit the room, taking into account its functionality – kitchen, study, living area. They will be listening to the client and giving the best advice based on the client’s wishes in relation to what will work in the space, with the aim of providing a successful outcome all round. This process will inevitably require compromise on both sides, probably putting the interior decorator in a tricky position as they try to tactfully make the client change their minds and avoid a decorating catastrophe.
So it’s a skilled job on many levels. You need to be a good listener, communicator, negotiator, quite apart from having an ‘eye for colour’ as they say.
What I wonder is where does an aspiring interior decorator start? There are surprisingly few specifically tailored courses available and they don’t always come cheap! There seems to be little practical training , for example the handle and behaviour of fabrics which will determine whether or not they are fit to drape for curtains or heavy duty upholstery. Where does one learn where to use a wallpaper or not; which type of wallpaper will be most suitable for the conditions?
Your best chance seems to be to find an apprenticeship, to learn from someone who has probably learnt on the job, quite possibly handing down their knowledge, generation to generation. The worrying fact though, is that these opportunities are few and far between and becoming more so as the smaller, independent often family owned soft furnishing businesses close. They are probably victims of what is happening in our ‘shopping revolution’. But for them, the competition from availability on line, albeit ready made curtains or blinds, combined with rising costs of running a shop has forced them to rethink their businesses, shrinking their overhead which includes staff. They will find a way to survive themselves but there will be no spare money for a trainee.
And with that door virtually closed, very few practical courses on offer, how else to learn the craft? And this is where I worry about the future of the skill of interior decoration. It really doesn’t do to follow the gurus on instagram and simply copy their ideas. The joy and point of interior decoration is exploring the open field of ideas and originality. Your originality lies in the way you interpret and combine what you see.
So let’s see more money being made available for grants and courses in further education and apprenticeship, let’s see schools including it as a subject in the curriculum, to encourage more to enter and contribute to the future of the world of interior decoration and keep it alive.