More than what meets the eye

  • Not what you see on HGTV: interior designers Joan Murdoch and Darcy Robertson. The Bermuda Society for Interior Designers formed 40 years ago by six professionals with a goal of educating the public (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

    Not what you see on HGTV: interior designers Joan Murdoch and Darcy Robertson. The Bermuda Society for Interior Designers formed 40 years ago by six professionals with a goal of educating the public (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

  • Forty years of progress: Richard Klein of RHK Design (right) has been a member of the Bermuda Society of Interior Designers since it was founded 40 years ago. He is pictured with Ernie Theriault of BUE (Photograph supplied)

    Forty years of progress: Richard Klein of RHK Design (right) has been a member of the Bermuda Society of Interior Designers since it was founded 40 years ago. He is pictured with Ernie Theriault of BUE (Photograph supplied)

  • Guiding hands: three of the original members of the Bermuda Society of Interior Designers: Joan Murdoch, Sue Bendell and Michelle Smith (Photograph submitted)

    Guiding hands: three of the original members of the Bermuda Society of Interior Designers: Joan Murdoch, Sue Bendell and Michelle Smith (Photograph submitted)

  • A decade of design: The Bermuda Society of Interior Designers celebrated its 40th anniversary last month (Photograph supplied)

    A decade of design: The Bermuda Society of Interior Designers celebrated its 40th anniversary last month (Photograph supplied)

  • All sorts of careers rolled into one: the Bermuda Society of Interior Designers celebrated its 40th anniversary last month. Pictured from left are Dawn Dunstan, Steve Lake, Shelley Ray and Emily Hopkin of L&S Design (Photograph supplied)

    All sorts of careers rolled into one: the Bermuda Society of Interior Designers celebrated its 40th anniversary last month. Pictured from left are Dawn Dunstan, Steve Lake, Shelley Ray and Emily Hopkin of L&S Design (Photograph supplied)


Joan Murdoch joined the Bermuda Society of Interior Designers in 1984; Darcy Robertson, in 2002. One of their great frustrations is that people don’t always understand what it is they do.

An interior designer is who you need if you’re looking for someone who can build a room from the bottom up.

For people with concerns about paint, fabric, lighting and other similar details, an interior decorator is a better choice.

Educating the public on the difference has been part of the BSID mandate since 1979 when it was founded by the six professional interior designers then practising here.

Ms Murdoch got involved after moving to the island from Canada.

She worked with various companies before starting her own, Murdoch Design Services.

“The designers initially did residential work. There was not much corporate work 40 years ago when the group was founded,” she said. “We developed a code of conduct, guidelines for professionalism ... We just wanted to keep the level of service and professionalism high.”

As someone who had “always wanted” to be an interior designer, she was thrilled to be a part of developing the industry here.

“I liked the idea of creating spaces,” said Ms Murdoch who got a degree in interior design at the University of Manitoba, one of only two schools in Canada offering the course at that time.

“When I was little, I used to draw house plans. I would make them up in my head and think about how to decorate rooms.

“My parents wanted me to pursue [a different] career, but I got the best education I could to give myself some legitimacy.”

Mr Robertson was focused on architecture early on in his career. “Placement at an interior design firm changed all that,” he said. “I was doing drawings for Sears Canada and health food stores and it opened my eyes to another industry.”

The designer spent seven years working in Toronto before he “got an itch to try something different”, and moved to Japan for six months with an architecture firm. And then in 2002, he was given the opportunity to work here. “I love that you go from project to project — getting the design brief, going into the space, planning and conceptualising.

“We have to work with budgets, timelines, deadlines ... We have to have good management skills, interpersonal skills.”

Both Mr Robertson and Ms Murdoch are proud of all that the organisation puts into the community.

Most notable are the scholarships which have provided $156,000 to 33 students of interior design through fundraisers with the Industry Alliance, a BSID partner.

“Of those students, at least 20 are still working within the profession, the majority here,” Mr Robertson said, adding that 27 of the BSID’s 31 members are Bermudian.

“We have one member, Richard Kline, who has been a member for the entire 40 years of existence and is still active.

“In the beginning, the idea was to create a social network where they could get together because there was such a small number at that time.

“The industry started to grow in the mid-80s. More designers came as the projects started ramping up.

“As more members joined [the BSID] created a framework for the standard of practice for interior designers on the island so that they had the same level of certification as designers do globally.”

Membership peaked in 2007 when there were 42 interior designers and 16 design firms.

The numbers sit at 31 and 13 respectively today; they celebrated the BSID’s 40th anniversary at The Loren on November 23.

They were joined by the Industry Alliance, whose members are “contractors, painters, tilers, plumbers, electricians ... anyone who provides anything for an interior space”, said Mr Robertson, design director at Commercial Interiors Group.

The group often promotes the industry by giving talks at career days at various schools.

“We don’t hold back in telling students that it’s not what you see on HGTV,” he said. “We say it’s the dumbing down [of the industry]. We’re looking at building codes, health codes, life safety.

“We help design spaces so you can get out of them in an emergency. It’s not just picking out carpet and choosing nice wall covering.

“Five per cent of the job is pulling together the concept, picking finishes; ninety-five per cent is co-ordinating with engineers, with contractors, the planning department, the fire department.

“Yes, we’re designers, but we also are accountants, we have to work out a budget; we’re lawyers, we have to do contracts. We’re all sorts of careers rolled into one.”

Learn more about the Bermuda Society of Interior Designers at bsid.bm

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Published Dec 11, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Dec 11, 2019 at 7:52 am)

More than what meets the eye

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