Interior Design or Decoration, are they same ?

by Susweta Dutta & Abhishek Dutta, Principal Architects, ArcOn Design

Very often, interior design is confused with decoration - a misconception that comes with a lot of prejudices and misunderstandings. The decoration with choice of coverings, upholstery, non-functional decor elements, colors, and finishes are important aspects of interior design. But true interior design is much beyond.

In India, understandably, the priority and affordability for a designed space and its associated benefits like a healthy environment for body and mind, ease of functioning at the optimum level, ensuring comfort conditions for longevity and mental freedom, comes much later after fulfilling the basic needs of Roti, Kapda aur Makan (Bread, Cloth, and Shelter) which took us generations struggle under colonial rules over centuries. Thus the profession of architecture and Interior design took much longer to become relevant to a common man.

And in the process, in the absence of a regulatory authority like the western countries, anyone with grossly inadequate know-how of building started calling themselves Architects (which was finally regulated after The Architect Act 1972) or Interior Designers (Institute of Indian Interior Designers, IIID, are now in a process of regulating the profession, awaiting Govt. nod).

In some cities general interior contractors or even carpenters and painters, false ceiling vendors call themselves designers. As expected down goes the market standard, design quality expectation and role definition of a qualified Interior designer.

So what exactly is the role of a Qualified Interior Designer ?

First, it is essential to have an understanding of the macro-environment where the interior sits, the architecture, the interrelation of the spaces, relation with the exterior environment or landscape if any. A good Interior Designer must understand user behaviors and desires to create functional and aesthetically pleasing spaces. The organization of movement is a starting point, which can be achieved through basic layout manipulation. This division of space can be accomplished through walls, but also through furniture and even objects.

At the same time, interior design must pay attention to comfort conditions (whether thermal, lighting, or acoustic), as well as ergonomics, which dictates the best dimensions for furniture and objects.