WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN INTERIOR DESIGNER AND AN INTERIOR DECORATOR?

(Seattle Interior Designer/Seattle Interior Designer: Part 1 of our 2 part perspective)

Like most of you, for years I have loved decorating and redecorating my home.  I would switch furniture around and sometimes completely out, I would switch out throw cushions and/or sometimes just the covers, move around pieces of ornament and shift standing and table lights… and thereby, create a whole new space.  It is great.  I loved the nearly new look each time, making it an infectious past time.  It also works great in terms of “spring cleaning” because some of those little corners your broom or vacuum will not reach gets a thorough dusting, each time you swing furniture around.

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When I started out in this field, of interior design, all I wanted to do was just this, - decorate.  I wanted however to learn how to decorate more artfully... with better skill, and a trained eye for the best and most suitable products. I still do.  Despite having recently graduated as an Interior Designer.  I know… the question already popping in your mind is; So, what’s the difference?

The Difference

My biggest shock came when I went back to school – assuming I was going to have fun!  I was like an eager puppy thinking I was going to be tossed treats, rewarded, while being taught how to ‘artfully’ decorate a room – like those skillfully done, you see on the covers of glossy home design magazines. 

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Sure, my first few classes were a breeze. I would almost reverently turn the pages of those glossy pages and dream. Literally. But then reality hit.  After the first “fun” semester, came Concept Drawing, (kind of nice except the entire semester we drew a bug - 3D!) drafting I & II (urrghhh..), and horrors!!! Building and Safety Codes!  Oh! and did I include Math??  Yes, college level math!  And I had to do this despite having never studied math in the US, – so for me, to now study in the US, using the customary system versus the metric, (which I had been used to) turned into a torment!  A nightmare.  I begged and pleaded with educators including the college president, to let me off, but to no avail.  I had to take the #&*% classes.

But then came more fun classes.  By this stage, I had learned how to draw a floor plan, both manually and digitally, as well as source furniture, light fittings, paint, flooring, and other accessories, and place them skillfully, both on a 2d, as well as, a 3d version of a floor plan. In my Commercial Design class, we had the most darling teacher, (she had been in the trade for 40 plus years, had heaps of experience, and was completely eccentric). She forced us to work our floor plans using the “traditional method” which meant we were forbidden to use a computer.  That indeed, proved to be a challenge.  Try hand drawing to scale, a bull nosed angle desk in an office room of 75 sq. ft., meant for 4 people.

I had also learned by this stage how to digitally construct an entire building, be it a home or commercial space, on Sketchup, learned how to alternate floor plans, switching between Photoshop and Sketchup, (again, I had an amazing teacher), and then the big one – AutoCAD 1 & 11.  Where elevations, sketching, room measurement, room planning and auxiliary views, count! 

At first, AutoCAD terrified me – but trust me, you keep at it and it grows on you.  Every design school will make sure that by the time you graduate you are an AutoCAD monkey.  The aim of the course being to arm you with digital technical drafting and presentation skills, that you can execute with a finesse that will surprise yourself!

So, this is the difference between being a decorator and an interior designer.  Apart from holding required licenses – (not, by the way, a requirement in Washington State). Currently, only 19 states have regulation which allows the practice of interior design, but restricts some form of the title to those licensed and regulated persons.

An Interior Designer similarly to an architect, can decide if a wall can be moved or not, assess safety and building codes for stairs and hallways, and structurally change a floor plan both for residential and commercial purposes.

A decorator is trained in space planning, cleverly creating a fusion of color and form, playing with furniture, rugs, paint, wall paper, window treatments and other accessories thereby creating a space that has real aesthetic value.  A space that will make you clap your hands with glee!

An Interior Designer needs official training before being able to work alongside an architect on a building project.  A decorator requires no formal training but can concentrate on aesthetics centered solely around client needs and focusing on personalities.

The question then is, when do you hire an interior decorator, and when do you hire and interior designer?

If you have already spent money on your home, be it a remodel or a brand new one, it is always a smart decision to hire an interior decorator.  You will save a ton of money by doing so.  Simply because these people are experts in the field, they listen to your needs, they assess your personality, your vibe, your likes, dislikes, eccentricities, and will cleverly source the right furniture, lighting and accessories.  They will then use each piece smartly, creating a montage of fusion, and color, skillfully transforming space into a work of art.  Not only are you saved the hassle of looking through 3 dozen sofas, side tables and rugs, to find just the right one, it will also save you making costly mistakes!  An interior decorator knows where to look and who to buy from, purchasing not just the right pieces, but getting them for less than if you were to go look. Your money will be spent efficiently, and your budget kept on track.

An interior designer, is needed depending on the project.  For instance, a designer, will be your intermediary between your architect and contractor.  He or she, will early on, head off misses in the design plan.  Designers are trained to make sure that time and money is managed efficiently, and that lighting and furnishings are planned properly before construction.  A designer will ensure that your floor plan has the necessary outlets, he or she, will make sure, that your sofa is not left floating in the middle of nowhere and that your light fittings are properly placed.

A designer is trained to make your space look unique and pulled together.  They also have the necessary industry connections to source the right materials, be it a bathroom sink, kitchen cabinets, wall closets, and/or flooring.

A designer will have safety and building codes know-how, to the extent that he or she will be able to ensure safety requirements are met and executed effectively during construction.

He or she, will also be trained in door widths, treads and rises on stairways, window placement, the correct dimensions for aisles and hallways and where exactly or how a bathroom and kitchen should be fitted.

Designers have wide contacts, and can source the best contractors, plumbers and electricians.  Again, saving you time and money.

A designer will give you that ultimate ‘wow’ factor you are looking for.  They can put the finishing touches to a project that can literally take your breath away.  They are trained to think outside of the box.