Interior Designer Vs. Interior Decorator: What’s The Difference?

By: | February 09 , 2024
Interior Designer Vs. Interior Decorator What’s The Difference

When it comes to professional help with designing interior spaces, many people use the terms “interior designer” and “interior decorator” interchangeably. However, these are two distinct professions with different training requirements, job duties, and governing regulations. Understanding the distinctions can help property owners ascertain the right professional for their needs and budget. This article clarifies the definitions, responsibilities, skills, and certification differences between interior designers and decorators.

Post your Requirement

AspectInterior DesignerInterior Decorator
EducationTypically, a formal education in interior design, often with a degree or certification. Knowledge of architecture, building codes, and spatial design.May have formal education or training in interior decorating, but it is not always a requirement. Focuses more on aesthetics and furnishings.
Scope of WorkAddresses both the functional and aesthetic aspects of interior spaces. Involves space planning, layout, color schemes, materials, and coordination with architects and contractors.Primarily focuses on aesthetics and decor. Involves selecting furniture, color schemes, and accessories, and creating an overall style or theme for a space.
Spatial Planning emphasizes comprehensive spatial planning, considering the flow, functionality, and efficient use of space. May be involved in structural changes or renovations.Primarily concentrates on arranging and decorating existing spaces. Less likely to be involved in structural alterations or major renovations.
Color and Material SelectionInvolves selecting colors and materials based on functionality, aesthetics, and the client’s needs. Considers the impact of natural and artificial light.Primarily focuses on choosing colors and materials for decorative purposes. May not be as concerned with the technical aspects of material selection.
Project CollaborationOften works closely with architects, contractors, and other professionals during the design and construction process. Collaborates on the overall layout and functionality of the space.Primarily collaborates with clients and focuses on enhancing the existing space through furnishings and decor. May not be as involved in the architectural aspects.
Professional CertificationMany interior designers are certified by professional organizations, demonstrating their education, experience, and adherence to industry standards.Certification is less common among interior decorators. Some may have certifications or memberships in decorating-focused organizations.

Definitions and Occupational Descriptions

An interior designer is a trained professional who analyzes, plans, and oversees interior architectural projects. Designers focus on enhancing functionality and quality of life through creative spatial planning and solutions tailored specifically to a client’s space and needs. Safety, accessibility, sustainability, codes & regulations also guide their comprehensive approach. Many interior designers hold a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree that includes technical subjects as well as aesthetic color theory, furniture styles, lighting, and materials. Interior designers often achieve certification and must pass rigorous exams to earn a license which permits legal sign-off on drawings for permitted work.

An interior decorator makes aesthetic improvements to homes or businesses by providing finishing touches and decor elements like colors, lighting, furnishings, and stylistic flair. Their role revolves around enhancing appeal through creative arrangements, without changing architectural structure. Interior decorators typically study color theory, historical periods, furniture arrangement, and harmonious style in two-year Associate or certificate programs. Their work does not require licensing or special permissions the way major interior construction and certain structural changes would.

Key Responsibilities and Activities

Interior designers perform many tasks spanning initial planning through oversight during physical construction or renovations:

  • Analyze client requirements, goals, space dimensions, and structural elements
  • Design creative yet practical spatial layouts matching the intended purposes
  • Prepare technical drawings detailing plans, lighting, materials, furniture, etc.
  • Specify building code compliance and adhere to safety best practices
  • Coordinate with architects, engineers, and other construction professionals
  • Obtain local permitting and negotiate contractor bidding.
  • Physically review installation progress across interior trades
  • Manage budgets, schedules, and contracts throughout projects
  • Stay onsite during finishing touches and project turnover.

Meanwhile, interior decorators:

  • Determine client style, preferences, and decorative vision for the space.
  • Develop color palettes, and select furnishings, lighting fixtures, and textiles.
  • Draw floor plans to strategically arrange furniture and amenities.
  • Oversee staged installation of all decorative items.
  • Provide personalized styling through layered décor elements.
  • Curate and procure various accessories, art, and decorative pieces.
  • Continually refresh look over time through reinvented layouts or new accents.

Training and Education

Interior designers complete postsecondary training that equips them with specialized expertise for technically demanding work. A bachelor’s or master’s degree in interior design develops essential skills in spatial planning, building systems, AutoCAD, design theory and process, model making, lighting design, sustainability principles, codes, and Construction Documentation. With advanced technical, analytical, and problem-solving abilities, they manage multifaceted renovation projects. Many jurisdictions mandate a minimum of a bachelor’s degree plus a professional examination for certification/licensure to approve drawings.

Interior decorators pursue coursework in color theory, textiles, retail merchandising, and decorative arts while earning an associate degree or certificate. This trains them aesthetically without the same technical building systems education as interior designers. Their work embellishes existing spaces through furniture arrangement, lighting, and curated accents rather than holistic architectural renovations.

Career Trajectories

Interior designers may work towards becoming licensed/certified professionals authorized to prepare, sign, and stamp drawings for pulling permits with local building departments. Some even start their firms. Interior decorators can also move into lead roles at design firms to oversee specialty decor divisions or mentor junior staff. Both fields allow entrepreneurial prospects for those who later start their studios.


Interior designers and interior decorators both enrich living and working establishments through creative improvements but prepare for these careers via markedly different paths. Interior designers earn interior architecture degrees that technically and holistically transform spaces. Licensed designers legally modify floorplans, whereas decorators finesse the aesthetics of existing layouts without permitting. Now equipped with a clearer distinction, clients can align interior projects with the appropriate field expert.

Post A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post your Requirement

Subscribe Now


Connect with us