Skip to content

Professional decorator = creative + practical

S R photo sue womersley

An interior decorator wears many hats and requires a broad skill set that includes having expertise in many fields including:

  • ergonomics
  • product and material characteristics and application
  • building and construction materials and methods
  • local building code requirements
  • colour and lighting
  • cabinetry construction
  • furniture construction
  • fabric and window covering

…as well as a clear understanding of trades such as electrical, plumbing, tiling, drywalling, painting, gas fitting, flooring.

Practical indeed, but equally creative… to make a space pleasing, cohesive, flow and sing in the eyes of the client. Having the insight and vision as to what a client will love.

Understanding scale, proportions, volume of space, how all of the elements in the mix of a room will combine, where to add details and as important, where to pull back.

Creative. Concepts. Vision. Imagination. Ideas. The intangible, abstract, subjective half.

Practical. Productive. Functional. The tangible, objective half.

+ add a dash of style interpreter, family councillor, budget wizardry and trades whisperer…

clarke and clarke showstoppers

This analysis (or possibly over-analysis) was triggered by an incident with a particular client (well former client – had to fire him!), whom I invested much time and resource and seemingly he was very happy with all of the ideas and recommendations and wished to proceed, but did not wish to pay… huh???!!?? (therefore the aforementioned firing, after some agonizing – hard to do when you are a bit of a pleaser). I purposely keep this blog as a positive place, so I will not expand on the situation, but I know many of you can relate to this, even if decorating is not your profession.

I write this particular post as I feel that there is a general lack of awareness of the interior design profession and even misinformation created by makeover shows and the unrealistic expectations that come from them.

deer run samples photo sue womersley

I feel the biggest challenge clients face is pulling everything together. They have a sense of what they like or want, but not sure how it will all work together in a cohesive and pleasing way. “We need help” is reason I hear most often. A large part of design work is also problem solving …

I have helped clients who have invested large sums of money into updating their home only to be unhappy with the finished result. Wasted time, wasted money and extra stuff in the landfill — all that could be avoided with a professional decorator or designer. Now they LOVE their home, and are my biggest cheerleaders as well as best referrers.

I have also helped clients who intended on selling their home and instead of giving it a little facelift did a full gut renovation due to my suggestions and recommendations as to how better to reconfigure and use the space in their home. Their home is now somewhere they may live in the rest of their lives.

Sometimes, one good idea is all that is required!

decorata sample pix sue womersley

Building or renovating can be an intense and overwhelming experience for clients, as there are hundreds of decisions and so many considerations.

I provide information – I will tell you if you will be on your hands and knees with a toothbrush to clean your grout – then you can make that informed decision. Much too late when you are doing it after the fact because you did not know. Or if you had only known that grout technology has advanced with certain polymers and for a small upgrade, that would never be an issue. I will tell you that certain products will bleach your expensive dark marble counters or that the white marble you love so much will absorb oils and red wines and stain and require maintenance to seal – and as long as you are good with that – you can make that informed decision.

Budgeting is its own artform. I call it a budget dance. Clients often don’t really know how much things cost and the amount of labour. We can work with many budgets, but we need to know what it is to make informed choices for you. It is also how we can get you what is really important to you – like quartz counters – but maybe choosing lesser expensive floor tiles to get within your budget. EVERYONE has a budget, whether it is a suite in an unfinished basement or a $2 million dollar new home. Professional advice for one of your biggest personal investments … something to consider. Hasn’t everyone heard a horror story from a friend of a friend whose project was tens of thousands of dollars over budget?

Tanya + Daren materials 004

Anticipation is another large part, particularly with renovation. While no one has a crystal ball, I always look for potential problems and make clients aware of them. The age of a home can determine things like wiring and plumbing. Subfloors can be an issue even in 10 year old homes, for example. Nothing drives me crazier than these home makeover shows when the designer repeatedly slashes the project because she did not “know” easily anticipated problems, or designs something should be her job to know would not work because the plumbing could not be moved because the joists run the wrong way. Happens all the time on tv! This is why a contingency is set aside.

My profession is service based. The client goes about their day to day life (or we have had clients go on vacation!) and I plan/schedule/source/order/meet/oversee any and all details required from initial concept to completion.


When you hire me or the builder/contractor that I work closely with, you get our whole team of professional trades people who are licensed and insured. I hear countless stories from other people how hard it is to find good tradespeople, who are timely, tidy and on budget. I save you that time of vetting every worker that enters your personal space and monitoring them. I save you the time of gather quotes, comparing the quotes and not knowing if you are comparing apples to apples, what the quote includes and even what are the right questions to ask. I personally know someone who paid $6000 cash for a driveway, only to have a lien put on her home (OUCH) by the subcontractors after the fact as they were not paid. They had to pay them personally (double OUCH) and never did find the original guys — and the husband works in law enforcement.

There is a reason that the Make it Right shows have been going on for TEN years!

all photos Sue Womersley.

Thank you for reading the longest post I have written. I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with many fellow Professional Interior Decorators and I dedicate this one to them!!!

1 Comment »

  1. Very well said, Decorata! If people understood 1/10th of what goes on in a good decorator’s mind, how much time each project takes up in their decorator’s brain, and how much leg work is required finding and sifting through countless samples to pull a great look together, they would realize they were indeed getting very good value for their money. Your point that you might want professional advice for one of your bigger investment decisions, (not to mention the place where you might spend many quality hours of your life) is definitely worth thinking about.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: