Designers and Decorators can Coexist: Knowing the Difference Between the Two Disciplines
When at a recent reunion and asked the question “what do you do for a living?” I responded “I am an Interior Designer”. The reaction I received was not unexpected “…oh, I would love for you to come to my house and help me decorate”.
There seems to be a lot of confusion among the general public about the difference between interior decorators and interior designers. While many people use these terms interchangeably, there is a distinct difference between the two. It is important to understand the difference when starting your next project.
Interior Decoration is defined as the art of decorating a room so that it is attractive, easy to use, and functions well with the existing architecture. The goal of interior decoration is to provide a certain “feel” for the room; it encompasses applying wallpaper, painting walls and other surfaces, choosing furniture and fittings, and providing other decorations for the area such as paintings, sculptures and carpets.
Being a decorator is a respectful profession, and for some projects, a decorator is all that a client really needs. If their space is already defined and they just need assistance selecting fabrics and colors, a decorator is perfect for that. Some projects, however, require more knowledge of construction, local zoning, ADA requirements, knowledge of construction materials and experience working with architects and contractors, etc.
Because Interior Decorating is less technical than Interior Design, there is no formal education required. While decoration is an important aspect of an interior, the interior designer typically goes beyond that providing further input to the client.
The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) describes Interior Design as more than an aesthetic enhancement of a space; it involves the conceptual research and planning and applied solutions to achieve a client’s desired result in a space. Interior Designers are responsible for multiple tasks including:
- enhancing the function, safety and aesthetics of interior spaces
- analyzing client needs and working to create a program of requirements
- space planning
- understanding life safety requirements
- preparing working drawings and specifications “in compliance with universal accessibility guide lines and all applicable codes”
- coordinating with architects and engineers
- selecting and specifying fixtures, furnishings, materials and colors.
Interior designers can be involved in almost every type of project including: hotels, corporate spaces, churches, schools, hospitals, restaurants, theaters etc. Typically, designers would be involved with the project from day one, working with the architect and consultants on the job to ensure the best possible end product for the client. In contrast, a decorator would be called in at the end of the design process to add desired accoutrements.
In other words, a decorator uses previously designed elements to “decorate” an environment, whereas a designer “creates” the environment.
by Carrie Boyd
Principal, Director - Interior Design
Carrie is a principal and the director of M+A's interior design studio. She enjoys staying on top of trends and interior materials, vacationing in Cabo San Lucas and cheering on the buckeyes.