Interior Designer vs. Interior Decorator: What’s the Difference?

Interior design and interior decorating are often mistaken as the same thing but most don’t know that the two professions are actually different.

An interior designer is a professional who has acquired the expertise, knowledge, and skill, through education, experience, and examination, to create interior environments that meet the requirements of and present solutions for their clients. They have extensive knowledge of current codes, standards, and regulations and adhere to these in their work. They also pay strict attention to the importance of accessibility, functionality, health, safety, and welfare to their clients. An interior design professional contributes at every phase of the project to ensure that the final result exceeds expectations and ensures the health, safety and welfare of all who may use or occupy the space.

An Interior Decorator may carry out some similar duties to that of an interior designer, however, interior decorators typically focus their work on the decorative aspects of interior design. Furniture selection, textiles, materials and color are generally within their scope of work. Improving the comfort and beautify an existing space or room, as opposed to getting involved in structural planning, access and egress issues, or health and safety planning for occupants.

Interior Designers focus on planning, safety, functional, quality design while working in a set of programmatic and budgetary constraints. Aesthetics is only part of the equation.

Council for Interior Design Qualification’s Definition of an Interior Designer:

“Interior design encompasses the analysis, planning, design, documentation, and management of interior non-structural/non-seismic construction and alteration projects in compliance with applicable building design and construction, fire, life-safety, and energy codes, standards, regulations, and guidelines for the purpose of obtaining a building permit, as allowed by law. Qualified by means of education, experience, and examination, interior designers have a moral and ethical responsibility to protect consumers and occupants through the design of code-compliant, accessible, and inclusive interior environments that address well-being, while considering the complex physical, mental, and emotional needs of people.” (CIDQ Definition of Interior Design)

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