The Difference Between Interior Designer vs. Interior Decorator

What exactly is the difference between an interior designer and a decorator? Read on to find out.

The Difference Between Interior Designer vs. Interior Decorator
Interior designer vs interior decorator | Peng Chen / Unsplash

While interior designers and interior decorators are often used interchangeably, they are not the same thing. While both professions focus on creating beautiful and functional spaces, the roles of an interior designer and an interior decorator are quite different.

Both fields have distinct differences and functions that set them apart. What do interior designers and decorators do? How do their jobs differ, and how are they similar? Which one is the better career option for you? In this post, we delve into what is the difference between an interior designer and an interior decorator to help you decide.

What is interior design?

Interior design is a profession that focuses on the process of designing functional, comfortable and appealing spaces. The individuals who work in this field are called interior designers. Their work involves all aspects of transforming residential and commercial spaces to enhance the well-being of those using them. This includes furniture selection, choosing colors, materials, lighting and space planning to create a functional and beautiful space.

What is interior design
Interior design | Collov Home Design / Unsplash

What do interior designers do?

Interior designers work on projects ranging from small residential spaces to large commercial buildings. They collaborate with architects, contractors, and other design professionals to ensure the design meets all building codes and safety requirements.

Interior designers create floor plans and layouts and help clients determine their design needs and preferences. Interior designers also act as project managers, create budgets and develop strategies to meet those requirements. They can help with space planning, furniture selection, color schemes, environmental sustainability and more.

Education

One of the key distinctions between an interior decorator and an interior designer is their education. Many pursue a bachelor's degree in interior design or a related field, which provides them with a comprehensive understanding of design theory and practical application. Interior designers typically have formal education and training in design principles, space planning and building codes.

interior designer vs interior decorator
interior designer vs interior decorator | Collov Home Design / Unsplash

Qualifications

In addition to education, interior designers often seek professional certifications or licenses. These qualifications vary depending on where they work and meet the industry standards of their state. Some common certifications include the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) certification in the United States and the Registered Interior Designer (RID) designation in Canada.

Responsibilities of an interior designer

Interior designers are involved in every stage of the design process. They collaborate with clients to understand their needs, preferences and budgets. From there, they develop design concepts, create detailed plans and drawings, select materials and finishes, and oversee design implementation. They also work closely with architects, contractors, and other professionals to ensure the project meets aesthetic and functional requirements.

Skills

Interior designers must possess a wide range of skills to have a successful career. They need a keen eye for color, texture and proportion to create harmonious and visually appealing spaces. They must also be proficient in using design software and tools to develop detailed plans and presentations. Moreover, they have excellent communication and interpersonal skills to effectively collaborate with clients, vendors and other stakeholders.

interior architecture
interior architecture | Kenny Eliason / Unsplash

Priorities of interior designers

While aesthetics play a significant role in interior design, the primary focus is creating functional and safe spaces. Interior designers consider factors such as ergonomics, accessibility and sustainability when developing their designs. They strive to maximize the use of space, enhance natural lighting, and optimize the flow and circulation within a room or building.

The scope of projects

Interior designers can work on various projects, from residential homes and apartments to commercial spaces like offices, hotels, and retail stores. They may also specialize in specific areas such as kitchen and bath design, healthcare facilities, or hospitality design. The scope of their projects can vary in size and complexity, from single-room makeovers to large-scale renovations or new construction.

Salary and benefits

Interior designers' salaries can vary depending on experience, location, and the scope of projects. However, on average, interior designers earn a competitive salary that reflects their expertise and responsibilities. In addition to financial rewards, they often enjoy benefits such as flexibility in work hours, creative freedom, and the satisfaction of seeing their designs come to life.

interior decoration
Interior decoration | Daniel Chen / Unsplash

Who do interior designers work with

Interior designers collaborate with a range of professionals throughout the design process. They mainly work directly with clients, understanding their needs, tastes, and lifestyle to create personalized spaces that reflect their individuality. They can also work closely with architects, contractors, and builders to ensure the design is executed accurately and meets building codes and regulations. They also liaise with suppliers, furniture manufacturers, and other vendors to source materials and furnishings that align with the design concept.

What is interior decorating?

Interior decorating primarily focuses on the aesthetics of a space, emphasizing the visual impact and overall atmosphere. While interior decorators may have a good understanding of spatial planning and functionality, their primary focus is on enhancing the existing structure and furnishings rather than making significant structural or architectural changes to the space.

