Thinking of hiring an interior designer in the near future? Or is it an interior decorator you need? Knowing the difference could save you a whole lot of money - whether it’s through lower hourly rates for a decorator, or the costly mistakes you will likely avoid by hiring an educated interior designer who’s qualified for your job. Today we’re talking about the differences between the two to help you hire the right person for your project!
So - what’s the difference?
I’ll admit - it’s a touchy subject for me. Living in a state that requires no formal education or certifications to refer to one’s self as an interior designer, there’s a lot of misconceptions about what educated and certified interior designers do, and it leads to a whole lot of confusion for those hiring interior designers for their project. Ask any real interior designer, and we’re often lumped together with hobbyist or interior decorators who woke up one morning and decided to pick some pillows and paint colors and become an overnight “interior designer”.
Did you know?
26 U.S. states have laws requiring interior designers to be licensed or registered by requiring all practicing interior designers to earn the NCIDQ Certification to demonstrate their experience and qualifications…Michigan is not one of them. The NCIDQ is the national qualification exam given to interior designers after they have met the requirements for education and years of practice within the industry, and while it is the highest level of qualification in the industry, in Michigan it is completely voluntary. On the flip side…
Interior decorators require no formal training or licensure
There’s a quote on cidq.org that I really like - “Interior design is the art and science of understanding people's behavior to create functional spaces within a building. Decoration is the furnishing or adorning of a space with fashionable or beautiful things. In short, interior designers may decorate, but decorators do not design.”
What is Interior Design?
If interior decorating and interior design are not the same thing, then what is interior design? Believe it or not, there is a whole committee committed to defining the profession. The lengthy 4 page document can be viewed here, but you likely don’t have time for that, so I’ve included a shortened summary below:
“Interior design encompasses the analysis, planning, design, documentation, and management of interior non-structural/non-seismic construction and alteration projects in compliance with applicable building design and construction, fire, life-safety, and energy codes, standards, regulations, and guidelines for the purpose of obtaining a building permit, as allowed by law. Qualified by means of education, experience, and examination, interior designers have a moral and ethical responsibility to protect consumers and occupants through the design of code-compliant, accessible, and inclusive interior environments that address well-being, while considering the complex physical, mental, and emotional needs of people.”
When taking the NCIDQ, interior designers are tasked with being well-versed in a wide range of building topics. For just 1 out of 3 portions of the exam, the blueprint for what examinees are expected to be knowledgeable on includes:
Why Is It Important For You to Know the Difference?
Not all projects require interior designers. A lot of simple home projects are perfectly suited for an interior decorator, and knowing the difference could save you money! It’s important for you, the consumer, to know the difference, so you hire the right person for the job. Yes, due to qualifications and years of experience, an interior designer will cost more than a decorator, but our level of expertise will provide an exceptional level of design project management, knowledge of material properties to create safe and durable spaces, and designs that adequately meet building codes which could prevent costly changes later. Compared to how many interior designers are in the industry, the number of certified interior designers is few and far between. If you’re looking for a certified interior designer in your area, you can see an entire list here.