Interior Designer vs Interior Decorator: What’s the Difference?
When you hear the term “interior designer,” what comes to mind? If you think of someone who changes a space by adding artwork, furnishings, color schemes and other embellishments, you are not wrong. However, you are missing a key component of what it means to be an interior designer and what sets this group of professionals apart from interior decorators. While these terms may often be used interchangeably, there are important differences between the two that should be recognized.
What do Interior Designers do?
Designing an interior involves a great deal of knowledge about architecture. Unlike interior decorators, interior designers must understand building codes and laws. This information enables them to make major decisions regarding the structure of a home, office or other type of building, as they must be mindful of the safety of those who will be inhabiting or visiting the space they’re designing. Additionally, understanding human behavior allows interior designers to create spaces based on what will be most convenient, comfortable and efficient. For example, if a bedroom is being custom designed for a person with dwarfism, the ceiling, window heights and even placements of door handles should correspond with that person’s height and other lifestyle factors. Similarly, when designing a home for a person who is of above average height, important fixtures like toilets and sinks should be easily accessible without causing strain or discomfort.
Who Can Work as an Interior Designer?
Different states will have varying regulations in place for interior designers. In addition to completing formal training, passing a national exam may also be included in the list of standards that interior designers must meet in order to practice.
Multiple coalitions of interior designers have been formed across the country to advocate for regulations. The International Interior Design Association (IIDA) has a number of chapters internationally, which exist for the purpose of furthering education about interior design and advocating for interior designers to practice independently.
Due to building codes and laws, some states will require interior designers to work under the supervision of architects if structural changes to a building are being made. These interior design coalitions believe that interior designers should be competent enough to make such changes without the help of an architect. For this reason, many interior designers will opt to earn a degree and complete the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam, even in states where this is not required.
What About Interior Decorators?
In contrast, interior decorators are not expected to earn a college degree or obtain national certification before practicing. While they do not determine window placements, ceiling heights or other spatial modifications, interior decorators still have the capability to transform a home, office or other space. They can decide on the style of flooring, the color of walls and other components that add aesthetic value. Interior decorators are more focused on the overall feel of a room and how that can be modified to fit the needs or desires of those who will be using the space.
Since every building has an interior, designers and decorators alike will have a wide range of projects to choose from. They can also choose to specialize in designing or decorating particular types of places, like religious institutions, retail stores, museums and even zoos. Some interior designers prefer to rely on their own decorating skills when completing a project, while others may want to work in tandem with interior decorators. Either way, designers will often decorate, but interior decorators do not design.
Both of these specialties are highly valuable, though their roles are different. While functionality is key to interior designers, aesthetic value is of the upmost importance to interior decorators. Both of these components do a great deal to add to the comfort of a space, sparking enjoyment, inspiration and fulfillment for those who work, live and play in these settings.