The Difference Between a Decorator and a Designer

The term designer and decorator are commonly interchanged, but never among a circle of designers.  There are many factors that differentiate yet also, many that overlap.  The clearest distinction is that a designer decorates but a decorator never designs.

Interior designers are often graduates of an accredited university, where the understanding of the art and science of how humans live and inhabit spaces is taught.  Prospect designers are taught the history of interior design, architecture, space planning, furniture design and the decorative arts, in addition to a myriad of supplemental technical, art and history classes.  A rigorous emphasis is placed on drafting and understanding perspective.  This training enables designers to understand scale, create working drawings and have a fluidity in the understanding of space.  This understanding guides designers in creating spaces that are beautiful and functional. 

Today, many states are requiring interior designers to be licensed.  Licensing requires interior designers to earn the NCIDQ Certification.

Interior designers have the foundation to create and read floor plans while also being able to project manage anything from new construction to a remodel.  Their technical skill and versatility allows their expertise to be funneled into various aspects of a project from the planning and structural, all the way to the last decorative detail.  Moreover, designers understand how the nuances of light and sound can enhance and effect a design.  A knowledge base that can guide a project towards enriched living and working conditions.

In contrast, there is no formal training required to be a decorator.   Decorators can be self taught, although there are programs that teach interior decoration.  Generally their focus is to capture the essence of the client and express it in the soft furnishings of a spaces, such as furniture, window treatments, textiles, accessories and color palate.  The flexibility in this, allows for tradespeople, such as upholsterers, to also consider themselves decorators as well.  On the other hand, there are decorators with a profound skill set that can offer additional expertise. 

Interior designers work in both the commercial and residential realms whereas decorators for the most part, work only on residential projects.
Whether you choose to work with a designer or a decorator, truly depends on what your needs are.