Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Real Life of a Commercial Interior Designer

I’m sitting here, watching a Lifetime movie, faced with another unproductive weekend.  Well, I made a huge batch of babyfood, changed some diapers, cleaned the kitchen only to get it messy again and went to Target.  So for another week those house improvement projects will have to wait.  Instead of posting some great crafty project I accomplished I will post a little more about what I do. 

“So, what do you do”

“I’m an interior designer”

“Oh how cool.  Do you watch HGTV?”

“Um yeah, but I don’t exactly do what they…”

“Oh my gosh, I just love that show where they painted the wall teal and then put the lines on it.  It must be so great to be a designer.  I have this room in my house with a window on one wall and a fireplace on the other and i have this sofa that’s about this long (holding up hands) and I just don’t know which wall to put it on.  What do you think?  and what color should I paint”



Okay, so every conversation doesn’t start like that but I swear- a lot of them do.  And yes, I do love HGTV and they have great and wonderful ideas but I don’t think it’s a great representation of the interior design process- commercial or residential.  First of all, most of our clients have an OPINION, and they say it, and you have to listen.  Doesn’t happen as much on TV.

What’s a typical day for me? 

Sitting in a chair, in front of the computer, all day.  Yes, I use a program called CAD where I draft everything from floor plans to elevations to sections and details.  Then, I get to make some super fun calls to cities to ask what codes they are under or if they will let me put 2 toilets in instead of 3.  Oh yeah, on an average week there’s lots of talk of toilets and urinals.  Lots of talk of code compliance and grab bars and turning radius’s, and what we can do to cut costs.  And we do all that while not really making a lot of money ourselves.

Yes, there are times of selecting finishes and furniture and all things cheap… er, uh, pretty.  There is also the occasional site survey.  An opportunity to get out of the office and be on your feet.  Site surveys can make for great stories back at the office.  There was the one at the funeral home where we were installing art and accessories around the open caskets…. that were not empty.  It’s not unusual to be measuring around dead roaches but there’s also been a dead rat I had to step around.  Many times it’s dark, and cold, or hot depending on the season.  You just never know what you are going to get.  I used to travel all over doing surveys and that was a lot of fun.

No, while it’s not always glamorous and it’s certainly not what you see on TV, I still love what I do.  While designing around codes can be annoying at times- it’s also so important that everyone can get around a space without trouble.  I love working on a variety of projects.  In my 6 years at this firm I’ve done multi-family, religious, office, residential (yes, every once in awhile we get to do residential), retail and I think there have been more but I can’t remember right now.  I knew I wanted to do commercial even when I was in school and I’m glad I went that direction but sometimes I miss the beautiful fabrics and personal style that comes with residential. 

I hope you enjoyed this look in the world of commercial design.  Hopefully I can post some projects soon!

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