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What's the difference between an interior designer & an interior decorator?

Updated: Nov 19, 2019

An interior designer will work on kitchen renovations whereas a decorator won't

Ever wondered what the difference between an interior designer and an interior decorator is? Yep, you're not alone! Back in the early days when I was starting out and people/clients asked me, even I hesitated for a moment! Thankfully, experience and 10 years of running this business has helped me to better inform those who ask me these days!

Even though they are quite different roles, there is often cross over and I think this is where a lot the confusion comes in. When you toss in the differences of local requirements (educational, registrations etc) with global social media exposure, it can just make that confusion worse. For example, in America they're very clearly delineated roles whereas here in Australia the lines can sometimes be a bit blurred - even though when we look at Instagram these geographical restraints or codes of practice aren't obvious.

So, for the sake of clarity, here's a brief run down of what each term means here in good ole Sydney town:

Interior decorator

An interior decorator typically won't do anything structural (moving walls, windows, doors) or even renovate bathrooms or kitchens. A decorator will usually source furniture, lighting, decorative items, and storage solutions and address window treatments (blinds, curtains). Wallpaper, paint colours, styling are also included. Basically surface treatments and items in the space itself.

A decorator will source furniture, window treatments and decor.

Interior designer

An interior designer will often work on small layout changes and bathroom and kitchen renovations. For example, on a recently completed project, I suggested moving a non-structural wall to allow a more seamless kitchen-to-laundry space. I've also suggested to clients to move doors so allow for maximum built in robes. Obviously these suggestions need to be checked and executed by a professional builder.

Kitchen, bathroom and cabinetry designs all fall under the umbrella of the interior designer. These designs will include not only the drawings of how they'll look and fit in the space but also the colour and materials that they'll incorporate. There are lots of ways to work with a designer for these projects. The kitchen company I use has an in-house designer for people who don't have their own designer. The downside to going down this path is that a) it's hard to find out their style before committing to a particular kitchen company and b) that designer will only be thinking about the kitchen not how it will work in the larger context of your whole home. So it's often best to find a designer whose style you love and who you'd like to work with to transform your whole home to come up with the concepts for the kitchen and or bathroom and then bring in the kitchen company and work with their expertise to get the most out of each and every corner.

An interior designer will also (often) do interior decorating too - putting together concepts and sourcing items for various rooms. And this is where I think a lot of the confusion around the difference between the roles comes into play, because the designer will do it all (and a decorator won't). I for one, love to do it all....

So, hopefully that clears things up a little. Have you found it confusing in the past? What are your thoughts now?

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