3 Differences Between a Designer and a Decorator


October 11, 2023

We often connect with potential clients who are interested in our services until we share our process, at which point they realize they don’t need as much assistance. This is where we recommend that they hire a decorator instead of a designer. If you’ve ever wondered how the two roles are unique, read below as we define 3 differences between a designer and a decorator.

Education & Certification

One of the largest differences between an interior designer and an interior decorator is education. Interior designers earn a degree or certificate in the subject and many sit for the NCIDQ Exam which captures the core competencies of interior design including understanding building codes, construction standards and more. Passing this exam grants an interior designer their certification; however a designer may still acquire a job at a design firm without taking the NCIDQ Exam. Becoming an interior decorator doesn’t require formal education or certification but interior decorators usually understand design essentials such as design application and color theory.

Project Scope

The types of projects each role takes on is another difference between a designer and a decorator. Interior designers typically understand building codes which allows them to oversee renovations and new construction projects. Designers are also well-versed in space planning which requires knowledge of the ideal distance between objects in a room including clearance for door openings and furniture. Decorators are more involved in styling and decorating a space on the surface and usually make recommendations for paint, furniture, fixtures and decor. 

Project Process 

Finally, the third biggest difference between an interior designer and interior decorator is their process for launching and completing a project. Interior designers use design software to draft floor and space plans at the start of a project. This step is followed by a variety of phases including schematic design, design development, construction and more. An interior decorator will assist with establishing a color palette and overall vision for the space but many do not create detailed deliverables such as a schematic design or construction documents. 

So, which one do you need? Here are some questions to ask yourself before deciding if you need an interior designer or an interior decorator.

  • Do you want to design your space from scratch or just update a few accents in the room? If you want to design from scratch, consider hiring an interior designer. If you want to update a few accents, consult an interior decorator.
  • Does your project involve renovating any spaces in your home? If so, an interior designer is the best person for the job.
  • Do you already have a vision for your space and you just need some guidance? If yes, hire an interior decorator to assist you with bringing your vision to life.

We hope this post helped you understand these 3 differences between a designer and a decorator. If you are in need of assistance with your home or commercial space, we would love to help. Click here to contact us and book a complimentary discovery call with our team.