What do interior decorators do?

Interior decorators furnish interior spaces and focus on enhancing the aesthetics of interiors by selecting furniture, fabrics, colors and accessories. They work with clients to determine their design preferences and then choose items that reflect the client's personality and style.

interior designer and decorator salary
Interior decorators | Hutomo Abrianto / Unsplash

Interior decorators can help select furniture, arrange accessories and choose color schemes. They typically work on smaller projects, such as individual rooms or small homes, and they may specialize in specific areas, such as window treatments or upholstery.

Education

Unlike interior designers, interior decorators may not necessarily have formal education in design. They have a natural flair for aesthetics and a passion for creating visually appealing spaces. While some pursue relevant degrees or certifications, many interior decorators acquire skills and knowledge through hands-on experience and self-guided study.

Qualifications

While interior decorators may not require the same formal credentials as interior designers, they can still obtain certifications or affiliations with professional organizations to enhance their credibility. These credentials, such as membership in the Interior Design Society (IDS) or Certified Interior Decorator (CID) designation, can demonstrate their commitment to professionalism and industry standards.

Responsibilities of interior decorators

Interior decorators focus on the aesthetic aspects of a space. They have a deep understanding of design trends, textures, and patterns, enabling them to curate spaces that reflect the client's personality and taste. They work closely with clients to understand their styles, preferences and budgets. Based on this information, they select appropriate color schemes, furniture, fabrics and decorative items to create a cohesive and visually pleasing environment.

What do interior decorators do?
What do interior decorators do? | Curology / Unsplash

Skills

Interior decorators possess a strong sense of style and an eye for detail. They know different design styles and can adapt to the client's desired aesthetic, whether traditional, contemporary, or eclectic. They have a talent for arranging furniture and accessories to maximize the space's visual impact. Excellent communication skills are crucial, as interior decorators must effectively convey their design concepts and recommendations to clients.

The scope of projects

Interior decorators typically work on smaller-scale projects, such as individual rooms or specific areas within a space. Their focus is primarily on enhancing the existing structure and furnishings through decorative elements. They may be involved in tasks such as selecting paint colors, choosing window treatments, arranging furniture, and accessorizing the space to create a desired atmosphere.

interior designer researches
interior decorator vs designer | Josh Hemsley / Unsplash

Salary and benefits

Just like in interior designs, the salary and benefits for interior decorators can vary depending on experience, location, the scope of projects, and the decorator's reputation and client base. While specific figures may differ, it's essential to consider the general compensation trends in interior decorating.

Who do interior decorators work with

Interior decorators work directly with clients, tailoring their designs to the client's tastes and preferences. They may also work with suppliers and vendors to source furniture, fabrics and decorative items. While they may consult with other professionals like contractors or painters, their projects generally involve fewer stakeholders than interior designers.

Conclusion: Interior designer vs. interior decorator

When it comes down to it, the difference between an interior designer and an interior decorator comes down to their education, qualifications, formal training, responsibilities and the scope of projects they work on. Both professions rely on creative and technical solutions to create functional spaces for their clients.

Many interior designers possess formal education, professional certifications, and a comprehensive understanding of design principles. They create functional, safe, and visually appealing spaces while collaborating with various professionals throughout the design process.

On the other hand, interior decorators focus on the aesthetic aspects of a space, curating visually pleasing environments through the selection and arrangement of furnishings, fabrics, and accessories. They often acquire skills through hands-on experience and have a strong sense of style.


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FAQ

What does an interior decorator actually do?

Interior decorators focus on creating a cohesive look that reflects the client's personality and style. This includes selecting and arranging furnishings, fabrics, colors, and accessories to create functional and appealing spaces. They focus on creating a cohesive look that reflects the client's personality and style.

What is the median salary of an interior decorator?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for interior decorators was $52,810 in May 2020. However, salaries can vary widely depending on experience, location and type of employer.

How to become an interior decorator and designer?

To become an interior decorator or designer, you can start by taking courses in interior design or a related field. To become a licensed interior designer, you might also need official accreditation. However, formal education is not always required to become an interior decorator, although it may be beneficial.

Who helps pick colors? Interior designer or decorator?

Both interior designers and decorators can help pick colors. While interior designers typically have more formal education and training, both professionals have an eye for color. They can assist you with selecting the right shades and tones to achieve the desired look.

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