Many people use the terms interior decorator and interior designer interchangeably. While the jobs share some similarities, they are not the same, and the titles are not interchangeable. What’s the difference, and who do you need for your job?
Areas of Expertise
Interior designers work with clients, architects and builders to create functional spaces that fit the client’s needs and behavior. They are trained in spatial planning and using furnishings to enhance it. They can handle projects from the initial floor planning of a new home until the last picture is hung. By contrast, decorators don’t participate in structural planning. Instead, they work within existing structures to make rooms more attractive and appealing to their clients. Their focus is on bringing a finished, cohesive look and style to their client’s homes.
Education and Certifications
Interior designers typically go through specific college programs to study space planning, furniture design, color palettes, fabric choices and more. Many have credentials from the National Council for Interior Design Qualification and belong to groups such as the American Society of Interior Designers or the International Interior Design Association. In some locales, laws may establish specific qualifications for using the term interior designer.
Decorators can be certified by Certified Interior Decorators International, but certification is not required. Nor is a college degree in the field, but there are training programs for people interested in being interior decorators.
How interior decorators and designers work
Interior designers collaborate with contractors, builders, and architects to achieve the client’s overall vision. Decorators work with homeowners or business managers to redecorate interior spaces. Both designers and decorators work with furniture makers, upholsterers, window treatment makers and painters and can shop to find lighting, artwork, and accessories for their clients.
Who should you call?
If you want to gut your kitchen or bathroom and redesign the room from the bottom up, you’ll want an interior designer who can assist you in taking down walls, drawing spatial plans, moving plumbing and electrical lines and similar work. To update a room in your home using new or existing furniture, use an interior decorator, which can be more cost-effective. Either a designer or a decorator can help you with such matters as deciding on a style or choosing paint and furnishing colors.