Thursday, March 1, 2012

Topic of discussion: Blogger decorator or professional interior designer?

A few days ago, I came across a good post about personal branding written by Jennifer from the popular DIY/ design blog, Rambling Renovators. In her post, she mentioned about "finding your own niche and establishing yourself as an expert" and a few other tips. Honestly, I haven't really thought about establishing my blog as my personal brand. Interested, I clicked on the comments to read about the discussion further. Click here to read about the topic.

Anyway, as I was scrolling down to read the comments, I found one particularly interesting commenter sharing her thoughts. Here is what she said:

"I love this advice...but that first line of establishing yourself as an expert is something that irks me a little. I watched the CBC doc The Trouble with Experts. It's really interesting and looks into the issue of all of us becoming a generation of people that relies on experts. Getting off track. As someone who is actually putting in the time, money and hardwork at school to become an interior decorator, I find it troubling that a lot of design bloggers (who are not professionals) see themselves as experts. Experts at blogging yes. Experts at gaining an audience and admirers yes. Experts at renovations and DIY yes. Design expert no"


Jennifer's reply to her:

"I actually have a differing opinion on the blogger vs designer debate (not that I think there should be a debate at all -- I think there's enough pie for everyone!).


But I always think that talent will always rise to the top, no matter your education. You can put all the money you want into becoming a decorator, a designer, a lawyer, an accountant - it doesn't mean that you will be great at it. It doesn't mean you can call yourself an expert. Take Sarah Richardson for example - who has no formal interior design education! She has a B.A. in Visual Arts and worked her way up as a stylist. I don't believe she is a member of ARIDO and can't even legally call herself an Interior Designer. But can she call herself an expert? I most definitely think so. 
There are a few other design bloggers who I would put in Sarah's league, as someone whose expertise I would pay for and whose opinion I would value. Conversely, there are some professional decorators and designers who have the education, who know the tools and the lingo, who I wouldn't trust coming anywhere near my home. I guess I equate "expert" to "outstanding talent" and for me, professional education plays into that only a minor part.
Not to belittle your education - I completely agree there are way too many bloggers presenting themselves as experts - but money spent and education can't be the only determinant of expertise."
What do you think of both comments? Do you agree with either of them? The reader's comment stuck in my head because I have never been to any design school yet I followed my passion and started my own design business (end of last year). I would never called myself an expert but went ahead and start this business because it would bring me joy to decorate for others. Now, my question is what are your thoughts about blogger designers/ decorators who haven't had any formal education in design? Do you think they have less credibility than professional interior designers/ decorators? Would you hire someone like me to decorate your home or do you prefer a professional interior designer/ decorators to design your home? I would love to hear your thoughts.

18 comments:

  1. Wow- what a discussion that was! That one commentator sounds so angry. And for what reason? I believe that true talent stands out and there is so much talent out there and a style for everyone. Going to school and getting a formal design education does not make you a better designer. To quote Vern Yip "Either you have it or you don't. Design school isn't going to teach you true talent." Even some of the best designers who have gone to formal schooling say that the best knowledge they have gained is from actual experience out there with clients. I would hire you, Jessie, and any other decorator that shows their true talent and creativity through their protfolio! :)

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  2. What an interesting conversation! I am a certified interior designer. I studied at a credited university and passed my certification. ( I am a commercial designer ) would I call myself an expert? No! I think experience and past projects is what people look at when hiring a designer. In the residential world of designers, I really do not think schooling matters. It boils down to taste and a good eye. I admire a lot of decoraters that do not have any formal training. I don't think it matters. And to answer your question... Yes, I would love to have you over to decorate my house because I love your style!!

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  3. I wouldn't really mind for the education and the degrees! What I would mind is to see something of her work, the portfolio. This is what would make me hire someone. If I'd take you as an example Jessie, since I've seen your living room and some other mood boards you've created, I've come to the conclusion that we have the same style in decorating and I would definitely trust you and hire you!

