top of page

So, what does a designer do anyway?

Updated: Jun 14

Before I sought to become an interior designer, I had a false understanding what it means to be one. I wrongly believed that interior decorators and interior designers were synonymous, and that the job was nothing more than choosing fabric patterns and fluffing pillows. So I wouldn't hold it against you if you ever asked yourself "what does an interior designer do, exactly?" While it depends on the stage of the project, here is a list of what a designer may be up to at any given moment.

Getting to know you. The very first stage of a project consists of learning about you! It's your personal space, after all, so creating a space that meets your specific needs and desires, requires personal attention. A bond is formed between designer and client so that needs can be anticipated, and thoughtful attention can be paid to pertinent details.

Conceptualizing by getting creative juices flowing and developing mood boards. Before all else, understanding how you want to feel in your space is key. Through curating textures, colors, and tones that evoke the desired feeling, we can confirm, by communicating through imagery, that we are indeed on the same page, and can move forward.

Here's my trick: for getting the vibe in tune with the desired vision, I will listen to music that feels a certain way to keep my head in the right space while making my mood board. If the mood board and the playlist don't feel like they belong in the same universe, the vibe is off.

Sampling. Gathering samples ensures finishes won't clash, and will compliment each other nicely. One manufacturers version of brushed brass or antique nickel finish may differ from another, and sometimes a picture on the internet simply isn't good enough to convey that subtle difference. Obtaining a physical sample is imperative for a cohesive color palette and design.

Researching products and technologies for project specific needs- each project has unique characteristics: sometimes you may need a soundproof wall & door, sometimes you might need special lighting. Green regulations limit the flow of water in certain types of plumbing fixtures in specific locations, so a solid knowledge base, and continuous learning is key. Attending seminars, meeting and talking with vendors, and reading up is part of being a good designer.

Measuring existing spaces- vital, yet at times extremely time consuming.

Drafting plans, and re-drafting until its approved by the client. This is my favorite part of the job- it's solving a puzzle of flow, form & function. Sometimes, in a renovation, there is really just one way a room can fit together, so you work with that. Often times, however, there's more than one way to achieve a desired outcome, usually with pros and cons to each, so multiple iterations can be designed and presented for decision among clients.

Selecting, ordering, and tracking fixtures and materials, working with vendors, and working diligently to stay within budget. The selection process is both fun, and tedious. At first glance, it can look a lot like shopping, but there's much more than meets the eye. Let's say you need sconces for your dining room. Depending on how tall your ceilings are, and the placement of said sconces, they will need to be configured a certain way, a certain height, depth, and width. The finish must be correct, and the bulb type must match the warmth of the other lights within the space. Plus, it has to be the right style- and available for the right price. Finding just the right piece can take hours, sometimes days- or even longer- and that's for each and every item the designer touches.

What you see:

What I see:

Achieving a space that feels cohesive, thoughtful, and functional requires investing time in finding just the right pieces, but well worth the effort.

Budgeting. Working within a budget is a challenge, so searching for 'dupes' or alternatives is yet another time consuming task designers do. For example, a client may love the look of teak or mahogany flooring, but only want to spend $4.00 per square foot. That my friends is having champagne taste on a beer budget- but fret not! The designer has some tricks up her sleeve. To achieve the look we have options: engineered hardwood aka plywood with a thin wood overlay, 'faking' the look with stain, and good old fashioned shopping around and negotiating for the best price. Sometimes though, a dupe at a lower price simply doesn't exist- and then it's "back to the drawing board" as they say, where we will search for another workaround or compromise (that still looks great of course!)

Calculating quantities of materials. Also known as "take-offs". Materials are sold sometimes by piece, by square foot, board feet, box, and so on.. it's important to know exactly how much you need, so that the correct amount can be purchased.

Meetings with builders, engineers & tradespeople. The true experts are the folks in the field- discussing feasibility, cost, and best practices is a very important part of the design process.

Compiling information: documents & specification books . Once a design is finalized, plans completed, and products ordered, it's time to gather and organize each plan, elevation, important measurement detail, as well as all pertinent information on each individual fixture and material used on the project, so that the tradespeople can reference whatever information they need at any given time.

Being on call to answer questions from tradespeople: Sometimes clarification is needed on placement, pattern, quantity, or some other aspect of the design. Being on call to speak directly- or visit with the folks on site is essential.

Visiting the job site, from initial visit, to "punch list", site visits are an imperative component of ensuring the design is being implemented in accordance with the design intent.

Photography: when the work ends, there's one final component, and that is to document the jobs success! Some light staging, and photography completes the interior designers work, so that she may add to her portfolio.

Inspiration seeking, for the next project. It never stops. Personally, when I am out and about and "not working", I'm still thinking about design. While out for a stroll, I will notice details of the houses around me and make mental notes, kind of like being on a 'house safari'. Whether in person, in books, or online, admiring the work and craftsmanship of others, and learning about old and new techniques is a constant. A designers wheels are always turning.

I hope this helps to paint a picture of what it looks like to be an interior designer! Of course, if you have questions, or are interested in a consultation, I'm always here to help! You know where to find me ;)

'Till next time,


35 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page