Interior Designer vs. Interior Decorator

You’ve just bought the house of your dreams. Now you want to color coordinate new moldings with the carpet. Who do you call? Your boss wants to restructure the waiting room of his newly-purchased medical pavilion. Where do you look for help?

While the terms “interior designer” and “interior decorator” are often used interchangeably, for those considering home or commercial interior changes, the professions vary in qualifications and visionary scale.

By definition, interior designers are licensed professionals who have a working knowledge of architecture and are qualified to make changes to the structure of a space. Interior designers consider the functional design and effective use of space, including technical aspects such as lighting, acoustics, and temperature.

While an interior designer may create a layout for a space, he or she must consult with an architect before building. For this reason, awareness of structural concepts is essential for fluid communication on project details. Many interior designers earn architectural qualifications as well, so they can manage entire projects themselves.

Interior designers often work from the beginning of a project and troubleshoot ways to bring design and structure into harmony. They handle all kinds of projects, including retail locations (malls, department stores), corporate office design, healthcare facilities, hotels, and even government offices.

Interior decorators, while they may make aesthetic changes to interior spaces, do not require a license to practice their profession. Because they are not hired to make structural changes to a given space, they do not require an awareness of architecture building codes.

However, interior decorators, like interior designers, should have a working knowledge of textures, color schemes, paint qualities, fixtures, lighting, flooring, linens and accessories. One may consult an interior decorator to arrange furniture to produce a designed functionality and effect, advise on lighting, or when choosing accessories and/or artwork to produce ambiance within a space. Most interior decorators are called upon to work in residences, so it would be appropriate to call one regarding your next window treatment (assuming the window is already installed).

While the difference appears subtle at first, interior designers and interior decorators serve unique functions and are best utilized with their particular skills in mind.

If in doubt, remember: want to build? Look up your local interior designer. Selecting a color theme for your first baby nursery? Interior decorator is your best bet. Call on the right professional and you ensure that the beauty and functionality you imagine will become reality.


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