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Designer vs. Decorator: What Is The Difference

Updated: Mar 11, 2019


If you have ever experienced any kind of confusion when defining the role of an interior design, have no fear! As someone who is relatively new to the world of design, I quickly realized that I didn’t exactly know all the ins-and-outs of interior design either. There are so many questions that come to mind just when trying to understand what exactly an interior designer does. Is it someone you hiring when you’re looking to give a space a fresh face, new paint, and some fancy furniture? What is the big difference between a designer and a decorator? Which one is going to help make the project and overall success?


Let’s lay it out all out there and make this as simple as possible! Here are several key characteristics that separate interior designers from interior decorators.

Interior Designers:

  • Education – Interior designers go to school for at least 4 years. They are taught to draw, study design theory, learn about sustainability, materials, systems and construction, as well as dozens of other areas to allow the to create the best project possible.

  • Certification – Depending on the state, many interior designers are required to obtain a license or documentation of their education upon graduation. Although we won’t get into the important of licensing in this article, you can always check out of one our previous blogpost Interior Design Licensing and Why You Should Give a Damn.

  • Changing Spaces - Interior design is a multi-faceted profession in which creative and technical solutions are applied within a structure to achieve a built interior environment. Interior designers are responsible for creating spaces that enhance the quality of life for those using the space while maintaining a beautiful and visually pleasing aesthetic (and meeting all safety requirements). An interior designer is going to ensure that you get the maximum amount of use out of the space you have.

  • Clientele – Although an interior designer can work with just about anyone, they often pair up with architects and contractors in order to design a space exactly how the client want it to look. By doing this, interior designers can influence the overall structure of spaces when designing homes, offices, hospitality locations, or any other project you can imagine.

Interior Decorators:

  • Education – While decorators may have a strong sense of how to embellish an already existing space, there is no educational requirement for one to become an interior decorator. While some may have formal training, they focus more on the look of space versus the renovations or structural planning aspects of design.

  • Certification – A non-requirement for decorators.

  • Changing Spaces – According to the National Council for Interior Design Qualifications (NCIDQ), “decoration is the furnishing or adorning of a space with fashionable or beautiful things.” Decorators are responsible for adorning living spaces (think pretty paint jobs, fancy furniture, fun Knick knacks) once a DESIGNER has made necessary changes to the structure or function of a space.

  • Clientele – Because the structural work is typically complete before a decorator begins their work, you won’t find many decorators working with architects or contractors. More often the not, they will work directly with homeowners or managers when enlisted to complete a project.

So that rounds out the differences between interior designers and decorators! Hopefully that little list helps clear up any confusion you might have about the world of interior spaces. Both fields are full of talented individuals, but sometimes you’ll need the specific skills of one to bring your project to life. If you are looking for an interior designer for an upcoming project Let's Talk!

#TheMoreYouKnow #TheBusiness #interiordesign

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