"Well, you're the decorator..."
Thats what my client said to me, as I cringed on the inside and tried to hide the offense on my face. I had spent hours hand holding during this project. My time was spent working with a contractor who didn't understand how to read elevations (like he painted an entire room black y'all...), revisiting stain samples time and time again, and reassuring the client that the end project will be beautiful through countless emails, text messages and even face-time. So when my client who works with designers on regular occasion and has great taste called me a decorator, it felt like an insult.
I've been in the industry of design and construction for four years now and I am still called decorator from time to time. So what constitutes a decorator and designer? Some people say a degree or certification. Others might conclude that a designer is touching "structural elements" in the sense directing the moving of walls, drawing the layout of kitchen cabinets and appliances, or picking out tile to go on bathroom walls. And don't even get me started on the difference in commercial vs residential designers.
What I have realized is that when it comes down to it, no one cares what you or anyone calls yourself. Your title could be Senior Designer, decorator extraordinaire, etc but your work is what sets the tone for who you are as a designer. What is great about this industry is that there are so many opportunities and facets to design. I have met designers who absolutely become undone when it comes to textiles. All they want to do is pair perfectly curated fabric to your upholstery. On the other side of the spectrum are more technical designers, who enjoy the understanding and application of building codes. The beautiful thing too is that those two instances don't have to be separate. For some people it is, and thats great. Singling out your passions and talents as a creative, will allow you to focus in on what your brand is in this industry. As a whole though, designers/decorators get to put on many different hats. As a "type A" realist, I get to work on budgets and organization but can easily switch to brainstorming bathroom layouts or pairing quartz countertops with kitchen backsplash options. If I were to address my roles/titles under my email signature it would probably look something like this.
Interior designer, interior decorator, hand holder, project manager, entrepreneur, problem solver, Revit designer, home decor consultant, pillow enthusiast and collector, paint color specialist, midnight sleepless list maker, budget balancer, marketing, mental catalog for furniture and decor, bargain hunter
...and I'm tired.
My identity as a designer is that I get to work in a field that I love, which not only is fun (like many people often tell me once they find out what I do for a living) but very hard. My sweet husband has incredible patience as I have been sorting out this journey and transition to owning a business. Lots of weekend client meetings, late hours at the computer and lots of tearful conversations when you realize you don't know why you are crying and then its like "oh wait ... I'm not mad, I'm just exhausted." Once you have that ownership of producing great work, you no longer care about what title someone calls you. You determine the respect and response from your client.
I realized later that the initial comment of being my client's "decorator" was not at all an insult. He was trusting me with the common problems of managing a construction site, selecting finishes, AND most importantly communicating with me when things looked a little hairy. The honor was in the ownership, opportunity and relationship, not the title.
Molly Sellers - Decorator