I had a conversation with a friend recently about working with designers in the corporate art business. She seemed more and more bewildered by my response to her questions about many architect firms having in house Interior Designers, and the importance of collaborating with them on projects. She argued how that seems to make no sense, why would Architects have Interior Designers in house? What would be the point in supplying their clients with people who could assist them in buying the right couch pillows or curtains!? Then it dawned on me. For an hour I was trying to explain the relationship and the connection between Architects, Interior Designers, and Art Designers, and she had no idea what an Interior Designer was. She thought Interior Designers were Interior Decorators.
The reality is, so many people don't know the difference. And seeing as I am an Art Designer, with an even more seemingly ambiguous title, I know my path of educating my prospective clients the distinguishing difference between Interior Designers and Art Designers will be even more challenging. As different an Interior Decorator is to an Interior Designer, the same difference of expertise applies with Interior Designers and Art Designers. The value of both professions is incredibly important, but their knowledge base is very specific and independent.
Art Consultant turned Interior Designer, Betty Wasserman from Betty Wasserman Art & Interiors, Ltd., has this to say about the difference, and how it has affected her work:
"One of the most important benefits of having an art background is the aesthetic education I gained throughout the field. Being exposed to the art world helped me in various ways, but most importantly, it helped me understand the differences between a nice, a good, and a brilliant work of art. Anyone involved in the art business will tell you that it is essential to stay up to date with the changes in the market, up and coming artists, and the trends of the industry. The truth is that in order to stand out it helps to have some weapons – mine was the art experience. I soon became an expert in telling the difference between decorative art and unique and original work as well as understanding what was commercial and what was not – and I don’t mean commercial in a good sense! This talent of identifying what is high quality, and what is not, helped me with my interior design approach from the very first project. Another thing that is hard to teach, or learn, is good taste and an understanding of aesthetics; and it is such a pleasure when a client brings that to a project, now. Having said that, without my experience in the art world, I wouldn’t have the career I do now."
Professional Art Consultant, Lauren Pheeney Della Monica with LPDM Fine Art Consulting in NY shares her experience:
"I am often asked by clients and prospective clients how art consultants work with interior designers and “how that works”. The best answer to that question is that everything depends upon what each client wants. There are some designers who love to work with art consultants and would prefer to outsource the art purchasing component of their projects than to struggle through the vast art world about which they are not experts. In this situation the designer will often hire the consultant and tell the consultant what the works of art should convey. In these cases the consultant may never meet the client at all, or the art consultant and designer may work hand-in-hand with each working directly with the client.
Some clients, true art collectors, understand that decorating and art collecting are two different things. Oftentimes an art consultant will choose a work of art with a client with no involvement on the part of the designer. Similarly, art consultants are not normally involved with the layout and design scheme of a home or a specific room. It is important that the client understand that art collecting and decorating are two different processes and the professionals in each field approach purchasing works of art and placing them in a home (or in a collection) very differently. There is a system that can work for each client and situation. The key is for the client to clearly identify the various service providers’ roles."
So what are Interior Designers responsible for? Well, a lot. They plan the design of living and commercial environments. They then manage the work of turning their ideas into a
reality. They need to design a space that is practical for its purpose as well as visually pleasing. Projects can be broad in scope, ranging from structural alterations to the choice of furnishings, curtains, wallpaper and lighting.
The role includes:
working to a brief, which details what the space will be used for
inspecting and surveying buildings
negotiating fees and setting schedules for the project
researching and drawing up rough plans
developing detailed designs and choosing materials
supervising the work as it is carried out.
An Interior Designer must have:
creativity and imagination
an eye for design, including color, and good 3D awareness
the ability to visualise concepts and explain them to others
good drawing and IT skills
an interest in changing trends in design.
As you can see, there is a high level of expertise involved in the layout and handling of the space. With the immense responsibility they have for the space as a whole, it makes sense as to why Interior Designers outsource jobs and must be conversant in a wide variety of disciplines, including architecture, decorating, and more. In fact, on a single project, an Interior Designer might be responsible for working not only with his or her design team, but also with: Architects, General contractors, Plumbers, Electricians, Painters, Tilers and stone masons, Flooring professionals, Woodworkers, Window and door specialists, Furniture manufacturers, Art Designers, Landscape architects, Climate control specialists, LEED and sustainability specialists, City planners, and government officials. For that reason, successful Interior Designers need to spend time understanding what each of these different disciplines does, and how the disciplines work together.
Just as the Interior Designer shouldn't be responsible for doing the tiling, woodworking, or be expected to be an expert in any of these fields, they couldn't possibly be able to look at art or purchase art in the same context an Art Designer or Art Consultant would. There's just too much information in terms of market research, art criticism, artist and gallery outreach, art brokering, art investment expertise, and fine art education. Which is why Interior Designers and Art Designers should have a very compelling and cohesive relationship. It takes an aesthetic approach to a space to another level. The importance of working with an Art Designer is not only to procure the best options in terms of art for the space, but also purchase the best art investments for the client. Art acquisition would not be treated solely as "visually aesthetic", but as part of a collection, which ultimately creates a complete and elevated experience. It is no surprise, then, an Art Designers place in collaborative efforts with architects and designers is not only obvious, but completely necessary, just like any other expert they out-source. Similarly, clients should make the informed decision on whether they are working with an Interior Designer vs an Interior Decorator and be sure the art being procured comes from an Art Designer for the entire space or collection. It is in the client's best interest for the visual space to express quality, as every piece an art designer purchases is an investment, rather than a decor item or "art piece" that loses it's value over time.
In essence, this article sets out to acknowledge the value and expertise of Art Designers, and the colossal difference between Art Designers, Interior Designers and Interior Decorators. Hopefully it paves the way for collaboration, as we unite our individual expertise to achieve the best results for each client.
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