Interior Design 101

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 Home is where the heart is. But you can't get a heart surgeon to remodel your bathroom for an affordable price.

If your living room is not living up to your expectations.... and your bathroom is not relaxing enough to take a bath—

That's a problem that can only be solved by learning interior design basics.

 

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It's Called Lifestyle

 Your rent or mortgage is often your biggest expense. Shouldn't your home be your biggest source of comfort and excitement?

Your living space should not just look great. It should also spark joy.


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CC by 2.0 RISE Image via Wikimedia  — Marie Kondo, speaking at the 2016 RISE conference in Hong Kong

  • Does the room make good use of space?
  • Do the design and layout suit your needs?
  • Is it free from frustrating elements that drive you a little closer to madness each day?

If the answer to any of those is No, you may be missing some keys to interior design and need some help.

More Than Just Fine Design

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Interior Design is where art, architecture, and science meet.

Interior designers don't just redecorate rooms. While great decorating can make your room look good, solid interior design can make your room feel good.

Solid interior design can help turn your house into a home. And not just any home, a home that works for you.

 

Behind The Designer Curtain

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If your living situation has you feeling like you are just surviving, we've got the solution.

In this article you'll learn:

  • The difference between an interior designer and an interior decorator
  • When to hire a designer, decorator or just do it yourself
  • How to choose a great interior designer
  • The history of interior design
  • The key concepts of design
  • Popular Design Styles

Decorator or Designer? Difference?

These job titles are often used interchangeably. But these are completely different careers.

Interior decorators dress the space you have. They use artistic and organizational choices to change the feel of the space. But their job is the look.

A designer can help you create the space you want. Not only do they use design elements to change the feel of the room. They make cosmetic and structural changes to improve the space. This can include construction, plumbing, and electrical changes.

An Interior Designer can decorate but an Interior Decorator cannot design.

interior designer vs interior decorator infographics

Interior Decorators can bring new life to a room.

Decorators can choose eye-catching art and unique furniture pieces and help you better organize your space.

They have an eye for design, furniture, and taste. But they are limited in what they can handle.

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Hire a Designer Before the Fire

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Before making any major changes to your home, it's worth checking if you will also need to hire a designer.

An Interior Designer is a must if you are making major structural changes to your home.

There are multiple legal and safety concerns to consider. Also, some changes require the right planning, or you could end up paying more later.

You'll want to be sure to consult an interior designer if you plan to:

  • Build an Addition on Your House
  • Remodel More Than One Room
  • Make Any Major New Installations (i.e., kitchen island, new dishwasher, deck)
  • Remove a Wall

An interior designer will not only make the process easier. They can help you stay on budget with creative solutions like more affordable building materials.

They can also quickly devise creative solutions to unforeseen complications.

 

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Designer, Decorator or DIY

 Two factors are very important when deciding if you need an interior designer, decorator or could do it yourself.

They are the scope of the project and your budget.

If money is no object, by all means, hire an interior designer. They prove their value with their ability to help you select the right vendors, materials, and can leave you with a greatly decorated room.

 

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But, let's be real; not everyone has an unlimited budget.

 

Scope Not Just a Mouthwash

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Design projects can be as simple as installing new kitchen cabinets or as complex as redesigning your entire house.

It's important to have an idea of the scope of the project. Moving furniture or swapping out a refrigerator is one thing.

But anything that involves changes to the construction, plumbing, or electrical system of your home will require more than one person.

Those changes can also bring up unforeseen complications.


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It's good to have an interior designer on hand to:

  • Manage the project
  • Devise solutions for problems as they arise
  • Make educated decisions to keep the project on budget and on time
  • Help keep you sane

Dodging The Money Pit

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If your budget is limited, there are ways you can scale back a project. Rushed or poorly planned renovations can end up costing you more in the long run.

Until you can afford the right crew to remodel a room, you may hire a decorator to help you better manage space.

There are also some changes you could consider managing on your own.

With research and preparation you can definitely manage:

  • Installing New Kitchen Cabinets
  • Getting a New Tub
  • Getting Floors Redone
  • Installing a Television Mount or Entertainment Center

Not hiring a designer would mean you would have to be meticulous about measuring and have to work with contractors you trust.

How To Not Hire a Jeff Lewis

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Flipping Out star Jeff Lewis is a gifted interior designer and house flipper.

But given his on-screen antics, you may not want someone like him managing your passion project.

When hiring an interior designer, there's a lot of important factors to consider.

Do They Know Things?

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Anyone you hire should be knowledgeable. But interior designers have studied to gain expertise in multiple fields.

When meeting with or talking to prospective interior designers ask yourself:

Does this person seem like they can:

  • Manage your expectations and your budget.
  • Foresee complications
  • Offer alternatives
  • Understand your wants and needs

With large-scale design and construction projects, problems can arise. You want someone on your side that can handle these issues with ease.


Are They Certified?

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We hope they're not certifiable. But you will want a designer certified by the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID).

You can contact the ASID for a list of designers in your area.

The ASID certification will ensure they have the education and experience with building codes and project management.