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  4. Alas, the timeless debate about designers vs. decorators. Yes, you have to give the designers who paid the price for that degree and put in the grueling hours their due and since I didn't, legally I have to list myself as a decorator. But I also believe talent is talent. You simply cannot teach creativity, so if you have the talent, push through and decorate those homes to your hearts desire. The key for me, has been to put in the time to learn the trade. There are MANY factors to consider when decorating a home and you'll be hard pressed to do a great job and grow a loyal clientele if you don't get in and learn how to do some of that grunt work. Selecting a great paint color is one thing but what happens when you apply that paint and it bubbles and peels because you're applying to a wall that wasn't properly refinished? Can you offer a client a solution for that? A plan B? Not sure we need to be "experts" but I do think we should be make every effort to be knowledgeable about the craft we've settled on.

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  5. Very interesting debate! I live in a country where education is free (university etc) so it is frowned upon here if you haven't got a degree in whatever field you choose. I am however a firm believer in talent over credentials any day, and if the style of the interior designer/ decorator matches what you require - it shouldn't matter whether you have a paper on it or not. You only become an expert by doing something good - for a long time - and only an expert if others believe you are really,
    Great food for thought Jessie - have a great weekend.
    Axxx

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  6. Jessie, there are so many designers with no formal education in interior design, but have education or experience in other areas that have become designers that are some of our best! Some have art backgrounds, dance, stylist,you name it. I was thinking of doing a post on the designers with no formal education and who have risen to the top. I haven't had time, but if you want please go ahead and do it. I think it would be interesting.

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  7. Wow, this is a very interesting topic. Personally, if I were to choose someone to decorate my home I would be looking at their portfolio. If I liked what I saw then I would hire them. I don't know that a degree would have that much influence on me. I have a neighbor who is a high end decorator who has no formal training but is very sought after. Obviously the lack of training has not hindered him. I'm not sure anyone can claim to be an expert in a field. Things are constantly changing and you never really stop learning do you?

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  8. I totally agree with Jennifer. I personally know a few professional/schooled interior designers who I wouldn't let near my house because (not to be mean) but they just aren't very good. I think interior design is one of those things where if the talent isn't there to begin with, then school isn't going to make you stellar. And vice versa, if you've got a knack for it to begin with, then school will just enhance what's already there. I think getting the formal training is wonderful and I personally want to go to school for it someday because I think it'd be good to know the "rules" and why things work together and why they don't, etc. But at the end of the day, I think talent is what matters most, because I don't think "taste" is something that can really be taught. It's like if I were to go to school to do hair- yes I could learn it, and get a degree in it, but I would never be amazing at it. Doing hair just isn't something that I'm naturally good at. So even if I had professional training, someone would be much better off going to "susy-hairdresser" down the street who's had no professional training but is super talented at styling hair.
    Very interesting post Jessie! have a wonderful weekend!!

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  9. Jessie I would hire you, I have seen your mood boards, your living room. I come to your blog for inspiration in my own home. I believe talent is something your born with and can not learn in school. Just because someone is called an expert doesnt mean they really are and if its all based on a college degree, then thats just plain old dumb. A college degree doesnt mean your an expert it just means you graduated.lol. I mean obviously there are lots of details that need to be taught in school that you may not learn on your own except through trial and error. But that just mean its gained life experience. You end up with the same result. you learned it through trial and error and someone else learned it through a book. My Aunt Lisa, myself and my cousin Brittany I believe were born with a talent in design. My cousin Brittany who is Lisa's daughter is the only one who went to college and got her Interior Design degree graduating last year. It has not been an easy start for her starting her own business, but she works on it everyday. My Aunt is big into restoring or rehabbing furniture. Whereas myself I bought a lamp in Tjmaxx and designed a whole bedroom around it, because I loved it that much. I also love rehabbing furniture. I am not looking to start my own business, I just do my home and new fun projects to try. I call on my cousin when I need help or have inspiration block if something is not working. I would hire someone like you who doesn't have a degree but has a passion and innate talent and I would also hire my cousin because even though she has a degree to back it, she also has the same as you a passion and innate talent for it. I believe we hire someone who makes us feel comfortable, heard and sees our vision for our home. Degree or not I want someone who has talent!!
    have a great weekend. :)

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  10. Let's agree that there are some fields where education matters less than talent in order to become an expert. There are already two terms in the above phrase that need more clarification: "education" and "expertise". If by education one means having a sort of a degree acquired by an institution, I think that this a very limited definition of the broader notion of education. Education for me means time, effort, knowledge, and expertise means experience over time. Is decoration the ability to choose a perfect palette of colors and the right spot for the furniture? If yes, then the question is answered. What about the fabrics, the materials and their properties? Knowledge of the history of design, trends and fashion, knowledge of the market? This is not important? Many people have great taste and have beautifully decorated their houses, probably helped their friends. Should they claim they are experts?

