Interior Designer and Interior Decorator are quite frequently used interchangeably, and it shouldn’t be as they are significantly different. We are here to offer some clarity.

According to the NCIDQ (National Council for Interior Design Qualification):

“Interior design is the art and science of understanding people’s behavior to create functional spaces within a building and Interior decoration is the furnishing or adorning of a space with fashionable or beautiful things. In short, interior designers may decorate, but decorators do not design. Interior designers apply creative and technical solutions within a structure that are functional, attractive and beneficial to the occupants’ quality of life and culture. Designs respond to and coordinate with the building shell and acknowledge the physical location and social context of the project. Designs must adhere to code and regulatory requirements and encourage the principles of environmental sustainability. The interior design process follows a systematic and coordinated methodology—including research, analysis and integration of knowledge into the creative process—to satisfy the needs and resources of the client.”

Let’s break this down some more:

The Interior Designer 


Training: To become an interior designer, you need to go through formal training. In some areas, designers may have to pass an exam in order to become registered with a local or international governing body. The work involved usually includes studying color and fabric, computer-aided design (CAD) training, drawing, space planning, furniture design, architecture and more.

Skills: A large part of an interior design education focuses on space planning. This process includes conducting an in-depth analysis of how the current space is being used, as well as any functional changes that should be made in a redesign. Usually, this will include things like changing the layout to achieve better functionality or usage throughout the space.

When to bring one in: An interior designer is usually involved with a building project from the beginning or if you’re working on a remodel and require guidance beyond aesthetics. An interior designer helps create functional interior spaces by understanding how the inhabitants will use each room. They may consider light, sound and other design aspects but is also well versed in building codes and structural considerations.

Who They Work With – Interior designers often work closely with architects and contractors to help achieve the look the client desires, whether that client is designing a residential home, an office, a hotel, or any other interior space.​

The Interior Decorator 

Training: Interior decorators don’t need to have formal training or schooling because decorators focus primarily on aesthetics. Even though no schooling is required to become an interior decorator there are many programs and courses available. These courses often focus on color and fabric, room layouts, furniture styles and more.​

Skills: Interior decorators are all about aesthetics. They can handle tasks such as selecting color schemes, purchasing new design items, arranging furniture layouts, and hanging wall art. Think of them as an expert who can help you bring an entirely new look to your existing space.

When to bring one in: A decorators job is to capture the personality and style of the residents and express it in their space. They don’t generally take part in renovations or structural planning, they come in after that part is complete.​​They help clients decide on a style, choose a color scheme, purchase furniture, and accessorize.

Who They Work With: Decorators work with furniture makers, upholsterers, and other industry professionals.​

Also Note: Because a profession as an interior decorator does not require formal training,  an interior designer can easily double up as an interior decorator, but this does not apply to an interior decorator – formal training in interior design is necessary. 

So Who Do You Need? 

Olivia Palermo is Loving Her Newest Role as an Interior Decorator

Are you building a new home, or are you restructuring a new space, will walls be broken down, are you rethinking how the space can be put to better use? Then you need an Interior Designer!

Do you have no control over your home, meaning.. you can’t break walls or restructure the existing space, but will like your home to represent a certain style? Then you need an Interior Decorator!

Sources: Apartment Therapy, Fresh Home, Spruce

Photo Credit: MyDomaine, RexApt, Hamtech

Posted by:BuboLiving

One thought on “What Really is the Difference between an Interior Designer and an Interior Decorator?

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