Interior Designer? Or Interior Decorator? What is the difference?
Who do you need? The difference explained.
Have you decided that you have outgrown your home and need a bit of a change? Have you bought a new house that is not, quite right? Is the number of things you would like to change overwhelming? You may need professional help. But where do you start? After a 3-hour caffeinated research frenzy you realize that the list of services is almost as overwhelming as your project! What is the difference between an interior designer and an interior decorator? Who do you need?
It is a common misconception that the term ‘’interior designer ‘and interior decorator’ can be used interchangeably. The differences in education and scope of work they do vary quite radically and yet overlap at the same time- drawing the line can be a point of controversy.
An interior designer is trained by degreed education at a university over three or more years. They graduate with a degree, honours or masters in this field. During this time they’ve spent many painstaking hours, learning and perfecting architectural drafting, building codes and regulations, council submission drawings, working with materials such as wood, concrete, plastics etc., custom furniture designs, various construction materials, space planning, plumbing, electrical & lighting planning. They’ve spent weeks & months writing research papers and solving ergonomic, behavioural, structural and aesthetic finishes and fixtures of various commercial & residential spaces. Interior designers are considered professionals within their fields and require a high degree of education to use that title.
What they do:
Interior design is the science and art of understanding people’s behaviour and solving structural & aesthetic design problems in new or existing buildings to make the spaces more functional thus improving the quality of life for their clients. To put it bluntly; Interior designers can decorate, but interior decorators cannot necessarily be interior designers. Interior designers deal with spatial planning, kitchen layouts, bathroom layouts, lighting & electrical layouts, renovation layouts, floor plans, construction & structural changes. Interior designer uses architectural programs and detailed technical drawings to design functional structural designs. They consider hard finishes- or permanent finishes as well as all the permanent fixtures. At a later stage of the project the interior designer could start creating a style through wall finishes, colour schemes, furniture layouts & custom-built furniture.
Examples of Technical drawings from JSD Interiors:
Who they work with:
Interior designers often work with architects, engineers, contractors, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, flooring specialists, and kitchen companies as well as various other vendors that work with the wet-works, structural, functional and hard finishes within the building.
Interior decorators need not have an extensive education in this topic- education can range from a nothing but stylish aesthetically oriented housewife with great taste to educational short-course certificates and diplomas. Generally speaking (and of course there are exceptions) decorators do not take part in the technical planning phase of a home, but rather deal with existing spaces & need not have any formal training except for some good taste. This of course raises the concern where the terms interior design and interior decorator are used interchangeably as they refer to an educational and skill level difference. Having said that there are still decorators that do go the extra mile and with exceptional taste and style dramatically change spaces due to their exceptional talent, taste and creativity.
What they do:
Interior decorating is one of the last steps in a remodel or build, they arrive at existing structures to create a style, beautify or embellish a space. They are primarily concerned with colour schemes, wall finishes such as paint finishes, wallpapers, furniture styles, furniture layouts, window treatments such as blinds and curtains, accessories like scatter cushions and object, fabric, upholstery and adornment.
Who they work with:
Interior decorators work with interior designers and architect occasionally, however most of their time is spent working with upholsters, fabric houses, furniture manufacturers, and various other suppliers.
Whom you decide to hire depends on your project needs. If you need structural changes & hard finishes and fixtures- any work that may make a mess, any work that involves moving spaces around or building custom permanent fixtures like cupboards, kitchens, or lighting then an interior designer is the way to go. If you want to freshen up and existing space without structural changes or too much dirt- the ‘facelift’- then hire a decorator. The soundest way to make this decision is to choose a company that does both; they can assess your project from a holistic perspective & come up with surprisingly creative and original solutions- you will not only have the comfort of a trained professional but someone with a flair for the softer aesthetics too.