You are thinking about renovating or building a new home and you’ve decided to do the project with the help of professionals; you’ve interviewed architects and have a list of contractors to call so you are off to a great start, but do you have the third group of professionals on your list to interview? I’m referring to interior designers and decorators.
To understand which one to use, you first need to know the difference between the two. Simply put, an interior designer is someone who performs tasks which involve planning and design similar to an architect while primarily concentrating on the inside of the structure. Interior designers understand building codes and safety laws while also having the ability to create visually pleasing spaces.
A decorator’s main focus is on how something should look and not necessarily how the structure goes together. Decorators concentrate on colors, flooring, furnishings, fabrics and accessories; not all of the planning it takes to renovate or build a space.
While many use the terms “decorator” and “designer” interchangeably as if they were saying “tomato” or “tomatoe”; these are two very different professions. One of the most discerning differences is in education and training. A decorator may work in a design showroom or retail store or even have their own freelance business. Typically there are no government regulations with regard to how decorators perform their work or services and in many instances they have no formal education in design [decorating] with the exception of on-the-job training.
Interior design is a specialized field requiring education, training and in many states some form of licensing. While designers also focus on furnishings, colors, wall coverings and the finish elements of a project, they typically create plans and designs which could include lighting, interior space planning [room layouts], as well as kitchen and bath designs. In many instances an interior designer's training is similar to an architect with the ability to understand the relationship of space with regard to its proportion and function.
Some decorators only perform residential work, while interior designers cover not only residential but also commercial spaces such as restaurants, hotels, medical facilities, retirement homes and offices. Decorators are usually hired to help complete the aesthetic look of a space while designers are hired on at the beginning of a project to work alongside the architect so that the owner’s space comes together effortlessly - from the placement of the walls, windows and doors to what kind of finish materials will be used all the way to the selection of the furniture and window treatments.
Let's recap: the basic difference between the two professions starts with education and training. An interior designer can work on a project from start to finish; preparing plans and construction details for bidding and permitting as well as supervising the installation of the work [known as project management]. A designer’s education and training gives them the ability to deal with local building codes and building departments and licensed contractors; they have the expertise to handle all of these different players whereas you may not have the time, experience or desire to do so.
A decorator is usually hired after construction has commenced when it is time to start selecting finish materials and soft goods. An interior designer can work on a project at any phase; they are the professionals who can be on the project with you from beginning to end; making sure that the vision you start with is the one you end up with.
No matter whether you choose to work with an interior designer or a decorator; when you work with trained professionals it will be better than you ever imagined!