When Two Worlds Collide - Interior Designer vs. Interior Decorator

Real Estate Agent with Dale Sorensen Real Estate

My wife, Andrea DiOrio, has been an Interior Designer now for 20 years.

She was born and raised in the London, U.K., and it was there the she chose to pursue her passion for art and design and pursue her Bachelor of Arts degree in Interior Design. Since then, Andrea has been involved in Five-Star Mediterranean hotel design & renovations, luxury estate home design and trades & construction project management, as well as working with restaurants, cafe's and clubs in London and on the island of Cyprus int eh Eastern Mediterranean.

Below, Andrea shares her thoughts on her profession, and helps to clarify some of the confusion that she regularly encounters here in the USA, when discussing her profession to clients. She illustrates the distinct differences between the professions of an Interior Designer vs. Interior Decorator:

Andrea DiOrio:

I was fortunate enough to get an internship with an amazing Architectural Firm in Cyprus. For those who are not quite sure where Cyprus is, its a small Greek Island in the Eastern Mediterranean. Beautiful place, great food, wine and long siestas, but, I digress.

It has amazed me that throughout my career and many travels, the one thing that I have found to be a constant burden within my profession is the public's perception and understanding of what exactly it is that I do as an Interior Designer.

"Are you a Decorator?"

"Oh you're an Interior Decorator."

"Oh you do that HGTV Stuff."

Well to be honest the answer is Yes! Yes! And, well, Yes. But I also do so much more. 

Let me explain. . .

Many people do tend to use the term Interior Design and Interior Decorating interchangeably, but these two professions differ in very substantial ways. Interior Design is a multifaceted profession. It's the ability to understand ones behavior, culturally, physically, emotionally in order to help create attractive and functional spaces for people to interact in.

'Hmmm' . . . I hear you say 

As Interior Designers, we have a responsibility to not only design spaces of beauty and elegance, but they must also be functional, safe, and inspirational. Therefore we, as Designers, have to really understand our clients needs & requirements, and abilities & disabilities in order to ensure that their spaces, their environments, their offices, their homes reflect who they are and how they live.

And how do we do that?

Through endless research . . . through the knowledge that we attained at our Colleges and Universities, and through examinations and re-examinations that provide us with the tools that we need to fulfill these professional obligations.

We are trained in drafting and architectural principles, we design in AUTO CAD and offer complete space-planning of homes, offices, hotels, clubs, cafe's, retail outlets and anywhere else where style must match personality. From a residential home perspective Interior Designers provide kitchen and bathroom design, custom cabinets & furniture design, and also provide lighting and electrical plans. We design for the commercial realm as well as the hospitality sector. We attain project management skills and work along side Architects and General Contractors and also are part of organizations like ASID and IDEC.

The title Interior Designer is not just given to you, or taken up, it is earned by education, not simply attending a staging class for instance, or having an artistic ability to match colors, and place soft furnishings in a home; it's not just about decorative elements and the aesthetics, it's so much more.

Now, don't misunderstand me, an Interior Designer decorates as part of the design process. We choose our finishes, materials, colors, furnishings, including everything and anything that will make the space complete. For these elements are just as important as the walls and concrete that the building is built on. The decorative part is what brings the final concept together. It's what the customer first sees, feels, touches and even smells when they first walk into a room, and it plays a vital part of the design process that is, by no means, less important. However, this is where the difference lies between the two titles..

An formally educated Interior Designer, holding their B.A (or higher) in the field, has the credentials and training to engage in the formal design and layout of homes, buildings, and other structural spaces  - they collaorate with Architects, Contractors, etc. in order to bring their visions and designs to life. Interior Decorators, and the amazing job that these industry porfessionals do each day, is more related to the finishing touches (colors, decoration, hard & soft furnishings, etc.) of a designed & constructed space. The diffirences between Designer and Decorator services is vast, yet somewhat similar when we consider what occurs at the end of a project's timeine. The placement and choice of items, colors, and objects that will occupy the space, is where Decorators step into the picture. Design of the actual space, and all that it entails, is for the formally educated Interior Designer.

A Decorator is primarily focused on the furniture, colors, textures of a space and capturing a mood or style that their client desires. No training is necessarily needed for this, just a flare and passion for putting elements together and creating an aesthetic appeal. Its a profession that definitely needs to own it OWN title, "Decorator," just as we OWN ours. 

Its important to us all that these differences are made clear and in doing so, potential clients completely understand and feel comfortable with the services requested and also future Designers and aspiring Decorators understand what their field demands of them.

After all, a profession must be clear about its own identity and do its best to educate the taget consumer base, in order for it to move forward and prosper.

Thank you, Andrea DiOrio!

ASID Member Interior Designer


Comments (2)

Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

William, thank you for the definition and difference, I did not know!  

Mar 21, 2018 05:27 PM
Golden1 Agents
San Mateo, CA

Thanks for sharing this.

Mar 25, 2018 06:04 AM