When someone tells me “Oh, you’d make a GREAT Interior Designer!” I can automatically tell that I’m having a conversation with someone who doesn’t have a clue about what an Interior Designer is or what a Home Stager is. I have to understand and do understand that the Home Staging profession is so new (founded in the early 1970’s by Barb Schwarz) that most people haven’t heard of it. It’s only fair that I take a little time out to explain the difference between Home Staging, Interior Design and Interior Decorating.
Now let’s get into it!
Home Staging: Staging a home for sale means preparing it to sell on the Real Estate market and can include professional de-cluttering, organizing, cleaning and last but certainly not least – Staging! All of the work involved is done to appeal to the masses (i.e. potential buyers) and because of this, neutral furniture and décor are typically used. There will be pops of color here and there and the goal is for that home to appeal to the elderly Korean couple as well as the Urban Socialite. In a nutshell, a homeowner’s home turns into a product upon hitting the market and staging enhances the marketability and can increase the appraisal value of the home. My first mentor recommended this book by Barb Schwarz to get me started on learning the process of Home Staging. It also includes contract templates that you can customize to your state (have an attorney review them after customizing) and use in your everyday business.
Interior Decorating: There will be times when a homeowner will want their property to appeal to their liking and they may not be interested at all in decorating it themselves. If that’s the case, they can hire an Interior Decorator. That person will receive all of their feedback from the homeowner about what colors, textures and fabrics they like/don’t like and will aim to please that client only. The decorator is typically granted a budget so they can go out and shop on behalf of their client and will bring in furniture and accessories as necessary. It’s also important to note that Interior Decorating can also be called Staged to Dwell or Interior Styling.
Interior Designer: If someone lives in a home and they feel that the current physical structure of that home doesn’t suit their family’s needs, they can opt to hire an Interior Designer. An Interior Designer will work with them to determine what their needs are and will work with at least a general contractor to alter the structure of that home so that it works for the family. What that can look like is knocking down a wall so that there’s more space in a particular area of the home, relocating/recreating a room in a different area of the home or building an entirely new amenity in a home.
Typically involving a 4-year degree, Interior Designers work with building codes, create blueprints, read blueprints and deal with a lot of math. A degree isn't necessary if the person has a lot of experience in the field. In my honest opinion, Interior Design is a commitment because it involves a lot of client feedback, a lot of measurements, having a budget to work with, having a list of reliable vendors you can work with and any one of those factors can change at any minute.
Also, depending on the work that needs to be completed, the projects can last up to 2 years. Anytime you’re dealing with changing the structure of a home, you need to be extremely great at math and have at least 5-10 years of real work experience. I also believe that an Interior Designer can do a great job if they have less experience and have a more experienced designer oversee their work.
If you’re thinking about any one of these as a profession, I would highly recommend that you at least shadow someone who works in each of these fields to see if it speaks to you. Interior Designing, Interior Decorating and Home Staging involve a lot more besides the aesthetics and you’ll find that piece to be a very small aspect of it.
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