Interior designer v. decorator: The difference


Interior design is the art and science of understanding human behavior in order to create functional spaces within a building.

Decorating is furnishing or embellishing a space using beautiful or fashionable objects.


The role of an interior designer is broader

Within a building interior designers apply creative and technical solutions that are functional and aesthetically pleasing as well as beneficial to the tenants’ quality of life. On account of their training and experience, interior designers make architectural interventions and tackle everything within a building’s shell, also taking into consideration its location and social implications.

In other words, interior designers are concerned not only with the aesthetic factors of a project but also with the functional, social, symbolic or other parameters. An interior designer pursues a systematic and concerted methodology. This includes research, analysis and integration of knowledge within the creative process in order to respond to the client’s needs and resources.

Among other things, interior designers can change a room’s layout, add or remove walls (except for load-bearing walls) and design stairways. They have a sensible knowledge of building codes and encourage holistic and sustainable practices. They also design furniture and lighting as well as the principal decorative elements, usually without going into a room’s styling. When building from scratch, working with an interior designer from an early stage affords much better results.

Decorators are primarily concerned with the aesthetic parameters of a given space. They focus on decorating, embellishment and ornamentation. They may change the appearance of walls and floors, add decorative elements (rugs, carpets, curtains, small objects) and select furniture. They also have considerable experience in small-scale elements, even small details such as choosing curtain ties, the shape of cushion buttons or a room’s styling.



Training requirements is another difference between the two professions.

An interior designer holds a three-year university or four-year college degree. During his/her course, s/he studied design integration, architectural drawing and sketching, construction materials and methods, ergonomics and, possibly, specialised subjects such as adaptive reuse, industrial design, landscape design and visual communication.

On the other hand, a decorator may have completed a course of study or may be entirely self-taught.

In many countries, an interior designer must be licenced or certified to practice. There is no such requirement for decorators.



Interior design and interior decoration are obviously quite different but people still get confused. It may help to think of them as two separate but related and complementary disciplines, a bit like psychiatry and psychology.

In Greece, interior designers are often confused with interior decorators because there are no licensing or certification requirements for either profession. Also, in Greek there is no exact and all-encompassing translation for the words “designer” and “design”.

Some people prefer the term “interior architect” which is recognized as equivalent with the term “interior designer” in many countries. However, we prefer not to use this term because it blurs the lines between a designer and an architect.



The objective is achieving a harmonious and effective cooperation between the professionals involved in design and construction (architects, civil engineers, interior designers, decorators, lighting designers etc.). All these professionals must be aware of their expertise and their limits in order to avoid impinging upon the work of other professionals working on the same project.


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This article was written on 02 / 05 / 2011, by Natalia Alexiou, and is filled under architecture, decoration, design.


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