Interior Designer vs Interior Decorator, What’s The Difference You Ask?
Many interior decorators use the title “Interior Designer” interchangeably. The difference between the two as defined defined by The Council for Interior Design Qualification is as follows: “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.
U.S. states and Canadian provinces have passed laws requiring interior designers to be licensed or registered and to document their formal education and training. Many states and provinces also specifically require all practicing interior designers to earn the NCIDQ Certification to demonstrate their experience and qualifications. By contrast, interior decorators require no formal training or licensure.” Read Full Article Here
The Big Debate
Now this definition does not dictate that the term designer cannot be interchanged with the term decorator and there is a long standing debate regarding the ethics around using the titles interchangeably.
With respect to the designers who have gone to school and acquired a formal education I, who am self taught, respectfully refrain from calling myself a designer. However, I don’t fully agree with the definitions used here from the CIDQ.
I, as many decorators, even though not formally trained, do follow like the definition of an “interior designer” stated above, using a “systematic and coordinated methodology–including research, analysis, and integration of knowledge into the creative process-to satisfy the client’s needs and resources”… I am just not licensed or have a degree in interior design.
There are many famous designers who do not have a formal design degree. A degree does not assume good taste and creativity. However when working with architects, formal drafting and space planning are very useful, as well as a full knowledge of the CAD system for 3 dimensional drawings. These are times when I wished I had obtained a degree in Interior Design. Could I learn this on my own? Yes, but I admit I have not really needed to and have been able to work around it. There are many resources available online now.
Arguably, with every room I do, whether I call it “decorating” or “designing” my work fits within the CIDQ definition of “designing” as I “respond to and coordinate with the building shell and acknowledge the physical location and social context of the project.” My “decorating” “adheres to the code and regulatory requirements of the job and encourages the principles of environmental sustainability.” So do I get to call myself an interior designer? I decline not to only because I am not licensed.
Does that mean that decorators are worth less, that they should charge less? It’s a slippery slope. I think a client pays for the end result. If my prospective clients like me and like my work then they will pay me for my creativity and not be concerned about my degrees and paid affiliations. If I went to school and got a degree from a fancy school, would I charge more? You bet I would! And some clients will want the big name design firm and won’t mind the hefty price tag that goes with it. But many times it’s about the job scope, the expertise and team effort needed when considering hiring a designer. Does it mean that their work will be more creative?
Not necessarily. I have seen the work of some high end, formally educated, interior designers and have not liked it and felt it did not address the “needs of the client” but instead, their own egos and need to stand out as being avant garde instead of practicality for the clients. And yet reading detailed blueprints for a large design project may require the skills and knowledge that’s acquired from a degree and again the job may require a large team.
In the end, all the education in the world does not make up for innate talent and creativity. Like everything, the more in demand something is the more it’s worth. As my reputation grows, so will my fees. I consider myself an interior decorator even though I have designed many spaces.