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March 10, 2009


The relatively new makeover craze, revamping everything from people's personal lives to their cars, has played an important role in interior design also. Through shows like Extreme Makeover Home Edition and the emergence of large public design stores such as Expo Design, Home Depot and The Great Indoors, middle America, not the traditional design audience, has become more aware of the benefits of an aesthetically pleasing environment. Everyone is trying to cash in on the decorating buzz. Even La-Z-Boy, not usually known as a bastion of high design, has teamed up with fashion designer Todd Oldham to present a fresh new face for their products and appeal to a more discerning audience. Stores like Target are marketing to this clientele, enlisting the help of fashionista Isaac Mizrahi and architect Michael Graves to design products more appealing to hip, value-conscious customers. What effect this mass marketing of design will have on the traditional interior design industry remains to be seen, but one top decorator believes that high-end residential design is actually in trouble because of this new trend. "People are getting the dangerous notion that you can really create a beautiful home in a week on a limited budget,"she says.

In April 2003, Interior Design magazine also addressed this concern: "Featured budgets on these programs are generally low, and often omit the cost of professional labor. What viewers don't see are the backstage designers and contractors on staff, ensuring that inexpensive supplies are translated into aesthetically pleasing "stage"furniture, accessories, window treatments, and wall coverings. Watching these shows gives viewers the idea that design projects can be done quickly and easily; this does a disservice to viewers by creating unrealistic expectations when projects become real." While it is unlikely that television shows will cause would-be design clients to try and tackle projects on their own, they can create an unrealistic expectation of speed and perfection.

President of ASID Kathy Montgomery notes that only a small portion of the population enlists the help of interior designers. Availing oneself of design advice tends to be reserved for those with incomes of $70,000 and higher, and since only 6 percent of the American population falls into this category, designers are actually appealing to a very small market segment. Within this 6 percent, only 4 percent has ever hired an interior designer. The remaining majority of the population is either beautifying their homes by themselves, or with minimal assistance from in-store designers at shops like Home Depot and The Great Indoors. It's important to keep this in mind as you consider a potential career in the design industry. As the market moves toward a more do-it-yourself design attitude, hiring traditional interior designers may become less frequent. This may mean more positions in retail and sales, and fewer in traditional interior design roles.

At the start of the millennium, Interior Design predicted the growth of online home furnishing sales and the public availability of once-exclusive showrooms as factors that would play a large role in the future of interior design. Obviously, the role of a designer could change drastically if once off-limits sources suddenly became openly accessible, since the consumer would no longer need a designer to gain access to certain products. Of course, there are many affluent customers who are not going to fire their designer and head to Home Depot for a lesson in paint color selection. The niche market of rich clientele will never disappear, but the mass market will need to be monitored carefully.

According to a forecast by the National Association of Home Builders, the housing market for new homes and remodeling of existing homes is going strong. They project $192 billion in remodeling spending for 2004. American Institute of Architecture economist Kermit Baker notes that significant growth is expected in many commercial areas, such as health care, criminal justice and academic facilities. As our society becomes even more mobile, hotels and travel destinations will require more help from the commercial interior design community also, since design services are critical to many projects within the travel arena, such as spas, restaurants, bars and hotels.

In the residential sector, demand for high-end homes for single and two person households is expected to increase, as is dramatic growth in the number of people aged 40-60. These baby boomers, born between the years 1946-64, are the largest cohort in American society and they will have the most money of any group in American history. As they age, they will become a key market for interior designers, who will want to discourage them from embracing the do-it-yourself mentality that's currently so popular. In a research study conducted by ASID in 1999, baby boomers were more likely than younger respondents to have completed house-wide renovations, and to rate the appearance of their home as extremely important.

Another factor affecting the home and design markets is the huge number of houses built in the post-World War II boom era that will need renovation soon. In fact, two-thirds of the 110 million existing homes in the United States were built in the time period, so the number of home renovations should see a sharp increase in coming years.


Filed Under: Workplace Issues