Saturday, September 14, 2013

What do Interior Designers do? A behind the scenes look at a day in the life of an Interior Designer

People often say, you must have so much fun doing what you do.  Yes, I do have fun and love what I do.  Going to showrooms, meeting with clients and planning their home, designing furniture and window treatments, picking fabrics, trim, tile, cabinets, lighting, paint, accessories and more, is just part of what we do.
Image courtesy of Carole Fabrics

We also spend time at seminars to stay current with what is going on in our industry. We meet with contractors and go to workrooms, go on installations and do lots of paperwork, follow up and trouble shooting.

Today I thought it would be fun to document a typical day of the less glamorous part of our profession.  So here goes.

I started my day at Home Depot.  I needed to pick up a set of "ready shades" or temporary shades that we hang in windows when we are waiting for the shades or blinds.  In this case it is a shutter issue.

I ordered shutters to fit my client's new impact glass French doors to replace the old ones that no longer fit.  All she needed were the shutters for the doors.  They had to match the center rail on the side light panels.  Guess what, after waiting over ten weeks the new shutters did not match up!

They didn't even match up on the bottom.
So today I am meeting with the installer to remove the center panels and go over the measurements.  He will take them back to his shop where the shutter company will pick them up and have them altered. Hopefully this will not take another ten weeks.  They promised one week but I am not holding my breath.
Luckily all the installer had to do was remove the center panels and not the whole frame of the shutters.

Temporary shades now come in black out as well as white.
Next I was off to meet my seamstress to give her a work order and fabrics for a large pillow order.  We often meet at various places since her shop is 45 minutes away.  Today we met in the  Burger King parking lot.  It was 92 degrees in that parking lot!
We went over the order together and checked out the density of the down/feather pillow inserts I had ordered. 

Tip: Always use an insert that is at least 2" larger than the finished size of the pillow for proper fullness.
In this case we may also wrap the pillows with dacron to give a bit of extra plumpness.

My seamstress looks over the bolts of fabrics.
On to the upholsterer I go. This is the 3rd time I have gone there to consult on a pair of French chairs we are having recovered for a client.  The seats sink quite low and we need to make sure the newly upholstered chairs have a firm, but soft, seat with a nice crown.

Note: A crown is the raised center of a seat cushion.  A seat cushion should look nice and full but still sit softly without collapsing.
The first time I went to check out the seats we determined that one problem was the webbing in the seat of the chair itself.

While this is not our client's chair, it does show how most chairs (sofas and many benches)
have a webbing such as this on the bottom to give support to the seat.
 The next time I went they had redone the webbing and now we wanted to see if the original cushion would now be ok, but it wasn't.
Also the fabric we were using as the outside of the chair is a reversible fabric and they wanted to confirm that we actually wanted to use the back side. It is not always good to use the reverse because sometimes the weave is too loose.

This is a large and very busy upholstery workshop. It always seems chaotic but they turn out beautful work.
This time I went to see a new cushion they had made.  Since the old cushion was a "spring down" construction, it would have been good to be able to make use of it. That type of cushion is high quality and costs extra.  However even wrapping the old cushion with additional foam did not work.  It made the cushion too high.

The solution: a new 4" foam core with a large wrap of down.  It sat very nicely.  I gave it my personal "tush" test.
Here is the partially completed chair with a sample of the new cushion in the construction stage.
While I was there I saw the new lumbar pillows (small retangular pillows used in the lower or "lumbar" space of a chair or sofa) and decided they needed to be down filled instead of the dacron fill they had used so they will switch it out.

Back to the office to fax in the approved measurements to remake the shutters.
Yes, this is my old fashioned fax machine but it works and I like it!
Then I needed to speak with my delivery service concerning a delivery I want to schedule for next week.  There are still 2 pieces of furniture that were not recieved so for now I will email all the delivery instructions and wait for them to email a quote and schedule delivery.

I do have a fun day planned for tomorrow with my business partner and a few of my designer friends, but I need to confirm our stops with a few showrooms before heading out in the morning.

Next I call one of my lighting showrooms to let my consultant know I will be in later to place an order, have a bite of lunch and head to the computer to work on another blog post that I started yesterday.  I also need to email some pictures and a quote to a client for custom framing for some photographs for her guest room.

In between are several texts and calls to and from my partner about various jobs and to confirm our plans for the rest of the week.  We are meeting a client on Saturday but we need to stop in a showroom tomorrow to get samples for her backsplash project.  We are also taking her to look for accessories for a powder room we just completed but we need to check out the showrooms first.  There is alot to do in advance to prepare for appointments. 
My partner is going to take photos and measurements of the spaces that need accessorizing. 

This floating glass shelf  needs some pretty accessories. What would you put on it? Would you hang something on the wall underneath? or above?
Tip: Always bring photos and measurements of the areas you are decorating  with you when shopping for anything such as, area rugs, art, florals, lamps, accessories even furniture.  It is also good to bring paint and fabric swatches.  Having all this with you makes decision-making a whole lot easier.  Not only does it help you but it also helps any sales person who is assisting you.

My next stop is to a local lighting store to return a recessed spotlight that did not fit.

 This showroom features mostly contemporary fixtures and all the types of bulbs too.  They have the best selection of pendants on display.  I call them "Pendants R Us".

        They also have a nice selection of recessed lighting fixtures.  Here are just a few.

In one of our projects the new spot light was too white against the painted ceiling.

The white just stood out like crazy.  The one we ended up with is similar with a chrome ring.
Since the adjacent pendants are polished chrome we decided to replace it with a chrome trim kit.  The kit I found was very sharp looking but did not fit so we used one our eletrician provided.  It looks so much better than white.

This would have looked great if it fit. But the one the electrician found is nice.

On to another lighting showroom, Capitol Lighting.  It is my "go to" showroom for lighting.  Not only do they have a huge selection, but my lighting consultant is so experienced and helpful. She makes my life easier.  Capitol also has a great website  Although there is nothing like seeing a fixture in person, they offer so much more on their website.  I can also email my clients the info right from the website. Today I will order a fixture for a client in person.  The fixture is on display so I can take one more look to be sure.  I can also see what new items are available there for future projects.  I have another client who needs a dining room fixture, so today I will spend extra time looking for her.

For me Capitol Lighting is a fun place to shop for lighting, however most people find it overwhelming when they see hundreds of chandeliers, lighting fixtures, mirrors, accent furniture and accessories.  Sometimes it takes the experienced eye of an Interior Designer to sort out the best options for a design project.  Having a savvy lighting consultant is also a great help.

I hope you have enjoyed a peek at behind the scenes.  Interior Designers have to wear many hats. Frequently we do hire assistants who can do some of the "running" for us, but many times we need to be the one on the job site or in the showroom to make the decisions that will determine the success or failure of a project.  As you can see there are numerous details, details, details.

Stay tuned for future posts that will show some of the results of the projects I spoke about today.

Would you like to hear more from "behind the scenes" in the world of interior decorating and design?  What designer secrets do you want revealed?  I am happy to share my experiences and insights with you.

As always I invite you to share your ideas, experiences, and questions in the comment box below. You can also email me at .

                   Happy Decorating!


  1. nice article on interior designers it is very interesting and useful, thanks for the post.
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  2. Naresh, I am very excited to have you following my blog all the way from India. India is such a beautiful and inspiring country. I would love to know more about you and your country as well as the Interior Design industry there. Thanks so much for your very kind words.