“That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Shakespeare’s famous line so poetically articulated that names are meaningless; a thing is what it is, regardless of what it is called. A beautiful and romantic notion, but in truth, a simple name can make a difference in what services a company is allowed to provide. In the world of interior environments, a common misconception is the improper use of the terms Interior Designer versus Interior Decorator. Although the two professions stem from the same beginning and often overlap in function, they are not exactly the same.
Interior Design is a blend of art and a technical understanding of people’s behavior to create environments that are functional, beautiful and enhance the health, life safety and welfare of the public. The profession is holistic – considering lighting, acoustics, building materials, indoor air quality, structural systems, plumbing systems, electrical requirements, building codes, accessibility, culture, art, history, furniture, details and wall partition layout to translate the story of the inhabitants into a built representation.
Interior Decorating is the art of furnishing and ornamenting spaces with beautiful and fashionable things. A decorator is not responsible for the layout or construction of the space, but focuses solely on color, textiles, textures, furniture and accessories in an environment that reflect the style and personality of the users. A Decorator may also select lighting, though most often the fixture is chosen based on its aesthetic quality and not necessarily by what lumens, color, lamp type or architectural detailing is required for the use of the space.
In most states, the term “Interior Designer” is protected by state laws that restrict the use of the title or even the practice of the profession to licensed and certified individuals. Oftentimes the protected title is a nuanced form, such as in Virginia, only licensed professionals can call themselves “Certified Interior Designers”, but the title Interior Designer may still be used freely. In order to become certified, an individual must receive a 4-year Bachelors degree in Interior Design from a CIDA-accredited University, work 3,520 hours under a qualified employer and pass the NCIDQ (National Council for Interior Design Qualification) examination. Continuing Education Units are also required yearly or bi-yearly to maintain the license or certification.
Although Kate and I can perform what are considered more traditionally decorative functions in certain phases of our projects, as a Certified Interior Designer, Etch is also able to provide a wider level of service. My qualifications allow us to draw full construction drawings for interior build-outs, considering all building codes and accessibility guidelines; coordinate with Engineers on plumbing, mechanical and electrical systems; communicate with General Contractors and sub-contractors during the entire building process; work directly with artisans, craftsmen, fabricators and upholsterers for custom cabinetry, furniture and architectural details; specify lighting, materials, furniture and equipment that are appropriate for the function of a space and safety of the users, and calculate rentable square footage versus usable square footage for tenant leasing. In the District of Columbia, we can also stamp, sign and permit interior construction drawings.
As a collaborative creative studio, we find appreciation and beauty in many levels of a project. We love opportunities to create poetically poignant moments within spaces: a simple textured throw blanket paired with a comfortable chair, a reimagining of a workspace to enhance productivity, or articulating the acoustic needs of a user with the appropriate wall, floor and ceiling finishes and partition detailing. We treat all phases of a project with a great deal of thought, creativity and appreciation, endeavoring to create spaces that are beautiful, smart and inspiring.