What’s the difference between interior designers and interior decorators?

Difference between interior designers and interior decorators

What’s the difference between interior designers and interior decorators?

I’ve been in the design space for longer than some of this blog’s readers have been alive. While this lady won’t divulge her age, she will say that she’s repeatedly encountered this question: ‘What’s the difference between interior designers and interior decorators?’

There is an overlap between the two, which is probably what causes all the confusion in the first place. Interior designers and interior decorators are different, however – and the differences determine which one you’ll need to hire.

It’s a lot like opossums and possums: just like interior designers and interior decorators, they have a fair amount in common, but they’re not the same.

Let me explain.

Marylou Sobel (centre) hard at work with her team,
Emma Evans (left) and Stephanie Nadel (right)

So what is the difference between interior designers and interior decorators, Marylou?

Well, it mostly comes down to studies and skill-sets. Both interior designers and interior decorators need qualifications, but what they study is different. Emma Evans (our interior architect) and Stephanie Nadel (our senior designer) both have interior architecture degrees, and I have an interior design qualification. Our studies differ from those of interior decorators in that we’ve learnt about construction, for example, while an interior decorator studies the placement of art (and placing art, is an art). Interior designers also deal with things like structural design, spatial planning, and design functionality, which all form part of our skill-set.

Interior decorators, on the other hand, are generally concerned with how a space looks. An interior decorator will deal with visual style, wallpapers, paint, furnishings, lighting and accents. They come in at the end of a build and apply their finishing touches, while an interior designer looks at the whole picture. All interior design projects ultimately require decorating too, and interior designers find themselves in a heavenly place when we get to design and decorate.

So don’t think of interior designers as dull, hard-hat donning types, or interior decorators as cushion-fluffers. Both have a strong design background, and there is some overlap, but there are differences, too.

Think of it this way: if you need someone to do it all, from designing the floor plan to finding just the right light fitting – then you need an interior designer. If you’ve already got your build done (or you need a décor makeover) then an interior decorator will zhoosh it up. Some interior design companies, however, even have an in-house interior decorator for the soft furnishings.

Faux leather samples that Marylou
used for banquette seating

Finding the right interior designer in Sydney

There’s one thing that interior designers and interior decorators do have in common, and that’s a flair for visual expression. There can also be a crossover in skills: for example, an interior designer may decorate, but interior decorators generally don’t design (some do, of course).

An interior designer will be able to offer you an end-to-end service, from designing a house to sell, to choosing the type of stone for a room. Like we do. Whether you need a new home designed from the ground up, or you simply need a room refresh – we can do it all.

And we can explain what the difference between a possum and an opossum is, in case you’re still wondering…

Looking for an interior designer in Sydney? We’re award-winning and highly respected: contact us to see why.

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