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  • Writer's pictureKara Vanskike

Interior Designers and Interior Decorators are not One in the Same

A few weeks ago, I received a call from someone who inquired about furniture arranging. She asked, “You’re an interior design firm; is that something you do?”

Well, yes. But it’s not a standalone service we offer. That’s interior decorating, which is a service we include within larger renovation projects.

Interior decoration is not the same as interior design and knowing exactly what an interior design firm is and what they do can be confusing. I’m sure the person who called is not the only one who wonders the same thing, "What is the difference between interior design and interior decorating?"

Interior Designer vs. Interior Decorator

The services interior decorators and interior designers offer are often muddled. An interior decorator is someone you hire to help choose and arrange furniture and accessories to make the space beautiful. They don’t need special education or licenses.

On the other hand, an interior designer has studied color theory and fabric, architecture, drawing, computer-aided drafting (CAD), and more. They work with their clients to create space plans that improve functionality, solve problems, and make the space beautiful.

Improving functionality might mean moving walls or plumbing, so working with someone who understands the ins and outs of those types of decisions is important. Running into unforeseen obstacles is always a possibility when remodeling a home, but working with someone knowledgeable and experienced in making those types of changes can mitigate risks and save significant budget.

It boils down to this: Interior designers may decorate, but interior decorators do not design.

Who Should You Hire?

When it comes time to hire a professional to help with your project, you’ll need to determine the services you most likely need. Do you need to improve the functionality of your space and think moving walls and adding windows will be necessary? Then you’ll need to work with an interior designer.

If you just require help choosing furniture and paint color and perhaps window treatments, then working with an interior decorator is appropriate.

Once you solidify the services you need, do your homework. Meet with a couple of professionals to get a feel for how they work. Do you like what you see in their portfolio? Do they have a tried and true process they can describe to you? Does it make sense? How often do they budget? Do they review numbers throughout the process or just at the end? Finally, does their personality fit with yours? You’re going to potentially work with them for many months. They’re going to be in your personal spaces. You want to ensure you’ll be able to work with them long-term. The designer must get to know you and understand your behavior in order to address your pain points. The relationship runs deep.

Enjoy the Experience

Now that you have a better sense of which service you need, interior design vs. interior decoration, go forth and enjoy the experience. Home renovation is never stress-free, but with the right team, it is enjoyable.

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