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Why should I hire a Registered Interior Designer?

Hiring a qualified Interior Designer for a project is an important step, no matter the size or budget, whether you are renovating an existing space or building a new one.

ARIDO Registered Interior Designers in Ontario have extensive training in designing interior spaces. They are skilled and experienced through a rigorous path that includes a four-year degree in Interior Design, supervised work experience under a qualified Interior Designer, and the successful completion of the North American Interior Design exam, NCIDQ. This is similar to other professions like Architects, Lawyers, and Engineers.

Interior Design is about much more than just the way a space looks. Through the interior design process, a qualified Interior Designer can help you realize your goals and make the interior environment functional, accessible, and attractive. They also ensure that the design of your space complies with all regulatory and legal requirements such as Ontario Building Code (OBC) and accessibility standards.

A qualified Interior Designer ensure building permits are submitted correctly, and the design is implemented properly by a contractor or construction team.

Interior Designers specialize in one or more sectors, from residential to corporate/commercial interiors, stores and restaurants, schools, public spaces and more. If you’re in an interior space in the province, especially a public one, you can bet an Interior Designer was involved.

What is a Registered Interior Designer?

The Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario (ARIDO) is the professional association representing Interior Designers in Ontario. Only registered members of ARIDO are authorized to use the designation ARIDO and the title Interior Designer in the province. All Registered Members are required to:

  • Comply with the Ontario government’s qualification and registration requirements under the Ontario Building Code
  • Maintain professional liability insurance
  • Participate in ongoing regular professional development
  • Comply with a professional Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice

If your project with another individual takes a turn for the worse, you may not have much recourse. However if your project with a Registered Interior Designer runs into issues, you can rely on their expertise to address them, or alter the design so contractors and construction teams can build it properly.

The Association also has a Complaints & Discipline process for members which addresses these issues. It is rare for these processes to be called upon, in 2019, there were no active Complaints or Discipline cases open.

Find a Registered Interior Designer in your neighbourhood on the ARIDO Directory.

Hiring a qualified Interior Designer

Getting started with a renovation, whether it’s for a home or a commercial project, can be daunting. It can feel like there’s too much advice out there, and not enough information. To minimize risk and save money in the long run, get started with a Registered Interior Designer from the start.

Take your time

To ensure your project is a success, take time to carefully review and explore your options. Think about what your priorities are for the project, your needs, budget, timeline, and style. When you have a list of what you need, you can reach out to qualified Interior Designers for your project.

A Registered Interior Designer will assist in managing your project right from the start and will explain the design process, their work schedule, and ask you in-depth questions about your needs. Before hiring and working with an Interior Designer, you should feel comfortable with the individual and their approach to the project.

An important piece of a successful project is a focus on quality in the selection process. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about their past projects, technical competence, methodology etc. Often, an interior designer will bring their portfolio, or send you links to some of their previous projects and will always be pleased to share about their experience and past work.

Consider your needs

As a client, you can be open with an interior designer about what your needs are. It’s okay to have a finished project in mind, the interior designer is there to bring your vision to life in a way that considers your needs and budget. You have a list of features you want or don’t want in a finished project.

Quality-based selection involves comparing candidates based on such criteria as:

  • Have you worked on similar projects in the past? Tell me about one or two.
  • Tell me about some of your recent projects.
  • Do you work with a team? Will you be my main contact for the entirety of the project?
  • Do you know contractors or construction teams? Do you have preferred contractors?
  • How do you plan out a project? What do you think is a reasonable timeline for this project?
  • Other factors like an interior designer’s creativity, vision or innovation can be important factors for a client.

All Registered Interior Designers must know the Ontario Building Code (OBC), an interior designer’s understanding of the Code can come in handy when your project has very clear needs and hazards.

Check References

Asking for references of past clients is also a great way to gain a better understanding of a qualified Interior Designer’s work. Questions like, Were you happy with the final project? Was a timeline given to you accurate? Would you work with the Interior Designer again?

Taking some time to do this groundwork before signing a contract and spending money on a project can prevent headaches and added costs down the line.

