Tuesday, November 9, 2004

Home in on Interior designing
Biswajiban Sharma

Often we want to spruce up our homes: We want to change the ambience or give a new look or feel to our surroundings. However, we have no inkling how to go about it. It is at times like this that we turn to interior designers or the make-up men.

Interior designing is all about maximising the visual impact of an enclosed space through optimum use of colour, light and space. Subhrangshu Gupta, a Delhi-based architect, puts it in perspective: ''There are many aspects of interior designing, but the most important is functionality of space, proportions of scale, colour and light.''

Bereft of jargon, interior designing is all about arranging the living space. Be it at home, in office, in a retail shop, showroom, hotel, airport, exhibition hall, conference center, theatre, TV studio or a commercial establishment.

However, the designers operate within certain parameters. As per the wishes of the owner, they decide what colour a room's walls should be, what kind of fabrics should be used, and how furniture should be arranged. They then coordinate the colours of curtains and floor coverings and select art objects for the walls. In search of a perfect aesthetic and artistic ideal, they spend their days sifting through masses of fabric swatches and paint chips. The primary objective is to create an environment that is beautiful, comfortable and functional, keeping in mind the "look" a client wants.

Decorators vs designers

Interior decorators are frequently confused with interior designers, but there is a glaring difference. Designers must be professionally trained and possess a bachelor's or master's degree. They are more likely to work on important large-scale projects for clients who are keen on certified professionals. As against this, decorators do not necessarily have formal training and are not certified. Moreover, they are strictly concerned with the decorative aspects of interior space, focusing on furniture arrangement and ornaments etc. Most of them work on a small scale, furnishing and decorating private homes. Some of them, however, have carved out a niche in designing bathrooms and kitchens. Whatever the case, both designers and decorators must have a solid grasp of building codes and be able to handle all kinds of materials with adroitness.

A distinction also needs to be made out between art and design, as far as academic pursuit is concerned. Both are altogether different subjects. However, if a prospective art student is imaginative and has the aptitude and interest in engineering drawings, it is a bonus. Design is more about engineering drawings and three-dimensional thinking. CAD, digital photography and 3-D are some of the latest trends. Employers have a preference for those who have the requisite technical skills. However, computer is only a drafting tool and does not help in firing your imagination or in developing a concept.

The interior designers work in a wide range of settings - both commercial and residential. There are specialists, too, who undertake projects only in the hospitality or health care sectors. At the other end of the spectrum, there are designers who restrict themselves to designing restaurants or residential kitchens and baths. A few work in highly specialized fields like designing interiors for airplanes or yachts or undertaking historic conservation or restoration.

Skills for success

A professional's fortunes depend on his ability to satisfy his clients. For this, he must possess interpersonal and management skills apart from artistic and technical acumen. Remember, a designer has to analyse the clients' wants; develop miniature designs; obtain client feedback; develop and present the final design; choose materials like furnishings and fixtures; and supervise the implementation of the final product.

Incidentally, many people enter the field with no formal interior design education. Gradually, they get the hang of their work by attending courses, surfing the net, browsing through literature, and talking with retail professionals. However, interior decoration is becoming an intensely competitive field and decorators who have obtained a design degree from an accredited institution have an edge in the job market.

Course clues

One can take the plunge by joining a five-year degree course in Architecture. Interior design, it needs to be noted, is a part of architecture. Although there are a few institutions that offer a one to two-year course in interior designing, they teach you only the basics and do not facilitate the opening of a consultancy in future.

A strong portfolio is, therefore, essential for landing a job and finding clients; students should have photographs of their finished works. Following graduation, interior designers can work under the supervision of a certified designer or architect. This gives them the necessary exposure and embellishes their portfolio.

The most important thing is the ability to understand the client's need and translate his preferences into actual designs. At the same time, the designer has to keep in mind the trends in fashion and technology. An artistic and creative ability is also essential, as you may have to present the dummy or the miniature to your client. In addition, you need a fluency in communication.

Money matters

The pay package for designers varies depending on the type of assignment, whether they are self-employed or salaried, number of years of experience, reputation, demand, regional differences, and other factors. The initial start is poor at Rs 10,000, but in no time junior practitioners are raking in the moolah. Many designers and decorators are self-employed. However, if they desire, they can join architectural firms, hotels, resort chains, studios, theaters and exhibition organizers.

The job market is lucrative. In the present housing scenario and with more and more MNCs flocking to India, there is immense scope for interior designers. The service industry is always looking for fresh talent. The spurt in demand for designer homes, offices, restaurants and the like has spurred employment in this sector. But eventually designers who are well-educated, have strong business skills as well as talent and perseverance are likely to fare the best.

The following institutes conduct the course on interior designing:

  • J.J. School of Arts, Mumbai

  • The Indian Institute of Architects, Navi , Mumbai

  • School of Interior Design, Centre for Environmental Planning Technology, Ahmedabad

  • SNDT Women's University, Churchgate, Mumbai

  • Sophia College B.K. Somani Polytechnic, Bhulabhai Desai Road, Mumbai

  • National Institute of Design, Paldi, Ahmedabad

  • National Institute of Fashion Design, NIFD Campus, Chandigarh

  • Spectrum Institute of Design B-78, Defence Colony, New Delhi

  • South Delhi Polytechnic for Women, Lajpat Nagar-IV, New Delhi

(The list is not exhaustive)




“Interior designer must stick to client’s budget”

 An interior designer par excellence and winner of the Bharat Nirman Award, Anita Gupta, a Delhi-based architect-cum-interior designer, has a number of acclaimed projects to her credit. She was also among 15 best architects honoured by the Italian Government. She has done up a shopping showroom in Estonia and a few projects in Italy, among other things. Excerpts from an interview:

How did you get into interior designing?

After completing my plus two, I joined the Chandigarh College of Architecture for a five-year B.Arch course. I felt this was just the right line for me. After completing the course, I worked in two firms — Sengupta and Ansals. Later, I joined Gupta Associates, which my husband owns.

What makes you tick?

I love to interact with clients. To keep pace with the rapid technological strides, I keep upgrading myself. This is the vital thing that every prospective interior designer should keep in mind. Also, an understanding of the clients’ needs and ability to provide solutions within their budget helps. When I design, I put myself in my client's shoes.

What is the scope of this profession?

With the proliferation of MNCs in India, the demand for designers has grown rapidly.

How paying is this field?

The average salary is about Rs 10,000 a month. But a top professional can earn more than Rs 3-5 lakh a month.

How can one be creative, given the modern-day space constraints?

This is exactly where your innovative designing ability comes in. One should try to use the space effectively and change the negative spaces into useful zones in the house.

— Biswajiban Sharma