Interior Designer vs Interior Decorator… do you know the difference?

Just the other day Heather and I were onsite measuring for an office renovation when one of the staff approached us and asked who we were. When we told them her we were Interior Designers her immediate response was “oh wonderful, are you going to make our office look pretty?”

This is possibly one of the worst things that you could say to an Interior Designer, and the most common misconception of our profession…that all we do is decorate! So many people think that Interior Designers and Interior Decorators are one in the same, but this is just not the case.

So what’s the difference??

Interior Decorators are ‘stylists’. Their expertise is in selecting and arranging colour palettes, finishes, paint, furnishings and accessories. Although they are talented in creating beautiful spaces, they are not required to have formal education, as their focus is primarily on aesthetics.

Interior Designers are highly skilled professionals with anywhere between 4-6 years of post-secondary education. They are experienced in understanding human scale, acoustics, lighting, life safety, building code, accessibility, sustainable design, technical construction, and so many other elements that make a space function before it looks ‘pretty’. They are trained to create interior environments that are not only aesthetically beautiful, but are experiential and improve the overall well-being of the user.

A Professional Interior Designer must also pass a qualifying exam called the NCIDQ which certifies that they are competent in the interior design principles that enable them to protect public health, safety and welfare.


For more information on the difference between Interior Design and Interior Decorating as well as the Interior Design Profession please visit the National Council for Interior Design Qualification website.

If you are looking for a qualified, professional interior designer for your next commercial project, give me a call!


Janine Signature Photo

2 replies
  1. Cutler
    Cutler says:

    Janine, I had to laugh at your anecdote about the office worker wanting you to “make their office look pretty”. I think we’ve all been there before as interior designers. The key is to gently explain this to people without haughtiness or making the other person feel silly. Sometimes a tough balancing act! 😉

    Greetings from Vancouver!
    Cutler Design

  2. Ben Allen
    Ben Allen says:

    I appreciate the information on the differences between an interior decorator and an interior designer. I had no idea that there was a difference between interior decorators and interior designers, I thought they did the same thing but some people just called it something different. My mom has been wanting to change things around in her home and she isn’t sure what to do exactly, I will be sure to share this information with her.

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