Written by Gina van der Linde


Iris Dunbar is an interior designer with over 40 years’ experience in the field.  She studied at art college in Dundee, graduating in 1972, and today, she is the President of the IFI:  The International Federation of Interior Architects/Designers.

Interior design is everywhere around us, in our living spaces.  Everyone does it:  moves a chair, places a cushion, paints a wall.

Interior design incorporates three dimensional aspects of colour, light and space.  It is a collaborative discipline involving the interior designer, the client, the architect and anyone else who might be involved in the outcome of a specific brief.  Everyone needs to be thinking as a TEAM.


The Architect works from the outside in.  This can be identified as the “bones and structure” of a building.

The Interior Designer works from the inside out.  This can be symbolised as the “heart and soul” of a building.


The profession continually questions who you are as an interior designer.  You must be able to work creatively and functionally:  be a problem solver.  An interior designer must be able to make a space functional as well as aesthetically pleasing.  The perception that design is merely superficial, has changed.


The Swedish concept, the “Red Thread”, should be adopted in order to ensure continuity through the brief.

The psychology and analysis of space is part of the design process.  Does it work?  Does it feel good?  An interior designer should be prepared to ask the client questions to find out what they want and also what they need.  Explore the problems presented.  (There is generally a period of “no man’s land” when it is difficult to know what to do, and the designer is faced with an “empty page”.  This is part of the process.  To be creative is to be in the unknown.)


Every site or building should be seen as an opportunity for interior design work.  Every opportunity for discussion can lead to a project.

Design = problem solving, time, effort and what you put into it.