Archive for December, 2005

Starting BellDesign

Friday, December 30th, 2005

It’s not always easy for interior design students to obtain materials and samples for class projects. Some manufacturers’ representatives are quite helpful, but others simply ignore student requests. It didn’t take me long to discover that if I could say I was in business, I would get better access to product information and materials.

So I hoofed over to city hall and applied for a business license in my own name. In the small suburban town where I live, this was easy – I paid my $35, an inspector came to my house to determine if my business could legally operate there and issued a Certificate of Occupancy, and I got the license in the mail soon after.

So now Charlotte Bell is licensed to do business as a sole proprietor. I have a few more legal hoops to jump through, however, before I am up and running. First, I need to register BellDesign as my trade name with the Clerk of the Arlington County Circuit Court. Second, because I have no employees and am a sole proprietor, I do not need to obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) from the IRS, but I do need to register with the Virginia Department of Taxation for a state tax ID number and pay any taxes for which I might be liable.

Next, as a sole proprietor, I am not required to register with the Virginia State Corporation Commission, but if I ever want to become a corporation, I will have to comply with additional requirements. The Virginia State Corporation Commission has a useful Business Registration Guide that lays out all the steps.

Later, after I’ve actually worked in the field for some time and passed the NCIDQ exam, I might want to apply to the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation for the privilege of calling myself a “Certified Interior Designer.”

Until I get a bit closer to the end of my graduate degree program, I’m not ready for any actual clients. But meanwhile, BellDesign gives me just enough of a foot in the door to gain some familiarity with the products I’ll be working with when I do have clients, get to know some of the reps, and start to feel like I might someday actually be a part of this profession.

More on Attention to Detail . . .

Thursday, December 29th, 2005

Last winter, I participated in Mentoring Week, sponsored by the IIDA. The program pairs interior design students with professional designers for a day. Students tag along with their mentor, learning first-hand about the day-to-day practice of design. I spent my day with Hartman Design Group in Rockville, MD and came away with a finer appreciation for the job of interior designer.

Students who participate in Mentoring Week are invited to submit an essay on their experience to the IIDA Foundation, which administers the Lloy Hack Memorial Fund, which in turn offers a prize for the best essay. Last year I won! The topic of my essay was the importance of attention to detail in the practice of interior design. Because this is related to yesterday’s post, here is my essay. The essay was also published in the Fall 2005 issue of Perspective Magazine, the IIDA’s professional magazine.

Is Sudoku a model for good design?

Wednesday, December 28th, 2005

Equating law school with crossword puzzles in yesterday’s post made me think of my current favorite puzzle, Sudoku, and I wondered, is Sudoku a model for good design? The puzzle itself involves no design, but the process of solving it is much like the process of solving a design problem. In each case, one must assess the facts, exercise logical thinking, and pay careful attention to detail. Guessing is not much help.

Of course, Sudoku puzzles have only one correct answer, and that is where Sudoku and design part ways. Arriving at a brilliant design solution, unlike Sudoku, requires creativity, inventiveness, and a certain level of intuitiveness. And, of course, there is never just one design answer.

Nevertheless, I think Sudoku is a good model after all. A creative design that doesn’t function properly is really not a solution to the problem. Without a strong basis in logic and attention to detail, a design is likely to be, at best, superficial and, at worst, a risk to health and safety.

Why this blog?

Tuesday, December 27th, 2005

Thirty years ago, I graduated from Stanford with a BA in Fine Arts – and went to law school. Why law school? I was passionate about environmental causes and women’s rights and hoped legal training would allow me to do something useful for these causes. I’d visited a law school class and it reminded me of jigsaw puzzles and crosswords, two favorite activities. Using logic to come up with solutions seemed to fit my puzzle-solving mentality.

Law school was interesting and many aspects of my first law job were satisfying, but the adversariality of litigation made me uncomfortable. I traded the courtroom for a historic preservation policy position and, eventually, for at-home mom-ness. Meanwhile, art and design slipped into my life in the form of crafts and various projects at home – sewing, landscaping, baking, building.

A few years ago, I began to cast about for something new to do with myself when my youngest child goes off to college. Browsing through the catalogues of local colleges, I came across the Interior Design program at Marymount University, called the admissions office, and started classes the next week. It fits me perfectly, nicely combining my love of problem solving with my artistic talents and offering tools for doing something about environmental issues via sustainable design.

I’m going to use this blog (which my daughter Kate Zimmermann set up for me – more on her later) to track my progress through the second half of my master’s program, assemble some useful design resources, display my work, explore how the internet can be used in developing an interior architecture practice, and write about things that interest me.