I don't think I am wrong when I say that the perception among the general public is that interior designers only focus on the color of the walls, the style of window, wall and floor coverings, and a parade of pillows strategically placed on the sofas and chairs. And that maybe true,...that is certainly not all.
Many professionals in the practice of interior design look beyond those elements and include a much deeper and broad process and approach. Take for example a potential client that recently interviewed our firm and was looking to update the lobby of a local historic hotel. Initially the property manager was asking for ideas on new fabrics for the chairs, replacements for the tables that were unsteady, perhaps a rug that would baffle the sound in the two story space when people gathered for evening drinks.
But to the experienced eye, the design problems were more complex than that.
In the job site review done over a series of days and nights, interviews with guests and a meeting with the owners, it first became obvious there was a problem with traffic patterns. Guests just entering the lobby didn't have a clearly defined path to get to the registration desk and signage was nearly non-existent. The second was the lighting was abundant but they were not taking advantage of new technology that would provide a better output, lower maintenance costs but also be significantly more energy efficient. The hard surfaces of the lobby bounced around the sound and prevented anyone from having a decent conversation with colleagues. But it would take more than just a rug to solve that issue.
HOWEVER.... the real problem, at least as we saw it, was that the image - or brand - they were trying to project was inconsistent with the "public face" they had established in the design of their building, thru their hotel website and marketing materials. It was confusing to the guests from the moment they stepped thru the glass double doors that what they thought they knew, what their perception was of the property and what their first impression was was not well conceived nor connected. One main issue was actually the bigger of all the challenges: How to connect all the dots and ensure that first impressions were consistent with their brand message and what they stood for.
Our proposal and presentation to to the client focused very little on new fabrics and finishes, nor the new rug. It was looking well beyond the basic elements of furnishings and fixtures to ensure that the design really addressed the bigger pictures... like functionality, signage plus incorporating design as an element of one's brand.
So here is what you should know about interior design. Design is much more than picking the right colors. Its about a creating a process that ensures that appropriate objectives are determined at the beginning of any design conversation and that solutions are well defined as outcomes of a strategic process. Its connecting the pieces so that at the completion of the project, all issues have been addressed like traffic flow, lighting, safety, way-finding, sustainability, maintenance, branding.... oh and by the way... yes....that the right color of paint is ultimately picked to go with that parade of pillows.
Curbless shower entries reduce the hazard of tripping in the shower.
From a recent press release:
When we hear the words “sustainable design,” it refers to buildings that are designed to reduce their carbon footprint. But with the growing population of 76 million baby boomers, creating a “sustainable life” at home will the next big wave in design according to Michael A. Thomas, a Palm Springs, CA. interior designer with a special interest in creating live and work environments to sustain the quality of life.
According to Thomas, the ultimate place to spend retirement years is to be in a home of ones choosing, homes that combine safe, secure barrier-free spaces with “green designed” interiors. By providing for good indoor air quality, selecting high efficiency appliances and choosing low maintenance furnishings, fixtures and finishes, boomers can expect to live in their own places for a much longer period of time.
“I find that Boomers are in age denial,” stated Thomas during a presentation he made during a symposium for the United Way and AARP. “And another fear is that the sustainable home designed with universal design principles will look ‘institutional’ or will cost a lot to do. But manufacturers such as Kohler are making high style ‘comfort’ products that cost little or nothing more and feature water savings benefits.”
Some of the ideas Thomas suggests that combine sustainable and age-friendly solutions include: abundant lighting using LED and compact florescent light sources, hard surface flooring like cork and wood from sustainably managed forests, cabinets finished with low or no volatile organic compounds and water, heat and cooling systems with Hepa-type filtrations.
Other concepts include showers with temperature and water flow settings, taller toilet seats with dual flush controls, smart-control thermostats with large readable displays, auto-controlled window treatments that screen out the sun’s glare and harmful rays and solid surface quartz countertops that inhibit the growth of bacteria.
To Read The Press Release, CLICK HERE
The dreaded day came; the one that we all know is coming. We just don't know when. It is the crash of one’s hard drive. And despite best intentions and multiple backups, it still disrupts life and work.
But after surviving those stressful days, one unexpected benefit was to review pictures of past design projects, as they were loaded back onto the hard drive, sometimes picture by picture one at a time. When one kitchen project popped up, I clearly recalled a conversation I had that client at the beginning of their project.
They asked, “If you were to get the job, how do you see your role in our project?”
• Love those kinds of questions.
The answers were actually easy because they represent who we are at the core of our work and how we approach each job. In fact, I would say that many designers work exactly like this. Just three things.
1. First, the work of a professional designer is to educate the client. My job is to be a teacher. A client needs to have the concepts, options and costs to make certain important and critical decisions. And assisting the client in making decisions is one of the benefits of working with a design professional.
2. The next is to be a great design planner. Successful design happens more with determined intent than by the flow of creative juices. Flowing creativity is only good up to a point before skill must take over. Good planning shapes space, creates concepts and establishes direction, work that happens long before the selection of furnishings, fixtures and finishes.
3. Finally, the last is to just make it happen. Some call it being a project manager. Just because one has the skill set to design doesn’t mean that those same skills will manage the multiple implementation of workers and product. But with a strategic approach, the experienced manager moves the work from drawing board or computer screen to reality in an organized manner.
That’s the role of a designer in any project. Some clients just need the first part. Others need more of their designer. Some projects require much more planning in order to achieve the client’s vision.
So while the role of the designer may vary with client and project, the core elements remain.
• Teach. • Plan. • Manage. That's what any good designer does.
~ Michael A. Thomas, FASID
Teacher. Planner. Manager.
Michael is an award winning interior designer based in Palm Desert, CA. He is a Professional Member of the American Society of Interior Designers and a member of the ASID College of Fellows.
As a Certified Aging In Place Specialist, he creates smart looking spaces that are safe and secure and create homes for a lifetime.
And with thirty plus years in the profession, he has honed his humor, elevated his passion for design and sharpened his wit to not take anything too seriously except his design work.