The terms interior designer and interior decorator are sometimes used interchangeably, and yet they are not the same thing at all. The advent of HGTV and the rise of interior design programs in popular culture has helped to mend this gap but I still see them bandied about as if they’re one and the same.
While there are definite similarities between the two occupations – both are focused on creating stylish and attractive living spaces – how they go about it this task slightly different.
Interior Designer or Interior Decorator: Answer These Questions to See if You Know the Difference
Who analyzes your family’s lifestyle when designing a space?
An interior designer. According to the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), an interior designer is someone who, “…is professionally trained to create a functional and quality interior environment. Qualified through education, experience and examination, a professional designer can identify, research and creatively resolve issues and provide a healthy, safe and comfortable physical environment.”
Who comes into your home’s existing structure to coordinate interior furnishings?
This is a trick question because both interior designers and interior decorators can do this. However, this type of work is right up an interior decorator’s alley. Interior decorators work solely in the realm of paint, fabric, furnishings and textiles. They come into finished spaces and can either dress them up or completely alter their surface finishes.
Some interior decorators also work with their clients to help out with seasonal changes, dressing your home for fall or the holiday season. They might even help you with temporary decor changes before your household hosts a large party or special gathering. Changing out certain textiles, adding seasonal decorations or even rearranging your furnishings to make things more comfortable for a large social event are all in their repertoire.
Do interior decorators work with architects and construction professionals?
No, they don’t. This is actually one of the main differences between an interior designer and an interior decorator. Interior decorators are only qualified to work with a finished space and do not have the training and expertise to advise you on structural changes. Interior designers, on the other hand, can be a wealth of information and expertise throughout a new home construction build-out or from the very beginning of a remodel or renovation.
In fact, most clients find that hiring an interior designer is the best “first step” when beginning a home design or renovation – even preempting the hiring of your architect or contractor. The interior designer will assist you in analyzing your lifestyle and the unique personalities in your home and then suggest design features that will best reflect those so your home is functional, promotes a high quality of life and is attractive.
Which profession requires official licensing and certifications?
Interior designers. Those who work as licensed interior designers typically have a four-year degree and have passed, or are working on passing, the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam. They are well versed on art history, architecture, furniture design and can prepare CAD drawings for the bidding process. Interior designers also complete a certain number of Continuing Education Units (CEU’s) each year per state licensing and/or organizational membership requirements.
In contrast, many interior decorators have no formal training and no certification or licensure. Their expertise comes from a naturally artistic eye and a passion for what they do, but they lack a certain level of technical expertise.