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Career Paths and Specializations for Interior Designers
An interior designer’s day-to-day work life can follow a variety of paths, depending on his or her interests, training and aptitudes. No two designers are alike, and each brings something unique to the space that they are creating or enhancing. Below are just a few career paths and specialized training options.
Basic or Early Career Options
For designers just starting out, or who have chosen to get the most basic level of training, work may look a lot like that of an interior decorator. Many interior designers work in the furniture departments of department stores, helping customers coordinate furniture, rugs, lamps and accent pieces for their homes. Large home improvement stores offer full-service remodeling and renovations. Interior designers at these places work to help clients choose flooring, tile and fixtures that will fit their budgets, meet the specific needs of their families and fulfil their aesthetic desires. Kitchen and bathroom upgrades are some of the most popular renovations, both for clients staying in their homes indefinitely and for those hoping to add resale value to their homes. This is an area in which a specialized kitchen and bath certificate or degree could be very helpful.
Many new housing developments offer a set selection of home exteriors and layouts, and the buyer can pick the colors, flooring, tile, fixtures and other features before the house is built. Interior designers work with buyers to map out the look of their new homes using available choices. Working within somewhat strict parameters such as these carries less risk and responsibility than handling a complete build-out.
Interior Design Work for Those with More Technical Training
On the other end of the scale, the work of many certified interior designers looks a lot more like architecture: imagine a large, empty commercial building. To take something like that and turn it into, say, a medical clinic requires some specific skills and knowledge: electrical and lighting requirements for all equipment, specialized ventilation systems, managing sound transmission between treatment and reception and office areas, accessibility for staff and clients, and compliance with all local safety and environmental codes. Designers who create an interior from scratch will work closely with contractors, plumbers and electricians, and need to be able to create and read blueprints.
Specialization Options for All Interior Designers
Interior designers can specialize in private homes, lodgings such as cruise ships and hotels, medical facilities, institutions such as schools, libraries and other public buildings, or commercial spaces like stores, salons, restaurants or offices.
Beyond the primary purpose of a space, however, interior designers can also specialize in meeting other criteria that can be just as important to clients. An advanced degree is not required to pursue a specialized certificate or to work in a specialized field of interior design. Many specialty certifications are available to designers with varying levels of formal education.
Sustainability is an important factor in the mission plan of many corporations, municipalities, schools and private businesses. Some clients want to demonstrate their green credibility with a LEED certified building or space. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is overseen by the United States Green Building Council. LEED is most often used for entire buildings, but when a client is just occupying part a building, or only has limited control over it, LEED for Interior Design and Construction is a great option. Designers can train and test to be certified as LEED ID+C Designers. Interiors certified by this program are rated on efficiency, sustainability and how healthy the created environment is for its inhabitants.
Universal design is the concept of designing living spaces so they can be easily enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities. Several organizations offer courses and certifications in universal design. One such certification that is appropriate for interior designers is offered by the National Association of Home Builders. This certification covers designing spaces that are both functional and attractive, locating equipment and other resources, and finding solutions for multiple needs. NAHB also offers certification for Aging in Place Specialists. Aging in Place is a similar concept that focuses specifically on designing homes that will function well throughout the lifespan of their residents. Many people hope to stay in their homes for the duration of their lives. Aging in Place design modifications ensure that this can be done safely and comfortably, and makes life easier for family and caretakers as well.
Kitchens and bathrooms are the most often renovated and can be the most expensive areas of a home. The National Kitchen and Bath Association offers a variety of certifications to those who want to be able to assure their clients that they truly understand the complexity of creating a comfortable, safe, functional and beautiful kitchen or bathroom.
Interior designers may also specialize in areas such as lighting and windows. For facilities such as theaters, galleries, museums and stadiums, specialized knowledge on these topics is extremely valuable and in high demand. The same applies to furniture. Those who plan on investing a great deal on furnishings are happy to pay for the knowledge of an expert.
An interior designer’s career can take many different paths, and pursuing a particular specialty while maintaining general skills is a great way to become a valuable resource for your employer, or to create a niche for you to fill if you are working solo. ?Interior design professionals can provide needed services in one or several of the many different disciplines that fall under the interior design umbrella.