Decorating is for celebrating. Design is for living.
When I tell people I'm going back to school to launch an interior design business, they often look at me puzzled and say, "Oh, so you want to be a decorator." Most confuse design with decorating because they honestly don't understand the difference.
So this, dear reader, is the topic of my first blog post. My mother was an amazing decorator. Leading up to special holidays, our home would be transformed into a magical wonderland; a festive scene where she displayed her blown glass ornaments, hand-carved figurines, heirloom keepsakes and other collections. More often than not, she'd come up with a special theme and challenge herself to collect new components or repurpose old ones.
And she didn't stop at decorating — Christmas gifts and Easter baskets were carefully planned and assembled with matching wrapping papers, ribbons and trims. Meals were served on beautiful embroidered linens and fine English china. Fresh flower arrangements were coordinated and strategically placed in bedrooms and bathrooms. I loved the way every detail of our home worked to complement her concept, and I admired her creativity and sense of style. (My mom was also an amazing cook, but that's for another blog post). So now, years later, I can understand how folks might mistake design for decorating. Both use basic principles of balance, rhythm, harmony, emphasis, proportion and scale. But one is for embellishing a space; the other is for living in it. First of all, good interior design considers space planning — blocking out different areas, defining circulation patterns, and developing a layout for furniture or fixtures. It factors how people move through their space and what they need from it. Once a designer has an idea of how the space should function, they then create a plan to marry these requirements with the client’s desired aesthetic. This vision is a lot like storytelling. There should be an overarching theme or tone, elements and pieces should relate and communicate with one another, and perhaps most importantly, it needs to reach some sort of resolution. There is a problem that needs to be solved. Interior design involves following this vision and combining different materials, shapes, patterns, and textures. And like a good story, the differences between these characters can actually enhance the narrative. Good designers caution their clients to be careful when selecting a specific sofa, lamp, or rug because these items may have the same visual value. In my career as a jewelry retailer, we called this "matchy matchy." Or if we continue with the story metaphor, there's a danger of being formulaic or predictable. Finally, working with an interior designer is like working with an editor. A designer knows how to add or take away elements in order to achieve a desired effect. This includes the incorporation of negative space or "breathing room" to give the eye a rest and present the strongest possible composition. So while decorating and interior design share many of the same ideals, they each fulfill a very different purpose. My mother had incredible taste and joie de vivre, but our house was packed to the gills and difficult to move around in. Now that I think about it, this may have led to my original interest in interior design!