 

How Does Their Work Make You Feel?

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 You want a designer who can deliver something in your aesthetic. But you also want a design that feels balanced.

Someone could be an amazing artist. But good design is as much functional as it is shocking or visually appealing.

While it might be great to make a statement, remember, you will have house guests, and a critical mother-in-law.

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Your house guests should be able to feel as comfortable in your home as you do.

A good designer can please a client. But a great designer can please everyone.

A Brief Moment For Time Travel

Before we give you the secrets of interior design, let's take a quick trip through history.

People have been designing their living spaces for centuries. But the discipline of interior design is only about a century old.

Throughout history, artistic movements like The Renaissance, Rococo, and Baroque era dictated interior design.

Art, architecture and furniture design all came together and influenced how people kept their homes. But that all changed...

infogrraphics about Interior design history

The Secrets of Interior Design

principles of interior design

Using the Principles

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If you need a change try experimenting with the orientation of furniture. It's not exactly a new guest bedroom.

But it can be a game changer for the flow of your space.

Reorganizing items around one point of focus and putting like items together can change the mood of the room.

Inserting new colors or softer textural elements can also give a more restful environment.

Try experimenting with different design concepts to see which best fits your space.

 

Interior Design Styles

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Certain movements in art, history, and interior design have created design styles.

These range from the traditional to the avant-garde.

But they all offer you an artistic way to unify your space around one theme.

And away we go...

 

All About The Edit

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Minimalism uses a clean, elegant design.

It favors the barest of essentials and functional items that often serve a dual purpose.

There still is some visual interest, but it avoids color contrast and patterns.

 

But Aren't We All Modern?

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Modern designs favor clean lines, a simple color palette.

The color palette is mostly metal, glass, and steel. Are those really colors?

This is a design style that is highly edited and definitely clashes with clutter.

 

Every Dude's Favorite

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It's not so much a gender thing as much as men really like exposed brick?

Industrial favors visual elements like high ceilings and exposed brick and beams inspired by re-purposed factory lofts.

It features reclaimed machinery and a color scheme of unfinished woods and metals. Imagine a Steampunk Airbnb.

Are Hipsters Shabby or Chic?

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Imagine Zooey Deschanel's dream house.

Shabby chic originated in the 1990s. It features vintage furniture pieces distressed, and whitewashed.

It also blends distinct antiques with soft feminine elements and plush white sofas and beds.

 

The Better Than Great Gatsby

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This 1920's period in art and design inspired a whole movement in interior design, and the popular Leonardo DiCaprio film.

This style favors architectural but rounded polished furniture.

It includes harsh contrasts like highly polished wood and black lacquer with satin and furs.

 

Fresh Farm-Raised Design

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This folksy style brings the simplicity of the farmhouse into the modern era.

It features large farm sinks, woods, and fresh uses of antique furniture.

It favors a lot of natural light and seems like a love letter to that farm girl who just wanted to see the son.

I don't think we're in Kansas, anymore.

 

Let's Get Incorporating

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Now you have a better understanding of popular design trends and artistic movements in home design.

Design trends are always changing—especially as we get exposed to other world cultures.

Ikea has become a staple furniture supplier, but the Scandinavian furniture and design aesthetic have changed the new normal.


Is TV Your Secret Weapon

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If you are not quite in the budget for an interior designer and want to see what you can try and home first, there are a lot of helpful shows on television.

Some celebrity style makers have made a name for themselves as television hosts.

But their experiences in interior design. Their shows can help you avoid any rookie mistakes.

An hour or two watching shows like Fixer Upper and The Property Brothers can give you ideas and emotional prep for your desired new project.

 

All Fixed Up

This video of interior designer Joanna Gaines from HGTV's Fixer Upper gives a sneak peek into the mind of a designer.

She talks about space and how the family can use the newly remodeled space. She breaks down the intentional use of space and how the redesigned kitchen reflects the family's needs.

Gaines owned and operated Magnolia Homes, a remodeling and design business in Waco, Texas before starting the show with her husband Chip Gaines.


I Want More Design TV

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CC by-SA 2.0 Mingle Media TV Image via Wikimedia — Drew Scott and Jonathan Scott of The Property Brothers

For design specific help you can check out shows like The Property Brothers, HGTV Design Star and the Netflix series Stay Here.

Some celebrity interior designers to keep an eye out for are Nate Berkus, Jonathan Adler, and Kelly Hoppen.

A little research and some light TV watching just could help you sort out your next design project.


Far From Basic

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While that just covers the basics of interior design, there's still more before you can revamp your whole house.

But thanks to this primer (paint puns) you can better utilize your space, experiment with a more clear and intentional design, and you can find the help you need to have the home you want.

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House The Home You Want

We all need living situations that suit our needs:

  • A kitchen that inspires us to cook
  • A bathroom that makes us feel clean and refreshed
  • A bedroom where we can truly rest
  • and a living room where we can really live.
simple and elegant Well designed bedroom

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You spend so much of your time at home or wishing you were home you need a living space that fully embraces your mind, body, and soul.

Here's hoping with these tools you are well on your way.

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