Busting the myths

Is it true interior design is seen as a glamorous profession, meaning students have a misconceived perception of the industry?

Many students entering an interior design degree are unclear on the demands of the discipline, not realising the difference between interior design and interior decorating, according to Robert Reid, assistant professor, College of Architecture, Art and Design, American University of Sharjah.

He believes magazines and TV shows promote the stereotype of interior design as a glamorous industry comprised of well-dressed people creating “fabulous” environments — encouraging the uninformed to judge what they see on the surface.

“What students don’t realise until they are well into their studies is the demands of a studio-based education, the un-glamorous expectations of a professional practice including long hours, low budgets and demanding clients, and the challenge to ensure a project gets built as designed,” he said.

“I am confident however, as students progress through school becoming more knowledgeable of quality, their expectations change and they become more demanding about workmanship, attention to detail and materiality — ultimately permeating all areas of their life.”

Aisling Healy, interior designer, Stickman, agrees claiming the profession is misunderstood.

“It’s understandable in a way, as people are misinformed with the likes of daytime TV programmes where designers have 24 hours to re-invent a home with paint cans, accessories, and soft furnishings, with a finale of re-arranging the furniture,” she added.

Healy believes most interior designers cringe when people ask the question, ‘What do you do for a living?’, because the reaction is usually ‘Oh how fun’ or ‘I’d love to take that up sometime’.

“It is assumed that the interior design industry is one to make spaces look pretty. In reality it is a problem-solving profession aimed at creating spaces where people work, live, entertain and exist. Strong considerations challenge designers to reach best solutions. It is, essentially, the architecture of interiors where one can influence people’s behaviour in day to day life,” she added.

Talking about hospitality design, she explained people generally see a glamorous end product but the months and years of ‘donkey work’ are forgotten where hours of travelling, working from site office mobile cabins with no natural light and ventilation are mandatory.

“Many people make the mistake of calling themselves interior designers, when they complete a short term course on the subject. But, a professional qualification is more comprehensive,” said Healy.

“A lot of this is down to short-term private courses on offer to anyone who wants to learn the decorating trade. Some of these courses market themselves as an interior design course where an academic consideration is void. The course requirement is solely down to self-funding.

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