Thursday, March 3, 2011

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

I know that many of you have wondered what the differences are between a "Decorator" and an "Interior Designer"?  The fast answer, and the one I tell my clients, is that a "Decorator" has a "knack", and an "Interior Designer" has formal training ,  but there is much more to it than that. Each state has their own licensing and educational requirements. I will include descriptions by both C.C.I.D.C. (in California), and A.S.I.D (nationally).




{via source}

 Here are the definitions of each title as described by the California Council for Interior Design Certification (CCICD):
Although there is no restriction on the use of the title “Interior Decorator” or “Interior Designer” in California, there is a difference in the inference of the title amongst the profession.

Interior Decorator
An “Interior Decorator” is someone who primarily deals with colors, finishes, and furniture and typically stays within the residential boundary of interiors. Typically they might charge a fee for their creative services such as laying out the furniture in a room, or putting together different colors and finishes in order to create several palettes from which the client can choose. In most cases a decorator will charge a “mark-up” on all the products they sell to you. This mark-up can vary wildly, anywhere from 20% to 50% in some cases. Most decorators are reluctant to prepare a formal contract or letter of agreement spelling out what the services are that they are going to provide, and how much they are going to charge.


Interior Designer
An “Interior Designer” is someone who can complete an interior design project from start to finish, including preparing construction documents for bidding and permitting, as well as supervising the construction and installation of the work. This person in essence becomes your agent to deal with local building codes and building departments, and licensed contractors. They have the expertise to handle all of these different players, whereas you may not, or may not have the time or inclination.

Interior designers cover all types of projects from commercial (offices, medical facilities, retail shops, restaurants, hotels, retirement and nursing facilities, to name a few) to residential. Typically an interior designer has a lot of education and experience, as well as possibly having sat for one or more examinations in order to test their competency and to attain state recognition of their profession.

Again, just because someone uses the title “Interior Designer”, it doesn’t mean they are any more qualified than an “Interior Decorator”, or any one who chooses to use either title irrespective of their qualifications or experience, which may be none at all.

The only guarantee that the person you are hiring is qualified in some way or another is to hire someone who is a “Certified Interior Designer”, a title that is written in to the California Business and Professions Code and protected by law to prevent anyone using the title that has not complied with the law.

The National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) describes the differences as:

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 needs and resources of the client.

Many U.S. states and Canadian provinces have passed laws requiring interior designers to be licensed or registered—documenting their formal education and training—and many of them specifically require that all practicing interior designers earn the NCIDQ Certificate to demonstrate their experience and qualifications. By contrast, interior decorators require no formal training or licensure.

I hope that helps clear up some of the confusion regarding the titles of "Interior Decorator" and "Interior Designer".  You may click on the links (CCICD and NCIDQ) to find the source of the articles I've shared with you.  If you are looking for a Certified Interior Designer, or want more information on how to become and Interior Designer you may check either of the above mentioned sites, or check with your individual state for licensing, and or certification requirements.



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3 comments:

Courtney ~ French Country Cottage said...

Hi there~ Thanks for posting this. I love that you describe someone as a decorator as someone with a knack but not with the formal training to go along with it. I have struggled with not having a 'degree' that gives me a badge or title- I feel like some out there won't value what I have to offer as much because I didn't go to design school. Though I have found some very successful 'designers' who have no formal training but most definitely are extremely talented! :) Thanks for sharing!

The enchanted home said...

Excellent post. Thanks for the clarification its good for everyone to know and for everyone to be on the same page. Ironically some of the very best have not gone through all their (and in some cases none) training, but it is important to understand the difference nonetheless. Great post.Stop by my blog, have a beautiful giveaway, two gorgeous Murano handblown glass lamps...www.theenchantedhome.blogspot.com

Happy Homemaker UK said...

This is a great post - I never hear the word 'decorator' anymore, so I thought it was an old fashioned term for 'interior designer'. I love your vintage image at the top :) XoL