The Decorators and the Landscapers

Consider these reasons to hire interior design experts or landscape architects.


When your job nears completion, you may want a couple of other pros to come in and help with the finish. I can’t emphasize enough, however, that you should arrange for their services well in advance of the last broomful of sawdust being swept up and out.

One more point before you skip over these paragraphs: Decorators and landscapers are no longer just for rich people. On the contrary, they work mostly for middle-class folk who aspire to attractive settings, indoors and out, within which to live their lives. No, they’re not essential. But I firmly believe good design always adds value and polish to a job.

The Interior Decorator. Your architect may be willing to consult with you on your interior decoration if you wish. He may be able to get you trade discounts, too. If the time involved is simply a matter of a session of “What do you think about this?” and “How do you think this fits with that?” then your architect is likely to regard it as part of his basic services.

However, if you want him or her to help you find what you want, to explore possibilities for you and with you, you should expect to pay a price. An hourly fee is probably best. Establish up front what the rate will be and what the estimated number of hours are.

You may do better with a specialist, an interior designer with specific training and experience. There’s a great variety of designers out there, and the good ones have great skills at blending colors and textures and can do wonders on limited budgets as well as large ones.

Selecting one is quite like finding an architect, in that you must make a judgment that you can work with the interior decorator, that the decorator’s tastes and yours are compatible. There are interior decorators who are in the business to satisfy themselves. That’s fine, supposing your taste coincides with the decorator’s. Get a decorator who comes well recommended, whose work you admire, and who seems inclined to listen to what you say.

Decorators are not licensed, but membership in one of the professional organizations like the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) or the Institute of Business Designers does suggest some level of achievement in the business. Membership in those organizations requires three or four years of postsecondary education, at least two years practical experience, and completion of a written and design- problem examination given by the National Council of Interior Design Qualification.

Another reminder on timing: All too often interior designers arrive about the same time as the moving vans, when their appearance on the scene should be as early as possible. If you are planning to hire an interior decorator, he or she can be of maximum value to you if consulted before {ill the decisions are made on finish materials in the house. Most architects are quite willing to work with decorators, as their skills are compatible with one another. The earlier the interior designer is involved, the greater your chances of ending up with a carefully coordinated, coherently planned and decorated home.

The Landscape Architect. An experienced landscape designer, who may be a landscape architect or a veteran hands-on professional, can do for your site what the interior decorator does to the interior. He or she decorates, too, only the raw materials are bushes and trees and plants. He also has an architectural function in that he may advise you to add a stone wall, to regrade portions of the yard, or to make other topographical changes in its configurations.

A fully trained landscape architect will have studied horticulture, history, and engineering; the experienced landscaper may have less book knowledge, but years of experience in what plant material survives in your climate and what doesn’t. The landscaper’s expertise will extend from which perennials will survive in the shade to the design and placement of retaining walls and drain lines and paved areas. The talk will be of hardscape, plantscape, and landscape.

A landscape architect, like an interior designer, is not a requirement on every job. If your home project involves only the interior, obviously the landscape architect isn’t critical. Even if you are concerned with your yard, your architect or even a local nurseryman may provide you with the guidance and materials you need. But don’t underestimate what a professional design consultant can do in making the most of your property.