So first things first – decorating and design are different. These words as titles and jobs are used interchangeably by many, but in actuality, they are completely different aspects of the same industry. Here’s a brief overview of both.
INTERIOR DESIGN (also referred to as Interior Architecture)
What is it? The art and science of understanding people’s behavior to create functional spaces within a building.
What do they do? Designers apply creative and technical solutions within a structure that are functional, attractive and beneficial to the occupant’s quality of life and culture. Designers must make floor plans and come up with creative solutions for design problems while navigating structural, electrical, plumbing, and materials. Designers make renderings and presentation boards for the client to review.
Schooling: Requires specific schooling and formal training. Typically, a Bachelors or Masters in Interior design from an accredited program
Credentials: In some states, passing a state licensing exam is required, but for many, the education is enough.
Who do they work with? Designers typically work with architects and contractors as well as the client directly to achieve their vision.
What is it? Interior Decorating concentrates on the aesthetics of the space and making the decor all work together to achieve a cohesive look or feel.
What do they do? Decorators come into a space that has all the architectural and design work completed and dresses the space. The decorator would be the person that buys the furniture and fabrics that will go in the space.
Schooling: Required if you want to obtain a legal Professional Decorator’s license and practice as a professional decorator. Schooling can be done through an accredited program that C.I.D. accepts.
Credentials: To obtain your license and C.I.D. professional title, you must apply for, take, and pass the Certified Interior Decorators Licensing Exam.
Who do they work with? Decorators typically work with residential clients and have their own practice. They do not typically work with designers or architects.
TO SUM IT UP…
Designers can do what decorators do (to an extent), but decorators are not trained or licensed to do what designers do. That being said, designers are not professional or licensed decorators.
Our lead designer, Haley, did both and always recommends doing both (if possible) as it gives a more full view of the design process.
That being said – design school is a 4 year degree program and decorating school is a 1-2 year certificate program depending on where you go. Both require attending accredited institutions and passing licensing exams.
Our recommendation is that if you are interested in these fields research what the job opportunities look like with each, shadow someone in the field, talk to people who have been through the programs, look at the curriculum and after all that hopefully you will have a better idea of what the best option is for you.