Interior Designer VS Interior Decorator
Photo of Ashley putting together tile samples for interior design

Interior designer vs interior decorator. Is there a difference? A common misconception is that Interior Designers are “decorators”, but did you know that Interior design professionals have to go through rigorous schooling and examinations in order to gain the title, of “Interior Designer”.

Although interior designers are often called interior decorators and do also do some “decorating” the two are not interchangeable and designers and decorators do two different things.

When it comes time to find someone for your project, it will be helpful to distinguish between the two professions to decide which is right for you and your project!

Below we describe the differences in credentials, services, and education of in interior designer vs interior decorator.

Interior Designers:

  • Require education and formal training from an accredited program to be considered for taking the NCIDQ exam which will license them as an Interior Designer.
  • Formal training includes Computer-Aided Drafting + Design (CAD) courses, space planning, furniture design, architecture, understand how to interpret building codes, and training in color theory and textiles.
  • Introduced to the project from project inception to completion.
  • Create space plans and update the function of the space as well as the aesthetic of the space. They produce full sets of Construction Documents and details so the contractor knows exactly how to build the space.
  • Coordinate with electrical to make sure new fixtures are set up to work with the functionality of space.
  • Interior Designers are taught how to communicate effectively with architects, engineers, and contractors to create an easy process for the client.

Interior Decorators (Designers, Design Consultants):

  • No required formal training or schooling. Many have a degree in a related field or a certification that helps them authenticate their practice.
  • Is typically introduced to the project once the space plan and structural plan have been completed.
  • They will help a client accessorize a room, purchase furniture, choose a color scheme, and revamp the space.
  • Don’t typically work with architects or contractors, but work closely with furniture upholsters and manufacturers.
  • Focus more on the surface level of a space.

Interior designer vs interior decorator: who do you choose?

First, it’s important to understand the scope of your project.

For instance, if you’re planning on moving plumbing, wiring, walls, or doors, and you want a full set of construction documents and details that can be used to tell the contractor how to build the space, the better choice may be an “Interior Designer”. A Licensed Interior Designer will work closely with all parties of the project to make sure design strategies are coordinated very early on.

However, If there are no structural changes needed you’re looking for a general refresh of your space like new finishes, furniture, and decor then an “interior decorator/consultant, designer, or design consultant” might be right for you. A designer can transform a space by selecting new window treatments, wall coverings, paint, lighting, and accessories.

Most importantly, it’s wise to consider the skills and experience of the individual and how it applies to what you’re looking for.

Most Interior Designers and Decorators have their own “Flare” or “Niche”. You also want to make sure you’re connecting with your designer. Your space is a sacred place, and you want to make sure that whomever you select will listen to your needs and have the ability to convey your desires.

Here at Awakening Spaces, we specialize in creating healthy interior spaces for environmentally susceptible individuals. We combine the skills and training of and Interior Design and Building Biology with our knowledge of integrative health to create spaces that are safe and nurturing for the occupant. We look at spaces holistically all the way from the space plan/layout of the space right down to the quality of each and every material we use.

We understand that those who are environmentally sensitive and who have been affected by mold or other environmental toxins may have different needs and requirements when considering the design of their new space. For instance, a chemically sensitive client may want to layout the home in such a way that they can separate private and public spaces. This way they can still entertain guests without having to contaminate their living sanctuary. This is one of many examples of how we would design specifically for someone with an environmental sensitivity.

If you’re thinking about an upcoming project, but don’t know where to start—we’d love to hear from you. If you’re ready to talk and want to learn more, fill out our New Project Application to set up a clarity call.


Ashley Realm

Ashley · @AwakeningSpaces

Awakening Spaces is a full service interior design and consulting firm that support health conscious individuals and those who have been impacted by mold, chemicals, and EMFs create safe nurturing spaces.

Whether you’re renovating, building new, or looking to improve your existing space, we’re here to help you navigate the massive project you’re taking on by looking at your environment holistically and outlining the steps you need to take so that you can feel confident that your home is supporting your health and you can get back to your life.

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