Get it in writing

A Registered Interior Designer will always set out the work to be completed in a written contract and make sure you understand the details before signing and starting work. Take the time to review the contract and language before signing anything, and you can even have a lawyer review it as well. Avoid individuals who insist on working with cash or a handshake agreement, as you have no method of recourse if the project hits a snag.

You can always find a list of qualified Interior Designers across Ontario with the BLOG//ARIDO Directory.

An urban oasis in the Beaches

Just a few blocks from busy Queen Street East, on a tiny corner lot, the clients engaged the design team to create a serene oasis which felt sophisticated and urban, with the comfort and coziness of a cottage.

Interior Designer: Cathy Garrido, ARIDO

Design Firm: Altius Architecture Ltd.

Photographer: Arnaud Marthouret

The main living spaces are situated on the ground level as the owners wanted to see what is happening around them and feel part of the action as passersby head to the beach and surrounding amenities. From the second floor, the owners needed a more private dwelling, with separation from the bustle around them, especially in the master bedroom. There, they wanted a private space to relax that also had extensive windows and light.

The clients had several must-haves for the rooftop space, an exercise pool, outdoor kitchen and barbecue area, and entertainment areas which didn’t interfere with their private space. Although they entertain often, they emphasized the need to maintain distinctly private family areas in the dwelling. The owners also had an art collection that needed spaces and rooms with simple backdrops in which to best show it off. In terms of interiors, they had a bright but warm space in mind, simple but with interesting details.

In the finished home, interior and exterior flow together, with windows south, east and west, and generous balconies. Sunlight floods in, while balconies provide shade from the hottest sun. Wood soffits and siding add a natural, modern beach house feel.

The ground floor has a strong connection to the busy street. The second floor has a quiet family room and an outdoor balcony where the owners spend their leisure time in the evenings. The master suite on the third floor has an outdoor terrace overlooking Kew Gardens, and provides privacy and quiet for relaxing and recharging, despite expansive surrounding windows.

The rooftop has the desired exercise pool, outdoor barbecue, and kitchen. Stairs from second-floor balcony enable entertaining without cutting into private space and provide special access to late-night swims and sunsets over Toronto from the master suite. When trees are in full bloom, the rooftop is a forest treehouse instead of a city home.

Interiors are completed in a bright palette. Gas fireplaces and lower ceilings provide cozy space for both entertaining and family time. A plaster tile creates texture through the stairwell, and hidden lights add drama. Custom grey-stained oak cabinetry wraps the entryway and kitchen and hides a powder room. Large walls on the north side provide optimal surfaces for hanging art.

The home has a simplicity that feels warm and inviting and creates a feeling of intimacy and coziness. It is the perfect oasis in the city for its owners.

This project is a home away from home for families

Originally completed in 2011, this 100,000 square foot, five-level ‘house in a garden in the city’ provides a home away from home for families and their seriously ill children coming to Toronto for specialized medical care.

Interior Designer: Anne Carlyle, ARIDO
Joint Venture Collaborator: Robert Davies, OAA, Montgomery Sisam Architects
Design Team: Alanna Drawson, ARIDO
Design Firm: Carlyle Design Associates Limited
Project Photographer(s): Tom Arban, Stacey Brandford, Angus Fergusson, Virginia Macdonald, Donna Griffith

Designed to reflect and support the house’s compassionate mission, ‘helping families to heal better’, the building provides all the facilities that families need to make the house their own: communal living, kitchen and dining rooms, games and playrooms, a library, a variety of activity rooms, a school, and 81 family suites.

True to guiding design principles, the house is open, warm and welcoming, full of light and connections to outdoors. Public spaces are grounded with wood and stone and punctuated with walls of lively colour. Finished with one of three quiet palettes, each family suite is a restful retreat within the building.

The use of warm, vibrant colours in corridors energizes the three upper levels, and transforms the building into a beacon of glowing coloured light, visible across courtyards and from the street.

Exterior night time view of Ronald McDonald House with floors painted in red, orange and yellow forming a gradient.

Furnishings throughout – a varied and eclectic mix of contemporary, custom, traditional and old/found – add colour, texture and character; like a family home that has been lovingly furnished. Two sheltered exterior courtyards are equipped to support both family dining and quiet outdoor lounging.

