Interior Designer or Interior Decorator – What is the Difference?

There was a time when I used the job titles “interior designer” and “interior decorator” interchangeably. It seemed to me quite practical, when I even thought about it, that they would be the same thing and that there were just simply two different ways to describe the same job. I have a strong feeling that I am not alone in this and that there are many others who can admit to thinking the same. It came as a complete surprise when I finally discovered that they are actually two different jobs that even require slightly different skills sets.

There are many similarities between an interior designer and interior decorator but there are also a few differences, some that can be considered subtle while others hold more significance. The following comparison will hopefully help you distinguish between the two and help you make the decision on which one you need.

Education Requirements

Interior Designers

One of the biggest differences between an interior designer and interior decorator is that interior designers are licensed professionals who coordinate projects that often involve architecture and construction. In most states, designers need official training and a license. Training for this position includes training in color and fabric, space planning, architecture, and furniture making. It is also important that the interior designer is trained in computer-aided design (CAD). Interior designers usually go on to do an apprenticeship with an experienced interior designer after graduating. Before starting your career on an interior designers you can easily learn interior design basics online to understand main aspects of this field. 

Interior Decorators 

Interior decorators are not required to have an education or training since they do not take part in renovations and interior decorating is less technical than interior design. However, interior design training classes can help with space planning, color and fabric, furniture design, and more, as well as give you that extra edge over the competition.

Job Responsibilities  

Interior Designers

An interior designer is usually involved with a project from the very beginning and may even work with the architect in the early stages of planning. The job of the designer includes learning how each room will be used so that they can gain a better sense of how to create the interior space so that it is functionable. An interior designer should also have a good understanding of building codes and be familiar with other design aspects such as light and sound.

Interior Decorator   

The interior decorator typically joins the project after the interior designer and does not participate in the design and layout of the building and interior space. An interior decorator focuses on colors, textiles, and furniture. It is the interior decorator’s job to learn more about a client’s personality and style and then use the client’s information to decorate their space in a way that best reflects the client.

Who Should I Hire-an Interior Designer or Interior Decorator?

Before you make the decision on whether you need an interior designer or interior decorator, evaluate your needs to determine who would be the right person for the job. For instance, in the case where structural changes are required—for instance, removing a wall or adding new windows—then an interior designer would be the better candidate for the job. However, if you need assistance for something like choosing the proper paint colors, selecting light fixtures, or determining a personal style for your home, then an interior decorator would be a much better fit.

The most important thing is to make sure that whoever you hire fits in with what is required to achieve your end goal. The two jobs often overlap so that many educated and trained designers spend much of their time doing design work that does not require renovation. On the other hand, many interior designers without formal schooling are more than capable of working with contractors to perform structural work while exhibiting the same level of expertise that would be expected from an interior designer. It is best to not get hung up on job titles and training but to instead make sure that the person you hire, whether it is an interior designer or an interior decorator, has the capability to do everything that you need them to do to make the project a successful one.