Interior Designer vs Decorator: What’s the Difference?

Wait, aren’t interior designers and decorators the same? Isn’t the job of an interior designer to decorate?

We use the terms interchangeably in everyday language. Yes, both are involved with making spaces more beautiful, but there are distinct differences between an interior designer and an interior decorator. Each focuses on a different aspect of the project.

If you’re thinking of hiring an interior designer vs. decorator, it would be useful to know what they each do.

Interior Designer vs Decorator - What’s the Difference?

What is an Interior Designer?

Let’s look at what the New York School of Interior Design, one of the top interior design schools in the world, has to say about the field:

Designers craft spaces that anticipate our needs and appeal to our emotions while pulling from a broad set of skills and technical knowledge.”

What is home interior design, then? Interior design is all about creating beautiful, safe, and functional spaces. Of course, part of their job is to make prettier rooms with the use of decorative elements, but aesthetics is only a small piece of their role in the design process.

So, is interior architecture the same as interior design? A big part of an interior designer’s role is about space planning. They take into account what the space is for and design accordingly.  They might suggest changing the layout or, in some cases, even completely remodeling. They also make sure that the area adheres to environmental or building codes.

Interior designers aren’t strangers when it comes to interpreting blueprints. They are, in fact, more than capable of making their own 2D or 3D plans if needed. They’re also comfortable working closely with architects and construction crews. Interior designers typically have formal education from reputable design schools. Some cities also require them to pass an exam before they can legally work for clients.

What is an Interior Decorator?

Interior decorators are focused on one thing: aesthetics. They are concerned with things such as colour schemes or decorative elements in a space. They can suggest things like the best window treatment to use or furniture to get. Some will even do the sourcing and purchasing for you.

Viewed in another way, you can say that decorating is a part of interior designing, but decorators don’t necessarily design a space. They will work with the area given and spice it up. In this vein, interior decorators are less formally educated than interior designers. Many are self-taught or have taken a training program.

Interior Designer vs. Decorator: When Do You Need One?

Now that you know the difference, you might ask: “When do I need one over the other?”

Are you planning a complete remodel that changes the layout and structure of your space? An interior designer is essential in this case and will have the necessary skills to guide you. They are also more than capable of managing and coordinating the project for you.

Interior decorators are a better choice if you want to freshen up your space or do a completely new look.

Keep in mind that there might be considerable overlap on what skills designers might have. Some decorators might have the necessary interior design skills. Be sure to do your homework and get the best one for the job at hand.