What is the difference between an Interior Designer and Interior Decorator?

Many people use the two titles of “Interior Designer” or “Interior Decorator” interchangeably, but there are fundamental differences between the two. An Interior Designer creates a functional, healthy, and safe space by analyzing people’s behavior, culture, work patterns, daily habits or schedules, and in commercial environments the office policies, position hierarchy, and business type are all taken into consideration. Life Safety and Building and Fire codes are analyzed to ensure regulatory requirements are met. An Interior Decorator adorns a space in a fashionable and beautiful way. If you are just painting and changing some furniture then both can handle the task, however if you are going to invest your hard earned money in a decorator who may be charging similar fee’s to a Designer, wouldn’t you want the biggest bang for your buck? While I can sit and try to define Interior Design to you the NCIDQ: National Council for Interior Design Qualification has done a wonderful job of creating a definition so I’ll let them explain:

Interior design is a multi-faceted profession in which creative and technical solutions are applied within a structure to achieve a built interior environment. These solutions are functional, enhance the quality of life and culture of the occupants and are aesthetically attractive. Designs are created in response to and coordinated 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, whereby the needs and resources of the client are satisfied to produce an interior space that fulfills the project goals.

Interior design includes a scope of services performed by a professional design practitioner, qualified by means of education, experience and examination, to protect and enhance the health, life safety and welfare of the public. These services may include any or all of the following tasks:

  • Research and analysis of the client's goals and requirements; and development of documents, drawings and diagrams that outline those needs.
  • Formulation of preliminary space plans and two and three dimensional design concept studies and sketches that integrate the client's program needs and are based on knowledge of the principles of interior design and theories of human behavior.
  • Confirmation that preliminary space plans and design concepts are safe, functional, aesthetically appropriate, and meet all public health, safety and welfare requirements, including code, accessibility, environmental, and sustainability
  • Selection of colors, materials and finishes to appropriately convey the design concept and to meet socio-psychological, functional, maintenance, lifecycle performance, environmental, and safety requirements.
  • Selection and specification of furniture, fixtures, equipment and millwork, including layout drawings and detailed product description; and provision of contract documentationto facilitate pricing, procurement and installation of furniture.
  • Provision of project management services, including preparation of project budgets and schedules.
  • Preparation of construction documents, consisting of plans, elevations, details and specifications, to illustrate non-structural and/or non-seismicpartition layouts; power and communications locations; reflected ceiling plans and lighting designs; materials and finishes; and furniture layouts.
  • Preparation of construction documents to adhere to regional building and fire codes, municipal codes, and any other jurisdictional statutes, regulations and guidelines applicable to the interior space.
  • Coordination and collaboration with other allied design professionals who may be retained to provide consulting services, including but not limited to architects; structural, mechanical and electrical engineers, and various specialty consultants.
  • Confirmation that construction documents for non-structural and/or non-seismic construction are signed and sealed by the responsible interior designer, as applicable to jurisdictional requirements for filing with code enforcement officials.
  • Administration of contract documents, bids and negotiations as the client's agent.
  • Observation and reporting on the implementation of projects while in progress and upon completion, as a representative of and on behalf of the client; and conducting post-occupancy evaluation reports.”


Wow! That’s a lot of work to do! If I wanted to hire an Interior Designer I’d want the one with that kind of experience working for me!

If you have questions or would like to speak with someone at Interior Creations, call 540-798-5590 or contact us through our contact form.

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