Interior designers, at least those I know, recognize well-designed spaces. We understand the effort that goes into each aspect of a room, and see how the whole exceeds the sum of the parts. Even when the style does not match our personal aesthetic, we appreciate the complete picture. So too, when we evaluate a poorly designed space, we see where it falls short — be it functionality, color, texture, scale. It's not meant to be judgmental, it's more an occupational hazard — we can't shut it off. But what none of us can see without direct knowledge is the ultimate link between all the parts — the client.
I think successful interior design has tangible personality — and that personality should always be of the people who inhabit the space, not the designer. How do you explain, to someone who has never experienced it, the added value an interior designer brings? That ability to instill completely personalized solutions versus the "room in a box" one can purchase at a major retailer? I think it is human nature to seek out the familiar — hence the proliferation of chain stores and catalog furniture retailers. But have you ever looked around, a little dissatisfied, and thought "is this all there is?"
It's an intimate business, interior design. And there are a lot of people uncomfortable with intimate relationships. Those people are going to be happier picking from the limited menu at their local store. No need to open up to anyone about how they live or want to live. Pick one from column A and one from column B and call it a day.
For people who are not afraid of a new experience, the design process can be eye-opening. It's a chance to explore and examine your own personality, wants and needs, along with those of your family, and see it all made manifest. It can be a little scary to unveil so many aspects of yourself, but freeing too. Interior design at its best is about communicating personality — yours, not your neighbor's or your mom's or that guy in the next cubicle at work. Clients who recognize and embrace that are always the happiest. They enjoy the journey and the destination.