Interior Designer vs Decorator: What’s the Difference?

Are you looking for help to spruce up your decor?

Your home is your sanctuary, so it’s only natural to want it to look at it’s best. And if interior design isn’t your forte, you’ve likely decided to call in some help.
But, you might not know whether to call an interior designer or a decorator. You might not even know the difference.

Don’t worry, we’re here to help! Read on to learn the difference between an interior designer vs decorator so you know who to call.

What’s an Interior Designer?

Interior designers focus on the design of the spaces they work in. Their mission is to create a blend of functionality and style based on client behavior.

A big part of their work is to work out how you’ll use the space. Based on this, they then need to come up with a plan to add in the most function they can. This becomes especially important for city spaces, which often don’t have much space.

The ultimate goal is to make your interior look amazing. But, interior designers do have to adhere to things like:

  • fire safety
  • building regulations
  • accessibility
  • sound transmission

The input they bring is invaluable though. Builders and architects often hire them to help improve the basic design elements of a home. Some of them, after planning, will stay on to decorate the home once it’s built.


There are a few extra hoops to jump through to become an interior designer. Formal training and education is a must. This can take between two-four years to complete.

Then, they must register with local authorities. In some states, to become registered, the applicant must pass an exam. Check any potential designers have this in place before hiring them.

Skill Set

Interior designers can make your home look stunning and much more. Their main focus is the planning of space. When working with architects, they help to build your home in an artistic but practical way.

For example, you and your architect might have decided on floor to ceiling glass windows. Your interior designer is the one who will make sure they look elegant and fit in with your home’s style.

They make sure each architectural feature will tie in with your style choice. From the furniture to the wall print, paint, fixtures, and fittings. They’ll know how to make architectural features a focal point too so you can make a statement.

The architecture and interior design flow and create one cohesive effect. And that flow extends to how you use the space, and how it works for your needs.

When to Hire an Interior Designer

Designing a home from scratch is tough. You shouldn’t rely only on your architect, especially when it comes to style and function. It’ll be almost impossible to explain to builders and architects, each little detail.

That becomes even harder when you might not even be sure how you want your home to look yet either. It’ll be easier to share that vision and your ideas with one person who’s dedicated to that task.

An interior designer can handle this aspect to make sure your vision becomes your dream home. While your builders and architect get on with their job without distractions.

What’s a Decorator?

An interior decorator will focus more on aesthetics than the whole design of a space. They assume the function and layout of the space is set up already. So, they’ll focus on things like:

  • fabrics
  • paint
  • fixtures
  • furniture
  • flooring
  • accessories
  • aesthetic cohesion

They’re relying on the space working for you and your family already. And will then come up with a complete look for that room.

For example, say you want to upgrade the look of your room to something more in keeping with its period style. They’ll know the colors, fabrics, and decor pieces you need to get that look.


With the focus being on decoration, there isn’t a need for a formal qualification. But most will have a foundation of basic training in design principles.

They don’t have any part in structural development or renovation works on your home. An interior decorator will come on board after all that work is already completed.

Most will have a degree in related fields. There are also courses and programs they can take. These often focus on the usage of things like:

  • color
  • space planning/feng shui
  • fabric
  • furniture style
  • period features

The CID (Certified Interior Decorators International) offers certifications. These involve coursework, and it’s a way to authenticate a designer as reputable.

Skill Set

A good decorator’s skill set is putting a room together. They can completely change the look and feel of a room by changing a color or style scheme. Or even by only replacing furniture.

For new, blank canvas spaces they help you work out a style and color scheme. They can put together a personalized look to make your home suit your tastes and look unique.

A lot of the time, people bring in interior decorators to give a new lease of life to existing homes. Whether they’re blank new builds or older properties in need of a revamp.

This means that most of the time, they work with business owners and homeowners most of all. Though some home builders will call them in to give a unique look to properties or show homes.

A few other people they work with are industries professionals, that include:

  • furniture makers
  • upholsterers
  • antique dealers
  • wallpaper and paint producers/designers
  • flooring producers

This also includes companies that sell soft furnishings and accessories like VisionBedding. They’ll have contacts to achieve any look or scheme that you desire.

They aren’t likely to work with contractors or architects, unlike interior designers. This is because the properties they work on usually already exist.

Interior Designer vs Decorator — Know the Difference

Remember this one thing about the difference between an interior designer vs decorator. Interior designers can both design and decorate. Interior decorators cannot.

So if you need design ideas for a new home or new build, you’ll want to pick an interior designer. If you’re looking to spruce up your tired decor or add a personal touch to a new home, an interior decorator is the way to go.

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