Designing Success

Dorian DeHaan lives in Sugar Loaf, New York and is a Certified Interior Designer, classically trained with professional degrees in interior design and architecture. Both degrees were obtained at the prestigious Pratt Institute in New York City. Recently, we profiled Dorian to discover more about how her innovative techniques have established her as the successful designer she is today.

Dorian DeHaan

Studying in Italy helped to refine Dorian’s connection to architectural classicism, which serves as the foundation of her designs and projects. Decades of experience have allowed her to become a master of her craft.

With more than 30 years of practice, Dorian has evolved her design sensibilities, refining and sophisticating her work throughout the years. Her commitment to detail is exercised in all of her designs and helps to create interiors of magazine quality.

Expertise in the remodeling industry allows Dorian to offer value added services to every client project. Unlike many interior designers, Dorian is very engaged in the entire construction process from start to finish. She says, “I offer my clients a unique design-build relationship, which means I am able to support them from demolition to hanging curtains.” Being an expert in on-site project development allows her to make specific design adaptations relevant to particular details of existing architectural spaces, particularly those that are historical in nature, since designs on paper rarely translate exactly to the existing architecture of a site.

“Clients should be able to rely on me exclusively for execution of the entire design-build process.

Designs are created, implementation plans are formulated, project teams are organized, and installations are commenced” says Dorian. She prefers a fully engaged approach. This allows for greater control of a smooth and detailed transition from the design concept to the fully completed interior spaces.

Concurrent with the installation process, Dorian works with her clients to make final design selections and purchases. Her goal is to make the entire process as easy and stress free as possible. In this regard, she prefers to manage all aspects of the project herself, to ensure each step is completed thoughtfully. This also allows for the client-designer relationship to become more intimate than what is offered through larger design firms. Dorian learns the nuances of her clients likes and dislikes and is able to tailor the project at any moment to account for their particular needs. She uses Chief Architect, AutoCAD, and 20/20 design software as a means to document her designs and create visual 3D renderings of the proposed spaces.

Dorian was pleased to have filmed with Home & Garden Television (HGTV), and has designed residences and commercial spaces all along the eastern seaboard of the
United States, from Maine to Florida. She is currently in the process of designing a 6000sf home for a longtime client in central Florida, a 12-month endeavor to be completed next spring. Kitchen and bath design has become one of her specialties and she has carried her own cabinet line for over 20 years, a product proudly manufactured in the state of Minnesota.

Becoming successful in the interior design business has not come without its challenges over the years. The greatest and ongoing challenge is educating legislators about the importance of passing laws that regulate the professional practice and title of ‘Interior Designer’. Because licensing of classically trained interior designers is not a mandate in all 50 states, there are many self-proclaimed decorators that call themselves interior designers who do not have the same training and skill sets that those with interior design educations have. Certified and licensed interior designers also find themselves competing for much of the same work as architects who have been fighting against interior design licensure for decades for fear of losing a market share of interior design business. Most often, the client does not know how to differentiate between the services offered by the decorator, interior designer, and architect. Many times, the client will hire a decorator thinking that they will be getting the same skill sets as an interior designer, and they do not understand the value-added professional services that are available to them if they hire an interior designer. They also don’t realize that they do not necessarily require an architect for proposed floor plan changes; hiring an interior designer can be less expensive, and more rewarding, for their particular project.


Dorian DeHaan

Licensed and Certified Interior designers are required to be educated through an associate or bachelor degree program in interior design, have a required amount of work experience in the field, and pass the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam, a nationally recognized and comprehensive qualifying examination. The intensity of training and stringent licensing requirements ensure that the interior designer fully understands the underlying construction and mechanical systems like electrical, plumbing, heating, and ventilation. They must clearly comprehend the structural aspects of their plans, while adhering to applicable building and handicap codes. Attention to health, safety, and welfare factors such as toxicity and flammability codes of materials is requisite, and they are trained to understand the properties of materials, and sciences behind colour and light.

Certified interior designers are skilled threedimensional planners of space because of their courses of study and experience. A project is viewed as a series of relationships between floor, ceiling, and wall, engaging numerous planes through constructed geometry. This is where the bridge between decoration and architecture can be clearly defined. The decorator can take the constructed geometry and decorate it through planning of furniture, drapery, and accessories while the architect can take the same geometry and alter its load bearing structure. Interior designers are trained to reconfigure existing spaces, such as moving walls, providing the load-bearing integrity of the building or space is not altered. Interior decoration is only one part of the interior designer’s repertoire, while having a very clear understanding of the constructed environment is another.

Performance standards become increasingly rigid across the disciplines, from decoration to interior design and architecture. Whereas the decorator delves into existing spaces and adds aesthetic quality, the designer can take a project to a level beyond by changing the three-dimensional aspects of those spaces and providing a series of floor plans, elevations, and 3D drawings. Decorators are generally not trained to discuss mechanical and electrical systems or specific construction details as it relates to a fabricated interior. Ultimately, the interior designer bridges a gap between interior decorators and architects, trained in the practice of decoration but also overlapping the skills of an architect by having the ability to modify three-dimensional space.

The New York State Education Department’s Office of Professions is responsible for the licensing of professionals. As Chairwoman of the State’s Board for Interior Design, Dorian works as an advocate for licensure. The Board works with Interior Designers for Licensing in New York (IDLNY) and the Council for Interior Design Qualification (CIDQ), the national interior design licensing organization, in an advisory capacity. The goal is to guide a pathway to licensure for students who will be graduating from design programs around the country. In New York where Dorian currently practices, the title “Certified Interior Designer” can only by used by those who have completed necessary education and examination requirements. Interior decorators can currently call themselves (non-certified) interior designers and can practice interior design without restriction since the law only restricts the title and not the practice. Interior Designers for Licensing in New York (IDLNY) have been working to change legislation to prevent this since 1984. There are many other states that struggle with the same issue, however, almost half of the states have recognized the value of licensing and currently have interior design licensing laws to protect the practice of interior design.

Other challenges have surfaced in the past decade since the Great Recession of 2008. Dorian has found herself competing against builders and remodelers who have started to offer their own design work and carry their own cabinetry lines. These groups of tradespeople sometimes go beyond their own scope of experience and offer services that they are not classically trained to execute. At a loss are the clients who lose the benefit of the best possible design, function, and detail for their projects.

Dorian’s latest challenge is finding a way to have a dialogue with the millennial generation who are buying their first homes. A generation of couples who purchase moderately priced homes that they hope to sculpt to their own signature spaces can benefit greatly from the wisdom and experience of a more seasoned designer such as herself. It can be a thoroughly fun and engaging experience and does not need to feel like hard work. A good designer can follow and create trends while injecting personal style to a project; the two need not be mutually exclusive. The object is to design around the stylistic wishes of the client, and guide design ideas that fit their style.

The future looks bright for Dorian’s design business. She is set to expand into the Charleston, South Carolina area where she hopes to continue to offer a full scope of design services including expansion of her kitchen, bath, and custom cabinetry business. She would like to partner with local builders, remodelers, and sub-contractors in order to continue her journey of developing sophisticated designs in historical interiors. “In a community where historic architecture, and the renovation and restoration of historic structures are prevalent, I plan to merge my classical training with trending design in a symbiotic form of harmony” she says. She also plans to become actively engaged with the existing interior design coalition currently fighting for licensure of the interior design profession within the state. Stay tuned for what’s to come!

Contact information:

Email: [email protected]