Category Archives: Jacqueline Duncan

Do You Need A Degree To Become An Interior Designer?

The foundation of a pioneering centre of design education has involved much determined enthusiasm and perhaps a benign ignorance in terms of the pitfalls that accrue over the years in any endeavour.   Over some sixty years of involvement in this absorbing subject I have learned a great deal about the requirements of design education and the practice of the profession.   Thus the basics of the Inchbald philosophy have been refined over time and can be summarized under these six main headings which are the stated aims of the college.

It is the Inchbald responsibility:

  1.   To provide a professional education for those who wish to work in high-end Interior Design or Garden Design
  1.   To teach the skills of ongoing learning so that students continue to extend their knowledge both culturally and technically after the Inchbald experience.
  1.   To inform students of the Designer/Client relationship and to identify the psychology of empathy in such a relationship
  1.   To expose students to the experience and perspectives of senior Designers
  1.   To encourage work experience so that students may learn the realities of studio work and methodology
  1.   Finally to develop the individual skills of each student with emphasis on the fact that style/fashion is secondary to talent and inspiration.

The achievements of the Inchbald Alumni are internationally renowned.

The work of the Inchbald alumni is evidence of an extensive variety of talents and skills.   There is no uniformity in their achievements, only the shared experience of a structured education together with a considered introduction to the profession and its major practitioners.   Henrietta Spencer Churchill is the doyenne of the English style, Tatiana Tafur an innovative artist designer whose work has a myriad facets and Kelly Hoppen is a master of sophisticated modernity.   They are all very successful and very different;  but  together with many hundreds of Inchbald alumni these are people who have built on a sound educational basis to develop their own inimitable style.

Principal Alan Hughes takes particular interest in the designer/client relationship;  “it is vital” he remarks, “to demonstrate to the student how they may develop their own ideas whilst taking note of the client’s background, experience and taste.”   Contrary to much opinion in the art world, there is no-one who lacks taste, however that taste may be judged.

“Once identified, personal taste or choice can be engaged and developed further, so that the space reflects the client’s attitudes;  it is the designer who articulates those attitudes in order to coax experience and opinion into a robust and coherent result.”

This fundamental lesson encourages the students, not only to accord their clients the privilege of their own views but serves to expand the young designer’s thought process and perspective.

I have always taken the view that we can learn and benefit from the brilliance of past designers who have laid down principles of style development which it is impossible to ignore.   The history of design is the very grammar of the profession and I was saddened at the last BIID General Meeting that the audience did not seem to have assimilated the importance of this learning source.   Is the Parthenon not significant in the development of Western architecture?   Is Morris not still regarded as a master of pattern and weave and do we not still use his designs to this day?   Surely then these forerunners of today’s designers are more than worthy, indeed are vital, to the study which involves not only styles through the centuries but also the technological developments that accompany all innovation – and innovation is the very essence of design.

The technological advances of the recent years have been startling in the celerity with which so much has been achieved but these advances are not limited to the last two or three generations – what incredible and unsung engineer in 3,100 BC master- minded the movement of the stones of the blue mountains of Wales to Dorset, what brilliant Japanese mind devised the system of stone cutting which built castles with perfect joins, the stones processed off the site?

No matter how talented, how experienced, how successful, we have a great deal to learn on a daily basis and learning is surely the greatest joy.

This article first appeared in Interior Design Yearbook 2017

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A Retrospective on the History & Trends of Interior Design

In the half-century and more that I have been instructing young interior designers, the metamorphosing pattern of fashion and styles has been constant and in some respects spectacular.

In the late 20th century reaction to all the deprivations engendered by WW2 gave rise to a desire to reclaim what was lost in terms of luxury and stability. Coinciding as it did with the peak of John Fowler’s career, this dictated a return to classicism, which negated all the progressive elegance of the thirties and gave us instead The English Style. So Adam and his successors were re-visited with enthusiasm, the English antiques market boomed and America fell in love with, and bought, all things English to such an extent that someone remarked that we would ‘soon be a country of brown furniture’. I discounted this at the time (the sixties) but how right was the prophet!

Finding elegant furniture and artefacts of the 18th and 19th centuries is now difficult. At the top end of the market there are indeed marvellous furniture and objects available to those with a deep purse – at the bottom end dealers are now left with what are termed collectables, an all embracing class of items sometimes put on sale under the title “Interesting”.

Christie’s catalogues crystalise this odd situation. On the one hand a startling collection of items are included annually in an important summer sale; entitled the Exceptional Sale, it features exceptional items at very exceptional prices. Few of the bidders come into the category of young householders so one must assume that this is a market for new money or determined collectors. The same saleroom classifies a more modest event as the Interesting Sale, featuring objects which thirty years ago would have been identified as “objets trouve”, a phrase first used by travel writer Rory Cameron to describe his passion for casual eclecticism. There seems to be little in between these two extremes and, with now limited resources, it is hardly surprising that designers are uninterested in returning to the elegance of the 18th and 19th centuries or the snobberies invoked by what became the English Country House style.

The fact is that even reasonably good antiques involve care and cost. Insurance may be involved, they may require increasingly expensive restoration and they are certainly not child friendly. Before the advent of the dishwasher one thought nothing of using good china or glasses, no longer a practical option. Most families now are run by two working parents, indicating that anything at all that cuts their workload, enhances and extends family time and reduces the responsibility involved in inanimate objects is the way forward. Bedclothes are out, as are chandeliers – modern product designers writing a brief dictated by their own lifestyle have given us so many brilliant alternatives to alleviate work and save time that there is no incentive to complicate life. American lifestyle long ago dictated that families need living space which is all-inclusive, and so the kitchen moved into the sitting room, allowing the whole family to pursue play and work together. Thus the hostess can entertain and cook, and still enjoy the last joke and the final martini.
Which does sound as if we will have to go to Museums to see the great designs of past years; no bad thing, even if it does transform personal enjoyment into a learning curve.

As for fashion, it is gone before it is established. Style, which underlies all great design, will endure, becoming eventually the heritage of tomorrow and will join the lexicon of innovation now preserved so carefully by English Museums.

Meanwhile all the young designers are looking forward rather than backwards, which is just as it should be.