What’s the Difference Between an Interior Designer and Decorator?

interior designerThough many people use the terms “interior design” and “interior decorating” to refer to the results of one and the same profession, there are definite differences worth knowing about, especially if you’re in the market to involve one or the other in your home design process. Most good custom home builders will have at least one kind of skilled and creative designer working as part of their team.

A Closer Look at Design and Decoration

Interior Designer
Schooling & credentials:

  • Interior design profession requires specific schooling and formal training
  • Work usually includes CAD (computer-aided design) training, drawing, space planning and  architecture
  • Graduates often apprentice with established registered interior designer before working on an independent basis
  • Most states and provinces require interior professionals to pass an exam and register with a governing body before being called designers

What they do & who they work with:

  • Familiar with spatial planning, designers can assist in designing and renovating interiors
  • Have knowledge ranging from floor plans to colour and decorative accents
  • Work closely with architects and contractors
  • Expertise involves the function of a particular interior space and not just its look

Interior Decorator
Schooling & credentials:

  • interior designerInterior decorators don’t necessarily require formal training
  • Focus is primarily on esthetics; they wouldn’t normally participate in renovations or structural planning
  • Once those aspects are complete, an interior decorator can concentrate on the overall look and style of a space, working more closely with furniture makers and upholsterers, paint and wall covering specialists and other people in the decorating industry
  • Though not formally required, there are numerous programs and courses available to those interested in a career in interior décor, focusing on room layouts, fabric, furniture styles and colour theory.

What they do & who they work with:

  • Interior decorators are skilled at seeing a space and being able to envision and realize any number of cohesive design options
  • Work closely with their clients to accommodate their personal taste and style to create a desirable ambience

Wrapping it up in the Design Department

Interior design can be looked at as the skill of understanding people’s behavior to create functional areas within a building. Decoration is the furnishing or adorning of a space in an attractive and fashionable way. An interior designer might decorate, but decorators do not design in the same structural sense. Both involve a highly developed sense of esthetics.

As opposed to an interior designer, an interior decorator usually takes over once the construction or remodeling of a house is complete, stepping into the integral role of providing professionally pulled-together creative touches to the overall theme and components of your home’s décor. Ultimately, you may wish to use both sets of skills to enhance your home.


Doug Kerr - the owner of Kerr ConstructionDoug Kerr is the owner of Kerr Construction in Vancouver. With over 25 years of experience in the renovation and new home construction business, he has developed the Kerr System for designing and building. With this Design/Build system he has helped hundreds of clients achieve their dream homes while also winning multiple national and provincial building and renovations awards. Being a former world-class athlete…” Read more.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Kerr Construction.


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