Decorator versus Interior Designer — What’s the Difference and Which Do You Need?

With Instagram, Pinterest, Houzz and Facebook, there’s no shortage of places to look online for design inspiration. But this flood of information can also lead to some confusion. For instance, what’s the difference between an interior designer and an interior decorator?

This is a question I get asked a lot.

Both have a heavy social media presence, and both aim to beautify a home, office space or business. However, there are some important differences between the two.

So I thought I’d use this blog space to clear up some confusion, and also to share a little more of my background as an interior designer.

Know the Difference

Interior designer at workFirst, when deciding between an interior designer or decorator, know there are some key areas of difference. I’ll outline a few here:

Training: Interior designers are skilled in decorating but they’ve also undergone specialized training and schooling, which includes coursework in space planning, color matching, computer aided design training (CAD), architecture and more. Decorators aren’t required to have any formal credentials or training, although some do.

Scope: A decorator focuses on aesthetics such as choosing wall art, window coverings and furniture. A designer can do all that and more. They can evaluate layout, spatial planning, flow and complete the interior down to the tiniest decorative detail to create a space ideal for their clients. Designers also routinely work with architects, contractors and other laborers on renovation projects such as removing a wall, working with plumbing or wiring and other structural changes. In other words, interior designers not only make a space look beautiful, but can make it more functional as well.

Cost: With all that extra work and specialized training, you may find yourself paying more for the work of an interior designer over a decorator. But remember, you also will be getting more bang for your buck, when your home’s fashion flows seamlessly from its function. And you may end up saving money in the long run, because a more comprehensive design tends to have more staying power.

Let’s use a Starbucks analogy to sum up what we’ve learned here. Essentially, hiring a decorator is like ordering a tall house blend black. Hiring an interior designer is like ordering a venti soy cinnamon cloud macchiato. Big difference!

Which One is Right for You

Once you recognize the differences between an interior designer and decorator, you must decide which best suits your needs.

Lanna Ali-Hassan, co-owner of Beyond the Box Interiors, sheds some light on how to make that decision:

“Every designer and decorator is different. You should do your due diligence before deciding who to work with. Look up their website, social media, reviews and portfolio. You will find that designers and decorators have different backgrounds and credentials. Designers have formal training and can guide you beyond aesthetics. They can help you redesign your space, remodel your kitchen, work directly with contractors among other duties.” 

Bottom line, it will depend upon your needs.

For instance, if you are renovating your home, it would make most sense to go with an interior designer. They will best be able to work with your contractor as the project is unfolding.

Smaller project, or just freshening up your space? Maybe a decorator is more what you need. But again, it will depend upon the complexity of what you are seeking.

Keep your budget for the project in mind, because as I mentioned earlier, typically an interior designer’s fee is higher than that of a decorator.

And one final note: while decorators are quite good at what they do, more limitations are placed on them.

Investing in a designer is like one-stop shopping. A designer can help you with small projects, large projects, and everything that comes up in between. Their knowledge and expertise is invaluable.

More About Me

Ready to take the plunge and hire an interior designer? Then let me take this opportunity to tell you a little bit more about me!

As an interior designer, I believe my job is to create the home of your dreams.

I studied interior design at Mizzou and earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental design. While there, I interned at a commercial design firm, Cherry Street Design, where I picked up many valuable skills that still guide me in my work.

After graduation, I moved back to St. Louis and got my first job as a Design Assistant with the talented Ellen Kurtz. Working at Ellen Kurtz Interiors made me the designer I am today and I’m so grateful for her mentorship.

In 2012, I decided to start my own adventure and opened JSB Designs. I was newly married, wanted to start a family and needed a more flexible schedule.

Here I am six years later living out my dream and loving it!

Every day in this business I learn new things — some good and some bad. But if it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.

The assistance I provide looks different for every client, in every home I work in.

It may mean designing the spatial elements in a room, rearranging furniture, creating a gallery wall, or choosing paint colors. Or it could call for coordinating a renovation with other professionals, such as a general contractor or flooring specialist.

Perhaps it’s simply helping you choose decor that reflects your own personal style to create the most comfortable living space for your family.

Whatever your needs, I’m there for you!

Interior designers are pretty much equipped to handle it all. Our schooling prepares us to work with other professionals in the field to create a comfortable and beautiful space — for you, your family, your home and your own, unique needs.

So that’s enough talking! Contact me today so that I can show you exactly what I mean. And thanks as always for reading my blog.