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Interior designer, interior decorator. Potato, potahto. But is it really a distinction without a difference? We’re here to spill the tea.

So, you’ve finally decided to take the leap and give your home interiors a much-deserved makeover. But before you do, you realise you need someone to step in and take charge. Once you scour the web for professionals in your area, you realise there’s a polarity in the home interior professionals space you never knew existed: interior design versus interior decoration. And you’re left straddling a fine line that has you woozy with uncertainty.

Sound familiar?

If you’ve often pondered the differences between interior designers and interior decorators, you’re not alone. And while the roles do entail similar responsibilities, they are actually completely distinct. From schooling and credentials to services and clientele, this guide turns the spotlight on the differences between the two.

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Interior designer

Interior design is the art of understanding homeowners’ behaviours, tastes and preferences to create architecturally and aesthetically optimised spaces. Interior designers combine artistic and scientific solutions to achieve functionality and form in line with homeowners’ lifestyles. Designs are typically influenced by the age, physical location and direction of the building shell, and take into consideration societal and environmental factors. The interior design process is fastidiously rooted in an established methodology; it uses research, planning, analysis and knowledge integration to achieve a home design that echoes the clients’ expectations.

Academic credentials

Interior design is a profession that can be pursued only with specific academic credentials. It involves various realms of study including colour, fabric, drawing, spatial planning, computer-aided design (CAD), architecture and furniture design. New graduates are usually mandated to complete an apprenticeship with an established interior design firm before seeking out an independent career. In India, candidates aspiring to a career in interior design are expected to undertake a specialised course or pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree in the subject.

Professional scope

Interior designers are skilled at choreographing spatial arrangement, architectural design and interior renovation. They can orchestrate a comprehensive sweep of design activities, from masterminding the floor plan to laying down the finishing touches of a room. Designers are equally geared towards aesthetics and ergonomics and work in close collaboration with architects, civil engineers and contractors.

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Interior decorator

Interior decoration pivots around enhancing the aesthetics of a space, and comes after the structural layout of a home has been set in place. A decorator focuses on furnishing and adorning a space with the flavourful decor, to lend an artistic flourish. Interior decoration is considered a subset of interior design because while an interior designer may decorate, an interior decorator cannot design. For example, an interior decorator may choose a certain type of wardrobe laminate purely based on the wood grain, texture and shade. An interior designer, conversely, would consider a whole other range of functional factors in addition to these, including flammability, durability, material, sound, water- and termite-resistance, and usage.

Academic credentials

Interior decoration doesn’t require certification in the field. Many decorators have unrelated degrees, but simply have a creative flair and an eye for design. There are several courses that a decorator may opt to take to enhance their repertoire of skills. These usually cover subjects like colour and fabric, spatial planning, decor styles, material planning and so on.

Professional scope

Interior decorators are style savants who can visually elevate a room. They can help style a space through colour, furniture and accessories. Decorators typically come on board after a home’s architecture has been finalised. They work in close association with furniture suppliers, upholsterers, decor firms and other home enhancement enablers.

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Do I need an interior designer or an interior decorator?

Before choosing between an interior designer and an interior decorator, ask yourself what your needs are.

Pick an interior designer if…

…Your home requires structural changes like wall modifications, electrical rewiring or waterproofing. Interior designers routinely partner with architects and contractors for such projects, and you can trust that you’re in safe hands when you pick one with relevant experience.

Pick an interior decorator if…

…You require no structural changes but need help in the styling department. A decorator can help you decide on your decor, paint, furniture and furnishings, window treatments, lighting and accessories.

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Both interior designers and interior decorators can add priceless value to your home. It’s up to you to decide who you need. So, the next time you Google for help to design your home, you’ll know exactly what to go for, and exactly where to start.

Here are few links which can help you.

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