Interior Designer vs. Interior Decorator – What Is Best For You?

interior designer
Interior Samples

An Interior designer is often misunderstood as an Interior decorator and many assume that both Interior designers and Interior decorators have similar expertise where the titles are interchangeable.

However, contrary to popular belief, both professionals have stark differences. In this article, we will uncover the differences between an Interior designer and an Interior decorator so you can hire the right professional for your home interior project!

Interior Decorators

Let’s start by discussing how Interior decorators work. What are they responsible for, and what to expect when you hire one.

As the name implies, Interior decorators primarily focus on aesthetics; their job is to decorate your interior. Evaluating the placement of decorations, wall colours, curtains, and other things that have more to do with a home makeover.

Don’t confuse yourself with the word makeover. That does not mean you can only hire an Interior decorator for an existing project. An interior designer can tackle a makeover project as well.

For more complex projects that involve kitchen and washroom details and assemblies, we recommend hiring an interior designer as these projects are intrinsic and cannot be solely based on existing placements. An interior designer is better educated in structural, architectural, and engineering components than a decorator and can be a great asset in providing a vision of the overall layout and flow of your project.

Another fact that you might want to consider is that Interior decorators have their prime focus on aesthetics; therefore, they do not have to undergo any formal education. In the province of Ontario, anyone can open up a decorating service, as there is no regulation on the title “Interior Decorator”

Sample Board Materials Swatches

We can’t draw a stern line, but to make it easier for you, consider the following factors before hiring an Interior decorator: Are you

  • Looking for a home/office makeover or revamp?
  • Wanting to tidy up your space and don’t have the time to do it yourself?
  • Having a hard time choosing the right color palette or decorations?

If you answered yes to these questions, then working with an interior decorator is a great option.

Interior Designers

Now that we have a fair understanding of Interior decorators, let’s find out what value Interior designers bring to your project.

First, in the province of Ontario, you cannot become an Interior designer by just attending training programs or seminars. A registered Interior designer typically undergoes 4 years of formal education at the post-education level in an accredited interior design or environmental design program. They have to complete work placements from ARIDO or NCIDQ registered design firms and gain the necessary experience. Once the required experience has been gained (usually 2 years working full time) prospects must pass 3 exams that prove their expertise in understanding and applying current codes established to protect public health, safety, and welfare in addition to knowledge in design fundamentals and applications.

Ultra Modern Kitchen
After Renovation - Interior Design of an Ultra Modern Kitchen and a Modern/Transitional Living Room

So how would you know if an interior designer is registered? Ask them. Ask for proof of membership from our governing body, ARIDO (Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario), and be wary of sales associates in furniture/retail stores that say they are in-house interior designers. Just ask for the proof.

An Interior designer is capable of doing everything that an Interior decorator does in addition to the architectural knowledge. They can offer more than just a selection of color palettes and patterns. Interior designers help solve space layouts that are functional to ease circulation within a home or commercial space in addition to being beautiful.

Areas such as window placements to ensure ample natural light within the house, consideration of the door opening inside or outside, kitchen appliance/fixture locations that make a layout flow with everyday chores while ensuring proper ventilation, circulation, and aesthetics. Even open Island Kitchens have to be well thought in conjunction with the living room for both the spaces to have a proper dialogue.

All of these details are typically beyond the scope of an Interior decorator. It becomes quintessential for you to hire an Interior designer if you need solutions for a problem of this nature.

These are some points to consider before hiring an Interior designer:

  • When you have a complex project that requires more detail and higher expertise.
  • If you have plans to make structural changes, like relocating a window, door, or even a wall.
  • If you want to do a makeover of the Kitchen, Washroom, or any other spaces that include architectural and mechanical components.
  • You want to solve circulation issues or make changes in your layout.
before and after
Before Renovations for Ernest Residence

Who Should You Hire?

Essentially, Interior designers and Interior decorators both work with your home interior, the difference is the level of education and expertise. Their job is to bring the best out of your space and give ideas you would never have thought of.

Smaller projects that are more furniture and decor based with all the finishes, materials, and structure in place can be handled by interior decorating as well as designers. Anything more complex and technical is better suited for an interior designer.