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Interior Designer vs. Interior Decorator: how to distinguish?

If this article sparked your interest, you are probably planning a makeover and looking for a specialist in the field. Have you encountered the terms “interior designer” and “interior decorator” and wondered whether there is a difference, how to distinguish between them if they don’t refer to the same thing, and which one you need? We have written a comprehensive article on the subject so that you can faster get to the process of renovation you have planned.

While both professions refer to interior design and have lots of similarities so that some can hardly notice the border, these terms cannot be used interchangeably, and we will explain why.

Who is an interior designer?

Interior designers represent the profession that wears more than one hat, being responsible for the technical and creative layout of the space in the process of building an interior environment. During their work, interior designers apply their knowledge and the client’s preferences to set a functional and stylish interior that matches the client’s standards. 

Required skills

  • Having a grasp of interior design styles and current trends;
  • Good understanding of aesthetics and proportion;
  • Basic knowledge of inspection regulations and other building codes
  • Detail-oriented visual design skills;
  • Ability to work with software designed for this field of work.

Education and Credentials

Interior designers are required to have formal training before stepping into real work. During their study, they start with drawing and go on with space planning, architecture, colors, fabrics, and even computer-aided design, known as CAD.

After completing their studies, some designers go further and strive for credentialing to stand out from decorators, although it is not mandatory. Still, there are states that require designers to be licensed so that they can prove their qualifications. 

Main duties

Since interior designers are comfortable with performing a wide range of activities of technical and decorative nature, they can start with the floor plan and reach the last piece of decor. They are responsible for the functional space layout and stylish appearance. They operate with their knowledge of building codes and requirements when setting the interior plan and their strong sense of style when adding the last touches. Besides, contemporary designers use technology in creating virtual projects for interiors before putting them into practice. 

Who they collaborate with

Interior designers interact directly with architects when setting the space plan and contractors when working on the layout. Both are meant to meet the client’s needs and preferences, and this is why the interior designer also works directly with the homeowner. 

Who is an interior decorator?

In contrast with interior designers, decorators don’t work with architectural aspects. They enhance the appearance of an interior by stylishly decorating it in terms of furniture, textiles, colors, and accents. Nevertheless, as designers do, decorators also stick to the client’s requirements and try to replicate their sense of beauty.

Required skills

  • Strong grasp of design principles;
  • Ability to collaborate efficiently with clients;
  • High creativity for reinventing spaces;
  • Managing budgets;
  • Ability to develop decorative plans.

Education and Credentials

Interior decorators are not required to have formal training, yet they can undergo a few college courses in the field. Their work is directly related to the overall appearance of the space without interfering with the structural part. Once that architectural process comes to an end, interior decorators climb onto the stage. To reach new heights, many decorators undergo various programs so that they can achieve certification by studying in depth such aspects as colors, fabrics, layout, furniture, and styles. 

Main duties

Unlike designers, decorators deal with the decorative part only. They work directly with the client, gather the information, come up with decorative plans, search for and select all decorative units, from finishes to the last accent, and arrange the decorations. Besides the decorative part, decorators also manage the budget and make sure everything stays within limits. 

Who they collaborate with

Usually, the interior decorator interacts with the client only. This is the core feature of the collaboration with a decorator. Still, there is also the other side of the coin. Decorators work with subcontractors, such as painters or carpenters, overseeing the process of putting the pieces together. 

Who should I hire?

If you plan on fully renovating your space, starting with structural changes, then going on with poorly decorative makeovers, you definitely need an interior designer. Adding or removing a wall, setting the floor plan, dealing with plumbing and wiring, and changing the window or door place refers to the designer’s work. Additionally, interior designers can manage the decorative part as well on top of the earlier mentioned activities. 

At the same time, an interior decorator is what you need if all you want to do is refresh your interior with a new aesthetically pleasing look, referring to furniture, textiles, paints, and decor. One should note that the title is not always what defines a person’s skills. There are decorators with years of experience that made them acquire design skills enough to perform the work of an interior designer and the opposite, designers who show impressive decorative abilities. All things considered, the only conclusion we come to is that you should carefully study the portfolio of the designer or decorator you intend to hire, which is much easier now with online platforms that provide interior design services that make it possible with one click. You can analyze the work of the best designers or decorators and give it a try yourself.

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