So you've decided to make a few changes at home, and you realize that you're going to need a bit of help. You begin looking for possible services and find that some list their work as interior design while others are interior decorators. Suddenly you're faced with new questions, namely, "What's the difference?" And more importantly, "Which one do I need?"
Interior design and interior decorating are often mistaken for being the same thing, but the terms are not completely interchangeable.
There are many similarities between the two jobs. So many, in fact, that opinions vary on exactly where to draw the distinction. Yet there are more than a few differences between what makes an interior designer and an interior decorator - some subtle, some significant. So with nearly as many opinions on the subject as there are people to express or hear them, here is a brief comparison of the two that can help you make the distinction for yourself and decide which one you really need to help in your home.
What is Interior Design
Schooling - Interior design is a profession that requires specific schooling and formal training. The work involved usually includes studying color and fabric, computer-aided design (CAD) training, drawing, space planning, furniture design, architecture and more. Upon graduating designers often apprentice with a registered and established interior designer before moving on to create their own companies.
Credentials - In some states and provinces professionals are required to pass an exam and become registered with a governing council (which one will depend on what country and state/province he or she is in) before they can be called designers. However, there are just as many where this is not the case.
So it's a good idea to find out what the situation is in your area before starting your search.
What They Do - Designers are comfortable with spatial planning and can help design and renovate interiors, right from drawing up the initial floor plans to placing the last decorative accent. They don't just enhance the look, they enhance the function of a room.
Who They Work With - Interior designers often work closely with architects and contractors to help achieve the look the client desires, whether that client is designing a residential home, an office, a hotel, or any other interior space.
What is Interior Decorating
Schooling - Interior decorators don't need to have formal training or schooling because decorators focus primarily on aesthetics. Decorators don't generally take part in renovations or structural planning. They come in after that part is complete and focus on the surface look of the space.
Credentials - Even though no schooling is required to become an interior decorator there are many programs and courses available.
These courses often focus on color and fabric, room layouts, space planning, furniture styles and more.
What They Do - Decorators are great for coming into a room and whipping it into shape. They can help clients decide on a style, choose a color scheme, purchase furniture, and accessorize. They're often brought in to spruce up an existing space that needs to be updated or redone.
Who They Work With – Decorators don't generally work with any contractors or architects since often any structural work is complete before they come on board. They do however work with furniture makers, upholsterers, and other industry professionals.
Should I Hire a Designer or a Decorator
Who you should hire will depend on your needs. If structural changes are desired (such as removing a wall, moving plumbing around, or adding new windows or doors) then generally an interior designer would be the better choice. They can help plan for significant structural changes and help make them happen. On the other hand, if there are no structural changes needed but you need help deciding on a style; choosing wallpaper, paint, and furnishings; picking window treatments, and choosing lighting and accessories, a decorator will probably do the trick. They know what works together and can transform a room to suit the clients' needs and desires, without doing any technical work.
In the end, however, making the right decision for your home will likely be more a matter of what you're hiring someone to do than a question of job titles. The majority of formally schooled designers spend most of their time doing work that would be described here as decorating because it includes no renovation or structural work. At the same time, there are any number of decorating professionals with no formal schooling who are capable of working with contractors to perform whatever structural work may be required in a home while providing the same high level of aesthetic detail that a formally trained designer would. Given that, the best thing to do when faced with this choice would be to assess your needs and compare them against the services being offered before making a decision.