As an interior designer, you’re not only expected to make spaces look good, you’re also responsible for making sure they’re safe and meet various building codes and architectural specifications. You may sketch out those plans, choosing the materials, furnishings and decorations, and then overseeing the installation. To keep all these tasks in order, you’ll rely on a wide range of tools, both electronic and physical.
Old-school designers use drawing paper and large rolls of architectural paper to draw up their plans, noting where every curtain should be hung and where proper lighting is needed. Since computers now dominate the design production process, most modern designers rely on a variety of computer aided design, or CAD software programs to create the diagrams, sketches and plans needed by architects, painters and other service providers on the job. To get the customer’s approval before finalizing the details, you might use a program such as SketchUp, Olioboard or Icovia that give the viewer a full-color mockup of how the space will look when you’re finished, notes the website Designer Marketplace.
Choices for the paint, furniture fabrics and wallpaper are made between you and your client. While you can make recommendations based on your experience and training about which colors might work best, you still need to take into account your client's preferences as part of the final decisions. To do this, you’ll rely on swatches. Paint stores provide you with cards showing the paint colors and their corresponding complementary neighbors. Furniture manufacturers give you swatches of the actual leather or fabric for the furniture, which you in turn bring to the client.
Interior designers like to get a feel for a space by taking their own measurements. By doing so, you also insure that you get the measurements right and don’t have to rely on someone else for the precise numbers necessary for your design recommendations. A measuring tape is a tool that most designers keep close at all times; it becomes second nature to stick one in your jacket or purse every time you leave the house or office. You need the tape to measure everything from the space between the cabinets, to the amount of space between pictures on the walls and the exact dimensions of windows.
As you oversee the installation of art, cabinets and lighting, you can generally rely on the workers to hang everything properly. Most likely though, you’ll be following close behind with a level to double-check their measurements. Nothing spoils the final look of a room than a hallway mirror that’s crooked. Shelving, sconces and pictures also need to meet your exact measurements. You truly can’t detect the spacing without checking the installation with a level.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."