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Wondering what Interior Designers really do? Find out on today's post.

What An Interior Designer Does

I am an Interior Designer.

For as long as I’ve been an interior designer, most people think that the work I do is interior decorating. It’s been 15 years since I’ve started my career, and my mother still calls me an interior decorator. That’s not to say that interior decorating is not important. They too play a very important role for a project. But it’s just a small part of what we do. Interior designers spend their days figuring out how to construct and build interiors so that they function well and look great at the same time. We focus on the best building practices for the spaces that we use every day and we also focus heavily on how individuals use their space throughout the day. Whether we are designing for a family with young children or a couple that has chosen to age in place, we play a very important role in helping people achieve a space that suits them perfectly. When a space is poorly designed, we feel it instantly. It’s comparable to wearing a painful pair of shoes. When a space is well designed, we flow through it easily without even noticing – similar to a very comfortable pair of shoes. To achieve this takes skill.

Most humans spend 90% of their time inside. A well-designed interior plays such an important part in our psychological well-being.


What to Consider

As designers, we are expected to wear many hats throughout the day. When we are designing the interiors of a house we need to consider where the plumbing will run, where the HVAC systems will go, where the structure is needed and so on. Not only are we concerned about how the individual uses the space, how all of the finishes and fixtures work together, but we need to design the space while taking into consideration all of the other elements that need to fit into it. Depending on the job, interior designers are often at the helm of coordinating the other consultants. They are the ones who are corresponding with the mechanical engineers, structural engineers and architect to ensure a cohesive vision.


Building Code

Like an engineer and an architect, an interior designer is responsible for considering building code and the life/safety aspects of the job within the space. As professionals, we are expected to take all of these things into consideration while we are designing. We too are responsible for creating a set of contract documents (working drawings and specifications) that pertain to the interior design. Despite what others may say, there is no competition between engineers, architects, designers and decorators. We all have an important role to play on a job, and we are all supposed to be experts in our fields.



Anthropometrics is the science of understanding how an individual fits within their space. An interior designer is an expert on how to account for the best clearances, heights, distances, and more when designing a large and open space, or the tiniest bathroom. We can either design a space so that it suits the individual perfectly, or we can design a space for the largest percentile of the population. Either way, we still have to consider building requirements and accommodate both the client’s needs, the contractor’s perspective and local building code.


Lighting Layouts and Power Plans

An interior designer is typically responsible for lighting layouts and receptacle layouts. These are things that should be determined before a project goes to construction. It’s not enough just to do a grid of pot lights in a space. Other lighting should be considered so that it gets incorporated into the overall design. And who thinks about where your electric toothbrush plugs in before your washroom gets built? That means, your lighting layout and your receptacle layouts need to be worked out in conjunction with your furniture layouts and your cabinets & millwork designs. If this is worked out in the beginning, before drywall goes on, you will save yourself boatloads of money.


Space Planning

Because interior designers spend so much time focussing on the interior space they typically are expert space planners. That means, we spend a lot of time laying out your interior (with furniture, millwork, fixtures and lighting in mind)so that it flows seamlessly. It’s amazing to me how many people live within poorly designed spaces. Over time, people get used to their space and don’t even realize anymore how many barriers they are faced with day to day. Having a space that is planned well can improve your life significantly.


Millwork Design

Aka all of your built-in cabinetry, including kitchens. Many people choose to go to a kitchen company or a cabinet maker to design their custom built-ins. Typically the kitchen designers and the cabinet makers aren’t considering the overall design of your home when embarking on your millwork design. Interior designers are experts at designing kitchens and other built-in millwork around your house, and most importantly they consider the whole design that’s happening in your entire house. It doesn’t make sense to hire multiple experts who focus just on one small portion of your design. Your home will look and feel so much more cohesive if you work with a single team that works on the whole design.



It’s not enough to choose beautiful finishes and fixtures. What really makes the space is the fine details of how something is installed. It really doesn’t look great when you slap a tile on the wall without considering where the tile will end, and what that detail will look like. There are so many finicky details that make a space look very beautiful. If you don’t have the experience and fore site to know how to manage these details or what to consider when choosing your finishes, your renovation will likely have elements that will drive you nuts for years to come.


WOW Factor

There are a lot of homes that get renovated every day. Typically there is a difference on a job when an interior designer has worked on it. Interior designers have the capability of bringing the WOW factor to a space that usually comes from years of experience. Some people do have extraordinary talent and will trudge through a job and still have it look beautiful. That’s not to say it wasn’t a painful process. It’s the years of experience working in construction and experiencing the hardships of projects along the way that really help to hone an interior designer’s craft. Not only do we learn what works and what doesn’t work, but we are also always trying to refine the process so that the pain of renovating is lessened along the way.


Wondering what else you can learn from an Interior Designer? Check out our last post on 5 things homeowners always forget when renovating.

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