Designer VS Decorator: What is the Difference?

ID Collaborative blog post

Interior Designers

Many people use the terms “interior design” and “interior decorating” interchangeably, but these professions differ in critical ways.

Interior design is the art and science of understanding people’s behavior to create functional spaces within a building. Decoration is the furnishing or adorning of a space with fashionable or beautiful things. In short, interior designers may decorate, but decorators do not design.

Interior designers apply creative and technical solutions within a structure that are functional, attractive and beneficial to the occupants’ quality of life and culture. Designs respond to and coordinate with the building shell and acknowledge the physical location and social context of the project. Designs must adhere to code and regulatory requirements and encourage the principles of environmental sustainability.

The interior design process follows a systematic and coordinated methodology — including research, analysis and integration of knowledge into the creative process — to satisfy the client’s needs and resources.

Interior Design is a more specialized career field, requiring a certain combined level of education, work experience, and licensing. Typically, Interior Designers have attended 4-year colleges or universities that are CIDA or FIDER accredited, and have majored in Interior Design. They have completed internships within the field under the supervision of licensed professionals to gain real world experience. And, qualified Interior Designers have either passed, or are working towards passing, the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam in order to test their competency and to attain state recognition of their profession. By contrast, interior decorators require no formal training or licensure.

Interior Designers are also encouraged to stay current in their field and are required to complete a certain number of Continuing Education Units (CEUs) each year per state licensing and/or organizational membership requirements. Many Interior Designers are members of organizations such as the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), just to name a few.

Thus, a primary difference between an Interior Designer and an Interior Decorator is that the Interior Designer is certified on many levels and has obtained, through their education, a wide range of technical skills needed to provide a full range of interior design services.

In Summary: Be Careful!

North Carolina does not have any state law or board and there is no title that is regulated. And, because North Carolina is not yet a title state, anyone can call themselves an “Interior Designer” regardless of the above qualifications. So, it is very important to ask the right questions and make sure you are getting the right person for the job.