If you’ve ever tried to bring someone in to help with an interior design project, you know that finding your perfect match can be a task unto itself. For one thing, there are a number options to choose from, each with their own body of work. For another, there’s design lingo to sort through. Some call themselves an interior designer while others use the term interior decorator. What’s the difference?
The last question is the one we’re tackling today. While these two professions are very similar, a few key differences can have an impact on your project. Keep reading to learn what sets the two apart and how to figure out which one will best suit your needs.
What makes an interior designer?
Education: To become an interior designer, you need to go through formal training. It’s usually either a two-year or four-year program. In some areas, designers may have to pass an exam in order to become registered with their local governing body, though this is not always the case.
Special skills: A large part of an interior design education focuses on space planning. This process includes conducting an in-depth analysis of how the current space is being used, as well as any functional changes that should be made in a redesign. Usually, this will include things like changing the layout to achieve better functionality or usage throughout the space.
When to bring one in: An interior designer is your best choice if you’re working on a remodel and require guidance beyond aesthetics. They can help you redesign your space from the ground up, as well as navigating day-to-day details like working with contractors.
What makes an interior decorator?
Education: Since interior decorators generally focus solely on decorative details, there’s less of a need for them to have a standardized education. Most will have undergone some sort of training program to learn about the foundational principles of interior design.
Special skills: Interior decorators are all about aesthetics. They can handle tasks such as selecting color schemes, purchasing new design items, arranging furniture layouts, and hanging wall art. Think of them as an expert who can help you bring an entirely new look to your existing space.
When to bring one in: Bringing in an interior decorator might be the right choice if you need another set of savvy eyes to help bring your design inspiration to life, or if you want to give a room a makeover and don’t have time to handle it on your own.
Which one should you choose?
Ultimately, which type of professional you decide to hire is a matter of personal preference. If you’re on the fence between the two, we’ve compiled a list of questions to help you sort out which pick is right for you. Read them over before making any hiring decisions:
- Are you planning to make any structural or functional changes right off the bat?
- Are you planning on redoing a room like a kitchen or a bathroom, where functional fixes might be more difficult to navigate if they pop up during the process? Or, somewhere like a bedroom or living space where they’ll likely be less extensive if needed at all?
- How important are education and credentials to you?
- Are you looking for someone to manage the project?
One thing to keep in mind: Every decorator and designer is different. This is only a general guide. You should research individuals in your area to see what services they offer. As always, we recommend that you do your best to look over design portfolios, read reviews, and get your questions answered before deciding who’s the best fit for the job.
When you’re trying to sort out your next design project, you may be dealing with so many things at once that small details like whether you’ve hired an interior designer or an interior decorator may not seem to matter. However, this is one place where lingo does matter. Consider this to be your guide to sorting out the differences between these two titles and how to find your best fit.
Have you ever used an interior decorator or an interior designer for one of your projects? What factors ultimately helped you make your hiring decision? Share your experience with us in the comments below.