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DEFINING DIFFERENCES - DECORATORS, DESIGNERS, ARCHITECTS (Part 3)

19November12

Here, we’ll look at architects and contractors as well.

  • ARCHITECTS - Architects typically deal with the structural aspects of a space. I say typically, because until the later part of the 20th century, most architects built buildings or houses. More recently, however, architects have extended their domain to include interior apartment renovations, encroaching somewhat onto the designer’s territory. Like the interior designer, architects mold and manipulate space to create aesthetically pleasing and well functioning homes or offices for the client.  The major differences between the interior designer and architect lies in the architect’s education, training, and experience and in his/her ability to build from the ground up, creating new structures.  They are not trained and customarily not interested in the finishing of a space, that is, it’s decoration. However, a good architect can combine all three skills, creating a comprehensive work of art.  Typically, architects are more interested in the creation of large structures such as office and apartment complexes, restaurants, shopping malls, office buildings, museums and houses. The residential architect, in particular, can be very masterful in creating a satisfactory built environment, inside and out. But this is more the domain of the “design architect,” one whose interests veer towards combining great design with great structure, in the implementation of a master plan and the outfitting of its interiors. Architects are also knowledgeable about the mechanics of finishes and materials, the how and why things structurally work the way they do, and the surrounding environment’s relationship to their creation. Ironically, while the most educated of the three professions, architects are the least compensated for their skills.
  • CONTRACTORS - Contractors implement the design drawings of the architect and designer. They bring the design professional’s vision from a 2 dimensional drawing into 3 dimensional reality. As such, they physically build the space and bring to fruition the final design phase. Working with either a decorator, designer, or architect, the contractor takes his direction from their aesthetic directives. A really good contractor will be able to facilitate the attention to detail and quality workmanship necessary for an excellent project. (Caveat Emptor - Contractors do NOT design; they build. They work in tandem with the design professional to bring into being his/her vision. They do NOT choose colors, fabrics, finishes, design kitchens, baths, rooms, etc. If a client chooses a contractor in place of an interior designer or architect, they cut out the most vital step of the design process which is the vision, the creation, the style, the taste. For instance, in designing a bathroom, a designer will select tiles, choose and decide on the proper placement of fixtures, fittings and accessories, design the tile patterns, select the color and texture of the walls and all the other design decisions necessary for the successful fruition of the space. Often, a contractor will say he performs these duties as a means of procuring a project, cutting out the services of an architect or designer. However, the customer needs to be aware that the contractor’s expertise is in the implementation of a design, not in its creation. In addition, when a contractor performs an architect’s job, he removes a checks and balances system so vital to the consumer. That is, without the presence of a design professional, the ability to check the accuracy of the tradespeople’s work is missing. There is no one to call the contractor on his precision or attention to detail.)

The best projects combine the skills and abilities of the Architect, the Interior Designer, and Decorator. It is rare, however, to find a firm or individual who can successfully bring all three skill sets into play. Josef Hoffman, Charles Rene Mackintosh, Robert Adam, William Morris, Rossetti, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Le Corbusier are among those icons who have done such, designing beautiful environments inside and out.

More common is the confrontation among the three, rather than their seamless integration. When the designer or decorator places furniture incongruous to the structure, or when the architect designs space without consideration or respect as to how the furnishings will be laid out, then the client suffers. The good news is that more and more design professionals are teaming up, creating comprehensive design alliances, to better serve their clients. In essence, the challenge for the decorator, interior designer, and architect ultimately lies in their ability to seamlessly marry great form to function.


Filed under: Design

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