Interior Designer vs Interior Decorator: What’s The Difference?

Sustainability In Interior Design

The world of interior design is an exciting one, but it can be a little confusing. Ever wondered about the difference between ‘interior design’ and ‘interior decoration’? They might seem like interchangeable terms, but trust us, they’re two unique, equally fascinating worlds. If you’re getting ready for a home renovation, understanding these distinctions will save you both time and money. Here we will arm you with all the information you need to navigate these design waters, and ultimately help to connect you with the right professional to bring your dream space to life.

When the phrase “interior design” comes up, many people immediately conjure images of makeover TV shows, Pinterest DIY ideas, or thrilling “room makeover” challenges. However, what they are often visualising, is actually the realm of interior decorating. Although decorating is indeed a component of crafting lovely, functional spaces, the role of an interior designer is distinct and encompasses much more than what decorating alone can achieve.


Interior Design:  A Multi-Dimensional World

Interior design is the blend of art and science, aimed at understanding human behaviour to create functional spaces within a home.

An interior designer often works in tandem with architects to make structural alterations to interiors, complying with building codes and leveraging a wealth of construction knowledge. They don’t just pick out pretty colours and furniture. Their skillset is far-reaching, involving:

Space Planning: This involves a deep understanding of how people move and operate within a space to create flow and improve functionality.

Architectural Knowledge: From wall placements to intricate ceiling designs, a designer knows how to make the best use of available square footage.

Technical Proficiency: Designers are skilled in CAD (Computer-Aided Design), allowing them to create detailed floor plans and 3D models.

Material Science: A good interior designer understands the properties and uses of materials like wood, metal, glass, and textiles, ensuring the best choices for durability and aesthetics.

Human-Centric Design: Understanding ergonomics and psychology allows designers to create spaces that improve well-being and accessibility.

Environmental Considerations: With sustainability becoming a focal point, designers often integrate eco-friendly options and energy-saving solutions.

Interior designers guide a project from concept to completion. They’ll create mood boards, source materials, liaise with contractors, and ensure that all regulations are met, offering a holistic approach to a design challenge.

Interior Decoration: All About Aesthetics

Interior decorating focuses on adorning a room with aesthetic elements to achieve a particular look or feel. Put simply, decorators embellish spaces.

They are your go-to professionals for:

Colour Theory: Which shades inspire tranquillity, and which inject energy. An interior decorator will be able to advise you on the right colour palette for your room.

Textile & Texture: From lush velvet sofas to sheer curtains, they can guide you on how to enhance a space.

Accessorising: Whether it’s a Baroque mirror or a minimalist lamp, interior decorators know how to make a statement.

Interior decorators are often brought in for the final touches—when you’re looking to enhance a space without changing its structure.

The Fine Line: What Sets Interior Designers and Decorators Apart?

Interior designers are typically suited to a more extended project that involves a comprehensive overhaul of a room or space. A customised process that considers various factors, most importantly your specific needs and preferences, offering a more in-depth approach to interiors. With decorators, the process is purely decorative and therefore a faster process than interior design.

So you might now wonder what makes the interior design process more time-consuming compared to decorating? Well, the answer lies in the kind of tasks and responsibilities each role involves. To help you better understand, we’ve broken down some key differences that showcase the depth of an interior designer’s role compared to a decorator’s.

Educational Requirements: Interior designers typically hold formal educational qualifications accredited by a professional body, such as the British Institute of Interior Design (BIID), which isn’t a standard requirement for interior decorators.

Licensing & Certifications: Interior designers in many regions may require a licence or certification to practise. This often involves meeting rigorous educational and experience-based criteria, along with passing a professional examination.

Technical Skills: Designers are proficient in technical aspects like architectural drawing, 3D visualisation, and space planning. These skills generally fall outside the purview of a decorator’s expertise.

Project Scope: Interior designers often take charge of a project from its initial conception, overseeing all elements including structural alterations and finishings. Decorators, on the other hand, usually focus on enhancing existing spaces without making structural changes.

Stakeholder Collaboration: Designers frequently collaborate with a range of stakeholders, such as architects, contractors, and even local artisans. This multidisciplinary approach is generally not a requirement in the realm of decoration.

By understanding these key differentiators, you’ll be better equipped to choose the right professional for your project, be it design or decoration.

Do You Need an Interior Designer or Decorator?

Knowing the difference between an interior designer and an interior decorator can guide you in choosing the right professional for your project. While both aim to enhance spaces, interior designers come equipped with a comprehensive skillset and knowledge that allow them to tackle complex projects from the ground up.

If you’re planning a complete overhaul, including changes to the layout and / or structure, then an interior designer is what you need. If you’re simply looking to refresh the look of your space, then an interior decorator should suffice.

Before you decide, assess the scale and requirements of your project carefully. Whether it’s a designer or a decorator, choose someone who resonates with your vision. Your home is an extension of yourself; make sure it gets the expertise it deserves.

If you want to discuss interior design for your home then get in touch!


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