Interior decorator VS interior designer


While there are similarities between an interior decorator and an interior designer and while many people confuse their careers, there are essential differences between the two. Of course, those differences do not denote necessarily that the one is superior to the other. Although, there is overlapping between the two careers, every professional, either decorator of designer, is responsible for the quality of it's work and it is on it's own hands to make its work valuable and useful.  

Interior decorator

The interior decorator, as the word reveals, decorates or adorns the interiors of buildings with the aim to give them a certain style, to make them more attractive, to revive them, etc.

Common job  tasks of an interior decorator are:

  • Room layout and furniture arrangement
  • Color schemes
  • Lighting
  • Window treatment
  • Fabrics &  wallpapers
  • Wall Paints
  • Materials and textures 
  • Accessories (vases, art works, cushions)
  • Plants

The job of the decorator is not simple, since it requires some preliminary research and discussion with the clients. The decorator must clarify the needs of the clients and the style that fits with their personality and way of life.  

Moreover, the decorator must be able to measure the interior space, to make a draft sketch of the floor plan and to make the room layouts. It also needs to estimate the cost of the works (paintings, wallpapering, etc) and the cost of the several items. Usually the decorator shows samples and catalogues to the clients, places the orders and shops the items. Finally, he must schedule and supervise the works to be done.

Another important skill that the decorator must have is the communication skill. As a professional, he must be able to present his ideas to the clients and to make them participate and finally agree to his vision.

Education: There are no formal requirements to become and interior decorator. Though, that doesn’t mean that you can become a successful decorator without prior education and/or experience. In any case the decorator needs to have a strong aesthetic sense but also organizational ability. 

Interior designer 

On the other hand interior Designers are licensed professionals. In both the U.S and Canada interior designers are certified through the National Council for interior design Qualification (NCIDQ) after passing an examination. To be eligible to participate in the examinations they need to have a combination of work experience and post-secondary education in interior design. 

Interior designers can work in a wide variety of buildings, small or large scale, from homes and apartments to hospitals, schools, institutes, airport terminals, hotels, retail shops, malls, etc. Interior designers are better trained to deal with large scale buildings and complicated projects. They are able to research systematically the needs of the clients, the requirements and the characteristic of the specific space and finally to produce accurate drawings (constructional details, floor plans, sections, 3d perspectives, etc). Moreover, interior designer are able to design furniture, built in furniture, drywall constructions, stairs, custom made kitchens and other elements of the interior space. 

An interior designer cooperates on the one hand with the architects and the engineers of the project (structural/ mechanical/ electrical engineer) and on the other hand with the clients. Usually when an interior designer comes on board the architect hasn’t finalized yet the architectural drawings. Accordingly, the work of the interior designer might influence or even enhance the final solution.

Licensed interior designers not only adorn and decorate an interior space but they ought to secure that the projects will meet all the safety and health requirements, fire safety, construction code guidelines and will be both functional and aesthetically appealing.

The work of an interior designer does not exclude decoration, for example with fabrics or fashionable accessories. However their work many times resembles more to the work of an architect than to the work of a decorator.  Interior design merges architecture, construction and interior decoration, it is both art & science and needs both talent and technical knowledge. 

In other words interior designers might decorate but decorators are not able to design. The interior decorator cannot move walls, plumbing and make structural changes, structural work is usually complete before they come on board.

On the other hand, many interior designers are not eager to explore exhaustively the issue of fabrics, draperies, décor accessories, linens, etc. So, the usefulness of each professional depends on the needs of the clients and on the type of renovation.


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