Common living room space at Ronald McDonald House with red rug and green seating.

Over 300 works of original art – commissioned, purchased and donated – were selected for their special meanings. Highlights include a lyrical wrought-iron entry gate, expressive courtyard and rooftop sculptures, paintings by children at the house, and others by adults living with disabilities, a collection of paired aerial and detail photographs hanging in all the suites, one of Toronto’s iconic moose and a family of sculptural “whimsies” – funny, fantastical creatures – that inhabit the corridors.
This project was a seamless four-year collaboration with the architectural team, after establishing the design principles with stakeholders. Donations poured in from suppliers to support fire safety, sustainability, indoor air quality, accessibility, durability, cleaning and skilful integration into the design scheme.

View from interior to exterior courtyard with additional view down a hallway.

The completed project is a critical success, called “a remarkable hybrid of grace and civility designed to function as an urban hotel and as a refuge of wellness.” by Lisa Rochon of the Globe and Mail. More importantly, one of the first family visitors said, “I cannot believe the amount of thought put into every detail, . . . it’s above and beyond anything I could’ve ever imagined.”

Contrast and luxury are on display in this understated jewellery boutique

Located in Toronto’s Liberty Village, Carnabys is a jewellery boutique that offers unique collections, bespoke designs, and personal assistance to those who wish to design their own jewellery.

Interior Designer: Johnson Chou
Design Firm: Johnson Chou Inc.
Project Photographer: Ben Rahn / A-Frame Inc.

The project extends the existing corporate branding, employing black as the predominant colour, while the overall design is intended to convey the refined, bespoke nature of the business. The space is both a jewellery boutique with display cases in a composition that allows multiple options for visual merchandising, and a design studio, featuring versatile cabinetry to delineate more intimate consultation spaces within a retail environment.

Created as an extension of the corporate branding with black as the dominant colour, the space is intended to convey the artisanal, bespoke nature of the business, and is an exercise in restraint and a study in contrast. Contrapuntal concepts include: dark and light, heavy and weightlessness, textured and smooth, refined and found.

Pioneering the open plan office

In 2015, Jones Collombin approached Altius Architecture to design and manage the construction of a new office for their growing wealth management firm. When space became available in the architecturally significant TD Centre towers, with soaring views of downtown Toronto, the client seized upon the opportunity.

Interior Designer: Cathy Garrido

Design Firm: Altius Architecture

Photographer: Arnaud Marthouret

Jones Collombin sought meeting rooms of various sizes, private offices, open work stations, as well as the back of house spaces to support them – such as a print room, server area, employee kitchen, reception and waiting area, and cloak cupboards, all while preserving the views from the historic office tower to the outside.

A man sits at a desk with a wall of windows.

To address their largest challenge, the design team placed desks around an open plan and adopted a clean, modern aesthetic for the new interiors. The travertine of the elevator lobbies migrates into the reception area, Teknion glass and plywood partitions create necessary separations of spaces, while maintaining the sense of an open office. A light coloured, neutral palette and sophisticated lighting creates bright interior spaces that don’t feel devoid of natural light, despite the deep floor plate. Every desk has skyward views and access to natural daylight.

This project was completed in 2016, at a time when many offices didn’t prioritize equitable access to natural light for all employees. Such access to natural light and views has proven positive effects on employee wellbeing and promotes productivity.

The historic importance of the building can’t be overstated, designed by original star-chitect, Mies van der Rohe, the TD Centre is a stunning example of the International Style of architecture that swept through the 1960s. Jones Collombin’s office maximizes the stunning views of their TD Centre offices while ensuring each employee can enjoy them.

A hidden extension opens this home with lofty brightness

The clients approached the design team after purchasing a tired property north of Toronto with a compartmentalized floor plan. The design team was tasked with improving the flow, adding space to the main floor, and creating a second level to suit a retired couple and their daughter who visits occasionally.

