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13 Interior Designers & Decorators in Soweto

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What do interior designers do?

There are many people who deem interior designing and interior decorating as the same profession. In truth, these two terms are not completely interchangeable, for even though the two jobs have many similarities, there are also quite a few differences – some subtle, others more significant.

To firmly draw a line between interior designers and interior decorators, let's divide these two professions into three categories: education, special skills and when to use one.

  • Education: Formal training is required to become an interior designer. The majority of universities and colleges in South Africa offer courses specialising in interior design, with the relevant tests, exams and projects that need to be passed. For the individual to graduate as an interior designer, an official diploma or degree is required.
  • Special skills: Space planning forms a large part of an interior design education. Any professional interior designer must be able to conduct an in-depth analysis of how a current space (from a house to a hospital to a shopping mall) is being used, as well as any functional changes that should occur during a remodel. Changes will usually include things such as altering the layout to achieve better usage of the space.
  • When to use an interior designer: If you are working on a remodel and need guidance that go beyond aesthetics / the visual beauty of the space. Interior designers are trained to redesign a space from the ground up, make it more beautiful and practical while keeping in mind the day-to-day activities that need to occur in said space, plus juggle working with the right contractors for the project (such as lighting experts and floorers).

What do interior decorators do?

  • Education: As interior decorators are more concerned with the decorative details of a space, there is less of a requirement for a standardised education. Although a university education can certainly help, there are also various online courses that teach the basic skills required for interior decorating. However, a lot of interior decorators also choose to undergo some sort of training program that teach them the foundational principles of interior design.
  • Special skills: Aesthetics is the keyword for interior decorators. From selecting colour palettes and purchasing new décor to arranging furniture in a certain layout and hanging wall art, it's all about prettifying a space.
  • When to use an interior decorator: If you want to zhoosh up a space via furnishings and décor, yet don't have the time to handle it on your own. An interior decorator is also ideal for when you need another pair of savvy eyes to help breathe new life / style into a room or home.

Which one should I hire?

Choosing whether you need an interior designer or an interior decorator depends on your needs. If structural changes are included (like moving plumbing/wiring around or adding a new door or window), then an interior designer is the better choice. Part of interior designers' training is the basics of structural changes and how to work directly with architects and builders.

Should no structural changes be necessary, yet you require help with the visual look of a space (like choosing new wallpaper, picking window treatment, and changing the lighting of a room), the skills of an interior decorator is recommended.

Keep in mind that, in the end, choosing the right person will depend on the skills of the professional and not their job title. As already mentioned, many interior decorators undergo additional training to teach them the basic knowledge taught to interior designers. Likewise, many professional designers spend most of their time on decorating jobs that involve no renovation or structural work.

Thus, don't be afraid to bend the rules and hire a decorator with a reputation as a great designer, or pick a designer that has a knack for decorating.

Why do I need an interior designer if I already have an architect?

Architects are trained to design all kinds of buildings. Interior designers, likewise, also have strong spatial skills, and a lot of them also receive training in the fields of architecture and construction.

Both professionals bring a certain set of skills to a project. However, the main difference between these two professions is:

  • Architects are responsible for designing the interior and exterior spaces of a structure, as well as the spatial relationships within a building.  
  • Interior designers need an already established interior space to do their job and add aesthetic value. True, some designers are capable of helping to choose the exterior colour choice of a building or the type of window styles, yet their main responsibilities are on the inside of a structure.

In the end, the question of whether you need to hire both an architect and an interior designer for a project will depend on your scenario. If you are looking for interior design assistance on an already built structure, then an interior designer's services could certainly help. And if you need a house or an extension built from scratch, an architect becomes the more important professional for the job – hire the interior designer if you need help with the interior look and feel.   

What is the sequence of phases that a design project will go through?

The type of project for which a designer is hired will dictate the sequence of events and actions required. However, for a general interior design project (such as a bathroom renovation), the structure could be something like the following:

1. Client consultation: Meeting with the client to identify their needs and objectives. The relevant measurements and photos are taken and questions are asked regarding the usage of the space, equipment requirements, etc.

2. Schematic design: The focus is on space planning and furniture layouts. Rough sketches and elevations are drawn up, and recommended furniture/finish ideas are developed and presented to the client.

3. Design development: Once the client approves the schematic design, the designer starts detailing floor plans, elevations, and related items. Furnishings, fabrics, and colours are chosen and cost estimates are prepared for the client's approval.

4. Construction documentation: Flooring, paint, lighting and fixtures are selected, and plumbing locations are chosen. Bids are obtained, the relevant contractors are selected, and purchase orders are issued.

5. Construction administration: The final phase includes building and installing, during which designers are onsite for quality assurance checking.

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