What’s The Difference Between An Interior Decorator and An Interior Designer?

May 2, 2023

And Why It Matters

interior decorator vs. interior designer
Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

Most people don’t even realize that there’s a difference between an interior decorator and an interior designer. They’re synonyms right? No. They are not. There is a distinct difference between and interior decorator and an interior designer. You owe it to your home AND your wallet to learn the difference before you embark on your next project.

“The essence of interior design will always be about people and how they live. It is about the realities of what makes for an attractive, civilized, meaningful environment, not about fashion or what’s in or what’s out. This is not an easy job.”

Albert Hadley

By Definition: Interior Decorator Vs. Interior Designer

Let’s start with a by-the-book definition. The difference between an interior decorator and an interior design, according to Chron, the online version of The Houston Chronicle, puts it this way: “Designers study people’s needs to create functional, structural living or work spaces to satisfy those demands. Decorators furnish interior spaces with furniture and accessories, creating an aesthetic environment.”

My biggest takeaway here is that Decorators plan and arrange the furnishing inside the space and Designers work to create the space. Designers may decorate but Decorators don’t design.

There Are a Few Other Differences Between Interior Decorators and Interior Designers Worth Noting:

interior decorator vs. interior designer

1. Schooling is a Difference Between an Interior Decorator and an Interior Designer

Anyone can call themselves an Interior Decorator. For all-intents-and purposes, I am one. I have done my fair share of interior redesign and interior decorating for paying clients and faithful friends. I have a degree in Advertising from GW and a background in corporate advertising, copywriting and retail, yet I am free to call myself an Interior Decorator. An Interior Designer, however, I am not. I would have no business or right to call myself one. An Interior Designer goes to school to be an Interior Designer. They have highly specialized training and specific schooling. Upon graduation they often apprentice under another Interior Designer. They study color and fabric, computer-aided design (CAD), drawing, space planning, furniture design, architecture, and more. A Decorator may also have a college degree, but it is often in a related field like Art, Graphics or , in my case, Advertising.

difference between interior decorator and interior designer
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

2. Credentialing is Different Between A Decorator and a Designer

Like I said previously, anyone can call themselves an Interior Decorator. No license or degree is required. There are definitely courses and certifications available to Decorators, like the certificate in design offered by the Certified Interior Decorators International (a great thing to look for if you are hiring a Decorator). Designers, on the other hand, are often (but not always) required to pass a state exam to earn the distinction of Interior Designer. This does vary state-to-state, however, so make sure you check out the credentials and/or degrees of those you are considering.

difference between interior decorator and interior designer
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3. Skills Are A Difference Between and Interior Decorator and An Interior Designer

Interior Designers have the skill to plan your space and renovate interior details (like adding or taking away walls/windows). They work closely with architects and contractors to make or make-over your space in its entirety. Interior Decorators make the space that exists look beautiful by adding fabrics, furnishings and accessories. Designers also work with furnishings and accessories but Decorators don’t renovate the interior, they just work within the frame that already exists.

designer vs. decorator
Photo by Sven Mieke on Unsplash

So Why Is It Important To Understand The Difference Between Interior Decorators and Interior Designers?

You would not call a plumber to fix your WiFi. And you wouldn’t call the cable guy out to paint your house. So understanding the difference between a Decorator and a Designer is kind of the same thing. You need to think about the job. Do you need walls to come down? Do you need help re-imagining the space into something else? Or do you just need the space to work better? Look better? Both of these types of professionals have their roles. If you understand them more clearly you will be better positioned to hire the right one, the first time.

For more on interior design, check out my previous blogs: What is Biophilic Interior Design and Why Interior Design Matters.

Now For a Little Music Before We Go…

“The details are not the details. They make the design.”

Charles Eames

Hope you have enjoyed the blog. Have a lovely day, my friends. Marianne

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