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  11. Fabulous post. I have thought about this a lot too. Agree with the above comments. Decorating is about talent and connection with the designer. You have to connect right? You need to see a portfolio and through that the passion. I would totally pick you. I've always wondered myself if I should 'go back to school' and get more 'cred'...as my last few degrees are no where near designing! Great post!

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  12. What a great discussion. I think Jennifer's response to her commenter was spot on. Not only is it something that you either 'have' or you don't, I think it is also a matter of a common vision. Its finding someone who has that great eye and can see things that work for and excite you. Schooling has nothing to do with talent. I would hire you in a second! :)

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  13. This really is a great question! I 100% agree with Jennifer's reply. I think you either have an eye for design or you don't. Money can't generate a talent that may or may not be there. I would for sure hire someone without a formal eduacation in design especially if I have seen their work and I like their style. I would imagine most people would feel the same way.

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  14. I'm going to echo what a lot of other commenters have said: a good eye for interior design not exactly something you can be taught if you don't already have it. If you've "got it" and you haven't been formally trained, that doesn't change the fact that you still have it.

    Even still, as a frequent reader of your blog, I occasionally see professional designers whose styles I don't like. Are these designers "wrong"? I don't think so because individual tastes matter. But the difference between professionals whose design styles I don't like and non-experts whose choices I disagree with is that with the experts, the decisions underpinning how a space is decorated are far more solid, and are based in their training.

    I'm not an expert, I don't claim to be an expert. I just know from my own experience and immersion into reading design blogs the things I like, the things I don't like and I try and put as much of the things I like into my space. Do I think that I've got that eye for design? Maybe a little. I believe that it would not be a waste of my time to take classes for it, but either way interior design is something I enjoy.

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  15. I have a degree in Interior Design. Although my day job isn't in my field, I've had the opportunity to do about 10 design projects now, 2 of which were alongside my brother, a licensed contractor on our parents kitchen, bath and rec room remodels. That said, I don't automatic feel I'm better than thou when it comes to people who don't have a degree. School isn't for everyone. A lot of people end up in a field to realize later that their passion lies elsewhere. I don't blame them for following what it is they really want to do. What I don't understand is the people upset that they can't label themselves as an interior designer vs decorator. To me, it's silly. Let your work speak for itself and call it a day.

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  16. Education counts for something and also experience plays a part in labeling oneself "an expert". I also think if you have a good eye for decorating and designing you just have got it. There is a balance. Nate Berkus also has no formal education, I believe, but is very successful and has a tv show.

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  17. This is with any industry but, the best knowledge is through experience. Even while in school my instructors always said, you'll learn the most once you get your feet wet. I think the whole debate on what label to call yourself & the resentment SOME people have about not being able to is silly. People with degrees shouldn't frown upon those without and people without shouldn't expect people with degrees to be less proud of what they worked hard for. There's room for us all :-)

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  18. I've started to write a post about this a few different times. I'll answer with the great Dorothy Draper herself, "Have you ever considered how much pure stuff and nonsense surrounds this subject of interior decoration? Probably not. Almost everyone believes that there is something deep and mysterious about it or that you have to know all sorts of complicated details about periods before you can lift a finger. Well, you don't. Decorating is just sheer fun: a delight in color, an awareness of balance, a feeling for lighting, a sense of style, a zest for life and an amused enjoyment of the smart accessories of the moment." - Dorothy Draper, Decorating is Fun!

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Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you taking the time to share with me your thoughts, ideas and suggestions. Your comments always, always brighten up my day! So, keep them coming. Have a beautiful day!