Melding Information Technology into Today's Residential Interiors
By Deborah Houseworth, ASID

Today's information technology environment has a profound effect upon the interior design profession. Residential designers are becoming information gatherers as our services evolve to address this new technological wave and its impact upon our clients' needs. Consulting in areas outside our traditional training, we must now assist our clients with decisions on home wiring and cable needs, switching and security systems, computer hardware placement and space requirements for accompanying equipment, home theater electronics and more. Because we are trained to envision the design of the total space, we understand how each individual issue affects another and the key importance of advanced planning.

The majority of American homes are now wired with computers in multiple rooms. Designers must consider and advise their clients on linking computer systems, installing appropriate circuits and using multiple phone, cable and DSL lines. Design issues once confined to the office now affect the home as well as the "home office" becomes a more standard feature in today's household. Functional equipment placement, wire management and a host of other technological and ergonomic challenges are now a regular part of a residential designer's work.

Thin screen technology is being married with larger, multiple-speaker audio and theater-quality video systems that require specialized skills for proper installation and acoustics. Systems are being installed in just about any place, including on the ceiling, and many clients are requesting special "home theater rooms."

Today's information technology advancements will soon allow our computers to link to our video systems, creating new challenges and opportunities in the design of home spaces. Already privacy and parental supervision issues arising from the information technology boom are affecting the function of every floor plan in the home.

Designers are trained to interview clients, to help them explore in depth their needs and tutor them as to possible future requirements that will improve their lifestyle. We are the natural link to help educate our clients about the future direction of information technology in the home. We must continually reeducate ourselves so we have the knowledge and sources to solve our clients' problems. However, we must also know our limitations and refer clients to appropriate sources to adequately address their needs.

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