What’s the difference between an Interior Designer and an Interior Decorator?

By Maria Dinshaw | Feb 2020

difference between designer and decorator

Who is an interior designer?

An interior designer or an interior architect is very different from an interior decorator though on the face of it they may be confused for one another.

An interior designer or an interior design firm has the skill sets that are necessary to design a space from a bare shell condition or change an existing layout to something completely different.

Interior design is usually a completely transformative process that will alter the interior of a space from a fundamental level all the way to its décor and soft furnishings. Interior designers or interior design firms can replan a space, including its wall positions, electricals, plumbing and lighting.

These professionals can renew a space by rebuilding its interior or they can change its use to something completely different.

Interior designers use tools such as computer-aided design and 3D software to create a new vision for your interior. They will use new materials, new finishes and incorporate the latest trends and techniques in the construction of your space. Interior designers or interior architects aim to marry the most modern new materials and construction techniques with the latest in design trends from around the world, keeping in mind your unique requirements and tastes.

This is no doubt a complex process that can also be relatively more time consuming as it requires more interaction between you and your interior designer, more deliberation and greater attention to detail.

The result of this process must then also be aligned with your budgets and for the purpose, some recalibration may be required.

All in all, it is a highly interactive process between client and designer and more so during the initial design phase.

Once the vision of the space has been crystallized and approvals are in place, things will start to smoothen out and you will begin to see your space transform before your eyes.

What is an interior decorator?

Interior decoration is a smaller portion of the interior design industry in general. Interior decorators are also called interior stylists.

These professionals will string together a fresh concept for your interiors without making any fundamental changes to the structure of the space.

Your walls, floors, bathrooms and kitchen would usually remain unchanged. The items that your decorator would change would include furniture pieces, lighting, soft furnishings such as fabrics, upholstery and curtains, artworks, rugs and accessories.

Interior decorators will transform and refresh your space without the need for a complete remodeling.

Your interior decorator will begin by meeting you at your home to make the acquaintance, meet your family, study your home and understand your style and your requirements and aspirations.

Once broad budgets and timelines have been established between you and your interior decorator, they would then put together an interior décor package for you, which would include new furniture pieces, new rugs, new décor items, new artworks and accessories etc.

Once an in-principal approval has been concluded, you would go shopping with your interior decorator for all of these items. They would accompany you for these shopping visits to ensure that all purchases made are aligned with the new design direction and style.

It is an exciting and interactive process seeing your refreshed interior come to life slowly but surely.

Your decorator may suggest importing some furniture pieces or depending upon budgets you may decide to travel overseas for home shopping. Whether it’s your décor and accessories, furniture pieces or artworks, fabrics or cushions, no detail is too small to overlook.

The true value of your interior decorator is their eye for detail, which gives your home a refined and curated look. The difference is in the details and it is these details that you will see and touch and enjoy every day.

Do I need an interior designer or an interior decorator?

Whether you need an interior or an interior decorator would entirely depend upon the actual condition of your interior, your own perception of it and your tastes, timelines and budgets.

Interior design is a considerably lengthier process as it entails a complete remodeling of your space. It is a more customized process that takes into consideration every detail, including your particular needs and your tastes and is a more comprehensive approach to your interiors.

Interior decoration is a relatively shorter process as it seeks to retain as much of the hard shell of the existing interior as possible while removing and replacing non-permanent items. Your interior decorator may recommend that your floor be re-polished or that your lights be changed or that your walls be painted. The process is more cosmetic that interior design and thus is also a quicker process.

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