Do you know who George Mann Niedecken is/was?
Hint: He was born, educated and worked in Wisconsin in the early 20th century.
Niedecken was responsible for the murals and furniture in many Frank Lloyd Wright homes, including the famous Robie House. He also worked for other Prairie Style architects. He may be one of the first designers to call himself an Interior Architect. If you don’t know his name, it’s almost impossible to find him on the internet, especially if you look for “interior designer who helped Frank Lloyd Wright” since Wright gets 100% of the credit.
For us, credit is really hard to come by, especially when we work with famous people. We have been lucky enough to work with some well known and award-winning architects, providing interior design services: furniture, finishes (floor, wall, ceiling and window treatments) selection and specifications, as well as the coordination of other design details like custom casework, lighting, signage, acoustic mitigation, and exterior materials and colors. We are also known for bringing large groups of people to consensus, so some of the famous people ask their clients to hire us to help them get design decisions made in order to keep the project moving. When we go to the ribbon cutting ceremonies at these projects, we never know whether our firm name, let alone our project team members will be mentioned. It’s okay. I just think about George Mann Niedecken, one of the most accomplished interior architects who nobody knows.
This choice of architect/interior architect/interior designer/interior decorator title is very confusing to some people. We once had an interview for an institutional project and one of the interviewers kept asking what we did, did we do architecture or interior design? I’m not sure why doing both was so difficult for them to understand. Maybe I’m a bit of a snob, so I always say that I am an architect first, then add that I am also an interior designer. Both of these titles require test taking and continuing education to maintain my licenses in states that require them. I am licensed as an architect in Massachusetts, Florida, Ohio and Illinois. I am licensed as an interior designer (required for commercial, institutional and governmental projects only) in Connecticut, Florida, Ohio and Illinois. Massachusetts does not require an interior design license yet, but licensure is getting closer. Even without license requirements, clients and other architects respect the credentials. As a glutton for punishment, I also took the test to become a LEED AP BD+C, a credential from the US Green Building Council that tells our clients of our commitment to environmental sustainability and regeneration. When we are helping a client redecorate their living room, I’m not sure whether all of these credentials matter. When we are doing the architecture and interior design work for a renovation of an entire office building, we use every one of our skill sets and credentials.
In ancient times, when I was one of two student members of the Rhode Island School of Design Board of Trustees, I asked Louis M.S. Beal, famous New York Interior Designer, and RISD Trustee for life, whether he minded being called a decorator. He replied, “It happens all the time! But, as long as they listen to me, I don’t care what they call me.” Neither do I (but maybe just a little). As for Niedecken, he called himself an Interior Architect.
Now that you know who George Niedecken is, I hope that you will look at Frank Lloyd Wright’s work and remember that architecture really is a team sport. We can’t do it alone, or at least do it alone well. If you are looking for a member of your design team who has the credentials, experience and expertise to help your project be the best it can be within your budget, please call us! We don’t have to be famous to help make your project fabulous!