January 29, 2021

What Interior Designers Actually Do


When you hear “Interior Design” what comes to mind? Paint colors? Furniture? Decor? As Interior Designers, we often find ourselves faced with misconceptions about our profession. We have encountered everyone from potential clients, colleagues, and even family members who are each primed with the same question, “What do you DO?”

Maybe the confusion stems from television shows that portray interior design as a beautifying process that’s done in an hour or maybe it’s the crossover of services between interior design and architecture? No matter the source of misunderstanding, we want to provide a resource for anyone with questions about what role we play in achieving a safe, functional, aesthetically pleasing space. Below is a list of tasks that fill an Interior Designer’s day and a broad overview of the services that CWG Interiors offers:


Programming/Planning: Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Although he probably wasn’t referring to Interior Design programming, this sentiment rings true. During our time in design school, we learn how to effectively gather information from owners and stakeholders to get a thorough understanding of the project before we ever begin designing. Good programming ultimately saves everyone time and money on future revisions. This process starts with in-depth conversations between designers, owners, and the people who will use the space. We collectively discuss the “must haves” of the space, timeframe for completion, budget, restrictions, and ultimately how the space should function and feel. Our training as interior designers allows us to process the information, organize it, and incorporate the different functions into a design. This process is fun for everyone involved, so if you have an idea that you want translated into a project, let’s talk!

Space Planning

Space Planning: Space Planning is exactly as it sounds, planning for space. Seems straightforward, right? But think about everything that happens in a single room, yet alone in an entire building. Between equipment, built-in cabinetry and shelves, walls, furniture and leaving space for people to move comfortably within those elements, the list of what happens in a space is endless and we plan it all out in compliance with building codes and regulations. Designers receive formal education on how to organize and plan for all these elements. Space planning starts with defining zones (public, private, etc.) of an area and activities that take place within those zones (sleeping, cooking, etc.). Then, we begin organizing each of the required areas into a space plan. For example, a good space plan would place a library far away from a noisy gym or keep a dining room near a kitchen. Space plans are reflected in a drawn format, which leads to the next service – Floor Plans.

Floor Plans: A floor plan is a drawing that shows a bird’s eye view of each level of a building, without a roof, from about 4 feet off the floor. These drawings are scaled and dimensioned, which means they have accurate measurements depicted throughout. Floor plans show where walls, doors, windows, plumbing fixtures, cabinetry, stairs, etc. will be located. Furniture layout and changes in finish can also be shown in these drawings. These two-dimensional documents help owners and designers realize how a person or group will move around the building. Floor plans are simply detailed maps of the space plans we create.

Finish & Furniture Consultation: This service is probably what interior designers are known best for, though it’s only a small portion of what we do. Interior finishes are the paint, tile, flooring, cabinetry, hardware, etc. that are seen throughout a space. All the finishes that are applied within a building are selected at some point. We prefer to iron out these details during the design process before construction begins because having these selections made before the project goes out to bid can give our clients a more accurate idea of the project cost. Interior designers have received training on how to select finishes that are not only timeless, cohesive, and beautiful, but also appropriate, durable, and functional. We complete several continuing education units per year that help us to decipher which are the best finishes to specify in our projects. For each type of stone, wood, carpet, or artificial material, there are thousands of options to choose from. We also work with many furniture suppliers and have established relationships that help make the selection and procurement process easier for our clients. A designer’s job is to make sure there is a balance between what the client wants and what we know they need.

CWG Rendering

Renderings: Renderings are a great tool to make the visualization process and spatial understanding easier for our clients. A rendering is a 3D image that uses the computer-generated model to depict what the space will look like once it’s constructed. Renderings can vary in degree of realism from life-like, photo looking renderings to just linework drawings. These images show how varying proportions, colors, and materials affect the feeling of the space. Renderings give a much clearer idea of what the end-product will look like and help identify any design issues before it takes on a physical form. Renderings can also be made into videos where you can virtually “walk-through” a space. We love this service as much as our clients do!

Construction Documents: Construction documents are a clear, easy-to-read set of instructions that tell a contractor how to build the finished product. It will specify every element of the project from structure to paint colors. Construction documents include a final set of floor plans, elevations, legends, details, schedules, sections, and specifications that will be used for contractors to assemble step by step. This drawing set is the tangible “deliverable” that we give to you and your contractor after the design is done.

Site Visit

Project Management: Project management is keeping a design on track from conception through construction completion. Interior designers manage their own projects, working with architects, outside consultants, contractors, and clients to form a team with all these stakeholders. We collaborate to balance the three factors which are present in any project: schedule, cost, and quality. Project management requires skilled communication and organization to ensure a successful outcome.

Contract Admin

Contract Administration: This service is important because it’s essentially all of the “back-end” work that has to happen in order to get your project done according to plan. During the process of contract administration, our main job function is to support the owner and use our knowledge as interior designers to make sure the best outcome is happening for our client. Contract administration includes things like bidding, site visits, submittals (product review), and project closeout. This work helps us to remain an advocate for our client once we have turned drawings over to a contractor and the various subcontractors that will actually build the project.

If you still have questions about interior design, give us a call. Coincidentally, many of us Interior Designers go into this field of work with an unclear idea of what kind of tasks will fill our days. Architects and Interior Designers both perform many of the services mentioned, but in general interior design is just a differently specialized service than architecture. Architects have an amazing ability to look at the big picture, and Interior Designers get to dive into the fine details. We design from the inside-out and they design from the outside-in. One example: some architects place windows where they work the best on the outside of the building, Interior Designers place them where they make sense from the inside of the room. At CWG we work together to find a solution that works for both the interior and exterior from the start of a project.

CWG Interior Designers

CWG Interiors Team: Tyece Pool & Megan Miller

Still have questions about interior design or want help with a project? CONTACT US.