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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Interior design: the what and why

What can set interior designs apart from the rest

When one thinks of interior design, a few things might come to mind. One of these things might be a curious head scratching that may occur if you speak to someone from the STEM field. Perhaps it is a girl with a wildflower tattoo telling you how much she appreciates the Urban Outfitters home decor section. Another could be the absolute mania of going to IKEA with your housemates for the first time. But what exactly is interior design? 

Interiors are a relatively new discipline in the professional creative world, but the history of the medium extends far beyond what one might have thought. Going all the way back to ancient times, Egyptians would decorate their mud huts with animal furs to add a pop of color and some visual appeal in a time before the living room was just a place for people to fight over what movie to stream. In 17th-century India, architects hired to create grandiose displays of wealth and stature were subsequently tapped to craft fitting interiors. In the Western world, with the rise of the bourgeoisie and their thirst for opulence in the 18th and 19th centuries, the role of an interior designer became more and more prominent. 

The actual craft of interior designing, however, is something that often confuses people. Is it really just arranging things in a certain way? Well, yes and no. Victor Reyes, a fourth-year biological sciences major, said interior design is the personality of a home — it’s like an art that is essential but often forgotten. 

It can simply be arranging things in a space, sure, but will it look like a place that inspires a reaction in you? Probably not. Many students at UC Davis who aren’t in a design field have nicely decorated homes. 

“I think interior design is really important for personalizing your space and making it as useful as possible for your specific needs,” said Kevin Pack, a third-year computer science major.

Indeed, as design is a solution to a problem, interior design tackles how to meet needs within a space.

This is to say you don’t need to be an interior designer to create attractive spaces to spend your time in, but the indispensable knowledge of color, space, object, material and atmosphere are the things that set apart spaces from just simply being to being simply great. This knowledge is the edge that interior designers have, a set of principles and disciplines guiding them to create efficiency and emotion within a space. 

The art of good interior design, then, like any other school of design, comes down to two universal elements: talent and taste. These are what separate designers from specifiers: those who can create a space versus those who simply like to look at catalogs. 

Talent is the secret sauce to being confident in your work, no matter what discipline it is. Ironically, in the world of design, it is something that emerges only from throwing yourself fully into your work. It is not as inherent as many people would lead you to believe. Taste is something much more subjective, however, so the only real definition one can give it is the commitment to an aesthetic, or a school of aesthetics. Pairing a mid-century modern Eames chair in an office with a Scandinavian glass table might seem like a good idea, but an interior designer knows better. Mid-century modern furniture emphasizes warm, inviting colors with an organic styling to them. A cold, harsh glass table would invariably clash with something like that. Now, perhaps at very high levels an interior designer would know how to tweak this room so that both could fit harmoniously, but that would be a challenging puzzle. 

The beauty of interior design is that anyone can try their hand at it, and many of us probably already have. Decorating a freshman dorm, a first apartment or a house for a party are all examples of this. Remember that time you put twinkly lights over your Polaroids in the living room? That’s interior design. What about that time you put that succulent on your table? Yup, interior design. When you fought with your housemate about the placement of the rug? Notch one up for interior design, baby. Although they’re all very micro forms of it, you are still designing and crafting a space for yourself. And that is the very essence of the discipline, from its inception. Elevating a space is a beautiful thing.

Written by: Ilya Shrayber — arts@theaggie.org

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