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Know the Difference: Interior Designer vs Interior Decorator

You’ve heard the term “interior designer” used over and over again. In the media, in popular culture – everywhere! But are people really using it correctly? Probably not.

Many people believe that “interior designer” and “interior decorator” are interchangeable terms, when in reality, they are very different professions. While using the incorrect term can be harmless for the average person, if you’re in this line of work or considering getting into it, you’ll need to know the difference. Using the wrong title professionally could be life or death! OK, not actually. But it could have some serious repercussions!

Today we’ll explore exactly what is interior decorating and how it differs from interior design, to help you identify which career path you really want to take. Let’s begin.

Interior decorator talking with clients

Interior Decorating

What is it?

Well, it’s exactly that; decorating the interior of a building or room. An interior decorator furnishes and accessorizes a space to capture the personality and personal style of their clients (the owner of the space). Interior decorators will work closely with their clients throughout the decorating process to ensure the plans coincide with the clients’ tastes and preferences. An interior decorator will consult on and execute the selection and placement of furniture, color, lighting, textiles, accessories, etc.

Who does interior decorating?

Anyone with a strong passion for it and an eye for detail! Interior decorating is an unregulated field so there are no licensing requirements. If you wanted to start an interior decorating business tomorrow, you could do it! Although entering this industry with no formal training is not recommended or encouraged by anyone, you can still do it if determined to do so. If interior decorating is what you want to do, then you should look into formal education and a professional interior decorating certification. This will look fantastic to potential clients or future employers!

Who might hire an interior decorator?

Anyone who wants their space to say something about their personality and style, and at the same time being functional, but who may not have the time, skills, or creativity to execute the decor to their liking. While many, if not most, decorators focus their attention on homes, there are many other spaces that could use their services. If you’re thinking about getting into interior decorating, you should also consider servicing clients with the following spaces:

Interior decorator vs Interior designer at work

    • Office
    • Conference room
    • Fitness studio
    • Spa
    • Hotel room
    • Hotel lobby
    • Restaurant
    • Bar, lounge, or club
    • Banquet hall
    • Art gallery
  • These are just to name a few. There are many other spaces that could use an interior decorator, so make sure you’re open to the unique opportunities you may be presented with!

    Interior Design

    What does an interior designer do?

    An interior designer is someone who has studied the behavior of people and uses this understanding to create functional and beautiful spaces. Interior designers normally work on a building project from the very beginning and may work alongside an architect. They will deal mostly with the architectural features and take into consideration the “behind the scenes” elements of a building like electrical, plumbing, cooling and heating, (etc.) when making plans to enhance the function of a room.

    Who does interior design?

    Interior design is a highly regulated field. If it sounds like the right fit for you, then you’ll need to attend a college or university program (normally 3 to 4 years), accompanied by an apprenticeship. You’ll also need to pass a licensing exam to work legally in your area and to call yourself an “interior designer.” Sounds like a lot of work, right? It is! So make sure that interior design is actually want to you want to do before spending a lot of time (and money!) on the required education.

    An interior designer should have an eye for detail, be computer-savvy (you’ll be working with complicated design programs), and have a passion for it! Interior designers can also act as an interior decorator, as they’ll also be well-versed in furniture design and function, spatial planning, color psychology, and more.

    Interior designer vs interior decorator using complicated software

    Who might hire an interior designer?

    • An architectural firm
    • Contractors
    • Construction companies (commercial and residential)
    • Clients who want to make structural changes to their home (for example, removing a wall, adding windows, moving around plumbing)
    • Etc.
  • So don’t be fooled by what people say in movies or on TV, because many people don’t know the difference. Even online sources, who are otherwise very reputable, can get it wrong. Now you should have a better understanding of what makes an interior decorator different from an interior designer, and which field you actually want to go into. You may have been saying interior design is your passion, when really the job description of an interior decorator is what appeals to you most!

    If you’re ready to take the next step with your dreams of becoming an interior decorator, check out our interior decorating course here at QC Design School!