“Decorator” Vs. “Designer” and How to Hire

June 6th, 2013

I have a soft spot on this subject.

My family thinks it’s hilarious.

But really…What’s the difference between a designer and a decorator? Are there any?

Oh honey.  In a word, YES.

For starters, I went to college.  A legit college (with a FANTASTIC interiors program). ANYONE can decide that they want to be a decorator, put out an ad and open a business.  An interior DESIGNER is a whole different ballgame. You cannot legally advertise or call yourself a designer in several states (Texas being one) without having passed an extensive certification exam.  Let me add that said exam is NO JOKE.  It is a full out beat down.  Once you pass and someone says, “Oh you’re a decorator? That must be so fun!” You immediately feel like vomiting.

I travel a lot for work.  On a recent flight, the guy next to me pulled out a bunch of what looked to be architectural templates and was sketching. I don’t normally engage in any conversations with random passengers (blame it on the severe airsickness I’ve had since birth), but seeing this prompted me to ask if he was an architect.  This gentleman was an engineer.  I said, “Oh I’m an interior designer and noticed your templates.”

Insert really long pause…

Gentleman then turns to me and says, “Now I don’t mean to offend..” We all know nothing good comes after that statement.

SIR: I don’t mean to offend but do interior designers…um…go to college?

ME: Haha… YES.

SIR: And what exactly do you study?

ME: I have a Bachelors of Science in Interior Design.

SIR: Yes… but what would one study for that?

Okay… some of you are reading this and thinking the same thing. Well, it is not playing with fabric and gluing ribbon.  Registered interior designers have extensive knowledge on Accessibility and building codes, know many basic architectural functions, and actually produce their own drawings. Although we seem like decorators, the decoration process is typically the very last step, serving as icing on the cake.

Here’s my point: When thinking about hiring someone, I would certainly value the expertise of a DESIGNER over a DECORATOR.  Hiring a decorator is essentially hiring someone for their taste (which may be fine), but designers can help problem solve and install solutions that will be in the correct scale and function for which the client requested.  This chart from Movoto.com states the differences nicely:


So next time you run into your favorite designer friend, don’t ask them if they love being a “decorator.”

*imagery via Movoto.com

Katy Signature-01

6 Responses

  1. I love this so much!! This actually is incredibly helpful because I am not sure if someone asked me to distinguish the two, that I would be able to give an intelligent answer. Now I will!!! You go on with your bad self, Katy!! Woot!

  2. Alyson Shirley says:

    Having lived with a roommate who went through the same schooling that you did, I have gained a great appreciation for the interior designer. Thanks for the reminder that they are not the same!

  3. Paul Wheeler says:

    I thought it was called “out gassing”– tomato:tomato I guess

    Anyways, I give it a resounding “here here!”

  4. Ally says:

    I would like to inform you that your photo which is attempting to explain the difference between interior designers and interior decorators is completely wrong. I went through an interior decorating program and my best friend went through a interior design program and they are different but interior designers do learn a little bit about colour, style, texture, etc but nothing to the extent of what an interior decorator learns. BOTH need a formal education, the interior decorators learn about the skills needed to decorate a space and interior designers learn more about all the codes needed to build a building. Interior decorators learn all the standards of furniture sizes, how much space is needed between objects to allow for a walk way and so much more. Therefore, if anyone is wanting to RE-DECORATE a space, they would be better off calling an INTERIOR DECORATOR!

  5. […] Do you know the difference between decorator and designer? Read this […]

  6. Tiffany Nolen says:

    Amen sista, is it sad that ‘older’ family members are the worst at referring to me as a decorator?!?! Lol I just nod and smile because after correcting them 342,789,567 times they don’t seem to catch on. Thanks for the blog, I have the same soft spot as you:)

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