Decorator or FF&E Interior Designer?

Restaurant interior design

Considered by many as the pretty side of the interior design process, FF&E (furniture, fixtures & equipment) has a major role in the whole design course of a project. Contrary to what some believe, it’s not all about cushion fluffing and pretty pictures, it involves so much more.

We are often referred to as to a decorator or a stylist which is far from the reality. There is a vast difference between an FF&E interior designer and a decorator or stylist. An FF&E interior designer is a fully-fledged interior designer with an additional speciality. They are responsible for all moveable entities placed within a property. Anything that’s not permanently fixed. Though there are exceptions such as decorative walls and ceiling fixtures which, although fixed, still fall under the FF&E sector as a decorative item.

FF&E is a comprehensive sector within the interior design process, it’s not a different department or occupation and all interior designers should be able to understand and achieve a design package as a whole, including the FF&E.

It’s reasonable that some designers will have a preference for and more knowledge of the technical side of design, space planning, architectural, hard finishes and design detailing; while others prefer to work more with the softer side of the design. But realistically one cannot work without the other if the aim is to achieve a successful end product, space or project that works well. Any good FF&E designer should be able to understand and be able to achieve a complete design package inclusive of all hard finishes, planning and the overall design.

I personally am against the division of these disciplines in a practice. All interior designers should be able to understand and enjoy the complete design process, to have a reasonable knowledge of hard finishes, sanitary ware, ironmongery as well as the soft finishes. It is also a lot more satisfying when you can manage to put it all together.

For FF&E to work it is essential that designers are present at client meetings early on in the process. They must always take the client’s needs and the operator’s requirements into consideration as a priority before starting any kind of concept, presentation or documentation. Most importantly, and particularly in hospitality design, the operator’s standards and guidelines must be adhered to.
To achieve the maximum success during any design process and after in post-contract and construction stage, both ID and FF&E must work closely together as one entity with the same vision and goal. FF&E is as much significant to a project as any other architectural hard finish. You can have nice walls, floors and ceilings but if you don’t add a touch of FF&E the overall experience of the space can be boring.

By Tania Hoppe, Senior Interior Designer