My clients typically do not know the difference between an Interior Designer and a Decorator. It’s no surprise considering these two terms have been used interchangeably. However, these are two very different professions based on credentials, scope of work and responsibility.
“Interior design is the art and science of understanding people’s behavior to create functional spaces within a building.” On the other hand, “Decoration is the furnishing or adorning of a space with fashionable or beautiful things. In short, interior designers may decorate, but decorators do not design.”
The main difference between the two is education. To become an interior Designer, one must complete an extensive interior design program, learning about architecture, plumbing and electrical systems, building codes and regulatory requirements, drafting and creating architectural plans. Not to mention use of computer programs like AutoCAD, 3DMAX, Revit, Sketch-Up, InDesign, Rhino, Photoshop, Illustrator, just to name a few. That was a long four years of my life!
After schooling is complete, Interior Designers gain experience through employment and are then required (in most states) to pass an exam (the NCIDQ) in order to become registered with a governing council and officially earn the term “Interior Designer.” “Once finished with their education and a couple years of experience, an interior Designer must apply to take the exam, once approved they need to provide letters of recommendation, transcripts, and proof of employment. The exam is administered over two full days. Many Designers will study for well over a year giving up evenings and weekends for reading and taking sample tests.” Earning this qualification is quite an undertaking and requires a lot of dedication and knowledge.
By contrast, Decorators do not require formal training or licensing. However, they may have taken courses in color, fabrics, furniture and space planning, just as Interior Designers do.
Aside from education and credentials, Interior Designers and Decorators vary in terms of scope of work.
As a Designer, I work with architects and contractors to create complete renovations. I “apply creative and technical solutions that are functional, attractive and beneficial to the occupants’ quality of life and culture,” thus creating an entire environment. “The interior design process [that I follow,] is a systematic and coordinated methodology—including research, analysis and integration of knowledge into the creative process—to satisfy [my] client’s needs and resources.” From spatial planning to placing the last accent piece, I am there every step of the way.
Comparatively, Decorators do not create interior spaces, but embellish interior spaces that already exist. They do not provide services for structural work but may still work with furniture makers, upholsterers and other industry professionals to beautify your space.
We Designers also have a lot of responsibilities that Decorators don’t have. “Interior Designers are responsible for the elements that affect the public’s health, safety and welfare. For example, an interior Designer can evaluate wall finishes based on durability, acoustic properties, cleanability, flame retardancy, allergens, toxicity and off-gassing properties. An interior Decorator can evaluate finishes based only on color, style and texture.”
I don’t mean to belittle the work of Decorators; there is definitely a need for this profession. But, you should know the difference between the two in order to hire the best professional for the job.
Talie Jane is the Owner and Principal Designer of Talie Jane Interiors.
Take advantage of the benefits of hiring an interior Designer. Call Talie Jane Interiors to get started on your next project 1.855.TALIEJANE (1.855.825.4352) or visit our websiteTalieJaneInteriors.com for more information.
(All quotations from the National Council For Interior Design Qualification.)
Article written by Natalie Malik