Interior Designer: Danielle Campbell, ARIDO
Design Firm: Danielle Campbell Design Inc.
Photographer: Worker Bee Supply

The clients had a clear idea of what they wanted in the space, lots of natural light and an open layout, a large kitchen, a comfortable master suite with ample bathroom space and a walk-in closet, all done in a soft colour palette with punchy accents.

The design team had their work cut out for them, literally, as the existing ground floor was divided into three long, narrow spaces, front to back. They added a 10’ by 20’ addition at the back of the house with an open cathedral ceiling. Originally, the clients had envisioned extending just the middle space on the ground floor to house a breakfast nook, however they were persuaded to expand the extension to the whole floor for symmetry and added space. Covering the cathedral ceiling in the extension with shiplap added a natural feel to the space.

The client’s love of cooking and entertaining guided the kitchen refresh, and they specifically requested that the design team maximize backyard views from the kitchen. The wall between the dining area and kitchen was removed for more kitchen space and greater flow. In the dining area, the team removed the brick fireplace, in favour of a sleek corner unit, clad in stunning porcelain tile.

The client’s existing artwork was incorporated in the finished design along with a chandelier they already owned. Their calm and detailed personality also inspired the space, creating a home that is functional, bright, and welcoming.

What is a qualified Interior Designer?

You wouldn’t get dental work from someone on the street, nor would you get just anyone to help you in a divorce. So why would you hire an unqualified person to complete your interior design project?

The Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario (ARIDO) is the professional association representing Interior Designers in Ontario. Only Registered members of ARIDO are authorized to use the designation ARIDO and the title Interior Designer in Ontario. ARIDO ensures that Interior Designers are highly trained through a rigorous process of education, experience and examination.

All Registered Members are required to:

Complete Education and Experience Requirements
To become an Interior Designer, students must follow a rigorous path of education in a four year Bachelor of Interior Design degree.

Supervised Work Experience
Graduates then must complete a minimum of 3,520 hours of supervised work experience under a qualified practitioner.

To complete their qualifications, Interior Design students must pass the NCIDQ examination, the National Council of Interior Design Qualification, which is the industry’s recognized indicator of proficiency in interior design principles.

Maintain professional liability insurance
Because of the responsibility of their profession, Interior Designers must maintain professional liability insurance, just like doctors, engineers and other titled professions.

Participate in ongoing regular professional development
As a practising Interior Designer, Registered and Intern members must regularly complete professional development with specific requirements on learning about Health and Safety, the Building Code, Accessibility, Occupational Safety, and Health administration.

Comply with a professional code of ethics and standards of practice
ARIDO’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice outline how Registered Interior Designers must comport themselves in their work, on issues like contracts, maintaining confidentiality, and other matters that protect the public.

Comply with the Ontario government’s qualification and registration requirements under the Ontario Building Code
In addition to the above requirements mandated by ARIDO, qualified Interior Designers are trained in and have extensive knowledge of the Ontario Building Code. The Ontario Building Code is the legal framework that governs all building in Ontario. From renovation of existing buildings to new builds, every building in the province must comply with the laws that are set out in the OBC. Because of their work to build and renovate interior spaces in Ontario, Interior Designers must have a strong and current knowledge of the Code.

A modern space keeps the future in mind

Interior Designer Karyn Faryna was engaged by her client to modernize their outdated 1970’s bungalow for a bright, open concept home.

Interior Designer: Karyn Faryna, ARIDO

Project Photographer: Ryan Fung

The client also sought features that would add value such as a new ensuite bathroom, an expanded kitchen with an eight foot island and added pantry storage, keeping potential re-sale goals in mind. Finishes, furnishing, and materials are an eclectic mix; transitional meets modern with Scandinavian influences, including the white walls and white oak hardwoods throughout.

The project was not affected by COVID, it was completed before the pandemic. Existing plaster walls and ceiling were removed in the solid brick construction home. A central load-bearing wall that divided the living spaces was replaced with a twenty-two foot support beam to achieve a large spacious main living/kitchen/dining area -perfect for entertaining.

New framing and custom built-ins in the master bedroom were added to make space for a new ensuite, much more desirable for re-sale in this space.

A serene modern bedroom with two white built-in closets and a bed made up with throw pillows.