Interior Design vs. Interior Decorating

The Art and the Science of Interior Design

Photo: Michaela Satterfield

Photo: Michaela Satterfield

There is much confusion surrounding the field of interior design. Many wonder if it is a valid field, thinking there is little skill required in choosing sofa fabrics and drapery colors. Some believe you just have to have a “knack” for it — designing spaces requires little more than some extra creativity.

What many don’t realize, however, is that interior design is not just an art. There is a science to it.

While there are many similarities between interior decorators and interior designers, the fundamental difference is in education.

Interior decorators work to help clients choose décor for their homes. There is no doubt that this requires plenty of interpersonal skill and creativity. Decorators have a natural talent for deciding which things would work together. They are experts on finishes, accessories and furniture.

Interior designers, on the other hand, have obtained a formal degree in interior design, whether that be a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts in interior design. The big concepts of interior design — like sustainability, universal design and an understanding of the construction of a building — are what interior designers may understand better than interior decorators.

Designers look beyond the surface of each building they design. They understand how homes and buildings work on a structural level. They work with architects and contractors to design the building from the blueprints to the finished product, keeping in mind important things like building codes and space planning.

The choice of hiring a designer or a decorator, then, depends on what kind of work you need done. If the work is primarily aesthetic, either a decorator or designer can get the job done. If there are more structural changes needed, a designer will have the education to get that done as well.

Michaela Satterfield

James Décor Writer