Interior Design vs. Interior Decorating: Why They’re Different in Critical Ways


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I often hear people using the words “interior design” and “interior decorating” interchangeably.  However, these two professions are different in critical ways.  If you’re looking to make improvements to your home, it’s important to know the difference, especially if you are seeking to hire a professional for your project.

The National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) states,

“Interior design is the art and science of understanding people’s behavior to create functional spaces within a building. Decoration is the furnishing or adorning of a space with fashionable or beautiful things. In short, interior designers may decorate, but decorators do not design.

Interior designers apply creative and technical solutions within a structure that are functional, attractive and beneficial to the occupants’ quality of life and culture. Designs respond to and coordinate with the building shell and acknowledge the physical location and social context of the project. Designs must adhere to code and regulatory requirements and encourage the principles of environmental sustainability.”

Differences in Qualifications

As stated above, an interior decorator can certainly assist a client in choosing wallpaper, paint colors, and furniture, but is not qualified or certified to alter your living spaces.  The NCIDQ requires that all interior designers receive the requisite education and training and obtain licensure in their field.  By contrast, interior decorators require no formal training or licensure.

While Dorian is a NY State Certified Interior Designer (CID) and Certified Kitchen Designer (CKD), there are many individuals out there who call themselves interior designers who are not certified or licensed to practice the profession.  Additionally, I have seen individuals who claim to be designers when they are really decorators.  Be careful! These individuals may not have had the education and training to ensure their designs are functional, structurally sound, and safe.

Differences in Education

Now, you may ask, “Well, what education and training is required for an interior designer?” Excellent question! Dorian is a graduate of Pratt Institute, a School of Art and Design in Brooklyn, NY whose Undergraduate Interior Design Program ranks second in the nation.  The program, which is accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA), “is an architecturally oriented program with emphasis on spatial design as well as surface embellishment. All aspects of space—scale, proportion, configuration, and light source, as well as textures, materials, and color—are studied in relation to their effect on the human spirit.”

Students in the program take courses in 3D and 4D design, light/color design, construction systems, and architectural drawing, to name a few, and must produce a senior thesis (Dorian designed a new wing for a children’s hospital).

As you can see, there are several differences between the interior design and interior decorating professions.  Dorian takes great pride in her education and training, and has maintained her certifications, licenses, and professional memberships for nearly 30 years.  If you’re looking for an individual who has the talent and experience to produce quality designs that appeal to your spirit, look no further than the one I call Mom.

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