Interior Designer vs. Interior Decorator: Which One Should You Hire?

So, you’re considering revamping your space and you’re looking into the options available to you to do so. Sure, you could do it all on your own, but to have that straight out of a magazine looking home requires a professional’s touch.

But with so many types of design professionals, how do you know which one is right for you? What are the differences between an interior designer vs interior decorator?

If you find yourself asking these questions, wonder no longer because we’re here to help! In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about interior designers and decorators to make the choice easy.

Let’s get started!


Many people believe that “interior designer” and “interior decorator” are interchangeable terms, but that’s actually not the case! While there are many similarities between the two professions, designers and decorators have different education, credentials, and clientele.

We’ll start with education. To earn the title of an interior designer requires both formal schooling and training. Interior designers study fabrics, colors, computer-aided design (CAD), furniture design, space planning, even architecture.

Once they graduate from school, they will apprentice with a registered, experienced interior designer before moving on to do their own independent work.

To become an interior decorator, on the other hand, requires no specific training or schooling. Because they don’t deal with as many details as designers and focus strictly on aesthetics, they don’t need to have a deep knowledge of renovations and structural planning.

Now, it’s not uncommon to find interior decorators who have a degree or some form of schooling, but it’s not necessary to get started in the field.


Credentials are important in any field, you want to make sure the person you’re dealing with is right for the job based on the qualifications that they have to do it. When it comes to designing your home, a portfolio of the candidate’s work may be enough for you to feel comfortable with your decision. That being said, there are a few differences in the actual credentialing of interior designers and decorators.

In many states, interior designers are required to take and pass an exam, after which they will be registered in the profession, earning the title. There are some states, however, that do not demand this kind of credentialing. So if that’s important to you, be sure to do your research before making a decision.

When it comes to interior decorators, while schooling and training aren’t required, there are many courses available to help them advance in their careers. Don’t be afraid to ask your decorator what kind of education they’ve received!

There are decorating certifications that can be obtained by taking similar classes to those of an interior designer, but typically without the structural and architectural studies.

What They Do

Perhaps the biggest difference between an interior designer and decorator is what they actually do. Because of the more in-depth coursework it takes to become an interior designer, these professionals can normally handle bigger jobs.

If you’re interested in more of a renovation than a redecoration, you need an interior designer. They are equipped to draw up floor plans and handle the structural portion of a design on top of helping you choose decor and style. Designers can assist you with the layout and function of a room, not the appearance alone.

An interior decorator probably can’t do much in the way of changing the structure of a room, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it all depends on your needs. A talented interior decorator can take any room and turn it into a masterpiece of style. If you like the layout of your home but need help with color, furniture, accessories, or adding the perfect plant, an interior decorator is for you!

Who They Work With

Because of the extensive nature of an interior designer’s work, they will often bring in outside help to complete a job to the client’s satisfaction. Professionals such as architects and contractors will contribute to the project to ensure that any structural changes made are done safely and correctly.

Interior decorators’ job usually begins after the structure and layout is complete, meaning they don’t typically need the assistance of architects or contractors. They will, however, bring furniture designers, upholsterers, and other decorating professionals on board to give you the look you’re going for. But don’t be surprised if you hire an interior decorator and they work with you alone!

Interior Designer vs Interior Decorator

Well, there you have it! As you can see, the differences between an interior designer vs interior decorator are subtle but important. The depth of your project will ultimately determine which type of professional you need.

For example, if you expect to make any structural changes to your home during the process, such as moving or removing a wall or readjusting any plumbing or electrical work, you need an interior designer. Whereas if you simply want a little help deciding on a furniture set for your living room or are lost when it comes to lighting and accessories, an interior decorator can help.

With all that said, it all comes down to your preference and how well you mesh with the decorator or designer. You could hire the greatest interior designer in the world, but if they don’t understand you or your tastes, you’re not going to achieve the desired results.

If you think you need an interior designer, but hit it off with a decorator and their previous work looks promising, don’t be afraid to go with them instead!

Once you have your designer or decorator chosen, be sure to come back and check out our blog for tips and ideas for revamping your space.