It’s a common question we hear a lot, What’s the Difference Between an Interior Designer and an Interior Decorator?  Let’s unravel this a bit for you, because although they may seem the same from the outside, there’s a bit of nuance to each of the roles.  I’ll give you a hint: Only one has the skillset needed to handle both the aesthetics of form and the function of the space holistically.  So follow along as we talk about the three key differences that set these roles apart.

Interior Designer for Bathroom Remodel




What’s the Purpose of an Interior Decorator?

An Interior Decorator is someone that comes into a project after the architectural groundwork has been laid. Think of it as a blank box, as if you turned a room upside down and everything that falls out will be replaced.  Decorators breathe new life into the existing structure of an empty room. 

Decorators select new furniture, light fixtures, fabrics, paint colors, window coverings, and decorative accents, which make a room feel tailor made and special. Their experience lies in harnessing style and mood to transform spaces into visual stories that reflect the client’s personality.  A decorator, while extremely talented and knowledgeable, does not necessarily require a formal design education.

What’s the Purpose of an Interior Designer?

An Interior Designer is more like an Interior Architect, with a degree and additional certifications, and their roles can cover a wide spectrum of skills and responsibilities.  Not only is an Interior Designer able to work on the home decoration portion of a project, but they are skilled in building construction as well.  If you’re planning on changing the structural walls, plumbing and electrical, you’ll need a savvy Interior Designer, not a decorator.  For example, if you want to do a Kitchen Remodel or a Bathroom Renovation, you’ll need an Interior Designer because they encompass the architectural finesse of space planning, structural considerations, and spatial functionality.

Think of an Interior Designer as a potter, able to mold the interior bones of a home into a client’s specific wants, behaviors and needs.  Armed a solid understanding of building codes and sustainable design or green building, Interior Designers create a holistic design for your home, and draft construction plans that are the foundations of a home remodel project. 

In short, remember it this way: Interior Designers may also decorate, but Interior Decorators do not design.

Interior Decorator Bedroom Furniture


Both an Interior Decorator and Interior Designer share certain skillsets, but venture into separate yet distinctive scopes of responsibilities.

What is the Skillset of an Interior Decorator?

Interior Decorators take care of the ambiance of a space. Their proficiency lies in the nuanced selection and arrangement of furniture and design elements.  They have an eye for detail and a knack for color coordination, textures, patterns and trends. A home decorator’s artistic finesse shines as they bring together fabrics, furniture, lighting, accessories, and artwork that aligns with aesthetics and personal interior style of each client.

What is the Skillset of an Interior Designer?

Interior Designers are the maestro of any home furnishing project and/or remodel because they have a deeper and more wide-scope knowledge of the entire space, including the decoration and structure.

Safety regulations and building codes is always at the forefront of their work as they re-design each space.  Equipped with comprehensive knowledge, Interior Designers most often hold degrees in Interior Design and Certifications like Energy Efficient Design (LEED).  They are able to use advanced tools such as computer drafting (CAD software) that creates the technical blueprints that drive any construction. Their expertise includes drafted construction documents, space plans, ergonomics, lighting design and more. 

It’s best to hire an Interior Designer in the early phases so they’re able to asses your needs, design a vision and draft a plan.  Without a set of plans, or construction documents, the General Contractor has no direction or scope of work to quote. 

If an Interior Designer is also hired to work on the home furnishings, they will simultaneously manage the design and furniture floor plan, purchasing of furniture, decorative lighting, plumbing and appliances, finish materials and installation.

Interior Decorator Furniture Home


Collaborating with specific types of trades is a key distinction between the roles of Interior Designer and Interior Decorator.

Who Does an Interior Decorator Work With?

Interior Decorators are hired after the home or space is completely finished with construction.  They bring in the client’s vision and style by transforming a blank space into a room that has life that reflects a personality and charm. 

Decorators work with a variety of custom and wholesale trades, like furniture manufacturers and fabric reps, upholsterers, window treatment fabricators, decorative lighting reps, wallpaper installers or art dealers.

Who Does an Interior Designer Work With?

Interior Designers collaborate with architects and contractors from the beginning of a new home building or home remodel project.  Having a designer on board from the beginning helps to make sure that every element resonates with the core architecture and design intention, translating into practical yet beautiful space.

With a detailed set of interior construction documents drawn up by the designer, the General Contractor can create a bid for the home remodel and move throughout the renovation process.  Before and during construction, designers will work with the contractor who then coordinates and oversees the demo crew, carpenters, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, mechanical, custom cabinetry and finish material installers. 

Again, an Interior Designer is able to handle both the construction aspect and the new home furnishings and decoration at the same time.

Interior Decorator Home Furniture

Over the past month, we’ve focused on a series of posts that pull back the curtain on how to find and work with an Interior Designer, and how to prepare for a successful home renovation.  If you’re curious, or about to head into a project of your own, we highly recommend you check out these in depth and informative topics.  How to Find an Interior Designer That’s Right for YouHow to Work with an Interior Designer, and 10 Pro Tips for a Home Remodel.

Interior Decorator

In conclusion, while “Interior Designer” and “Interior Decorator” might share a common thread of design, and most people use the name interchangeably, the difference of their roles are distinct in essence and function.

Interior Designers are the architectural alchemists crafting the blueprint and overall structural design, while Interior Decorators bring the ambiance and style to a space. And don’t forget, an Interior Designer is skilled at doing both!  Their collaborative efforts harmonize to shape spaces that embody both functional sophistication and beauty.

So, whether you’re looking for help in crafting the blueprint of a home renovation or Kitchen and Bath Remodel, or need an expert eye in furnishing your home, and Interior Designer can handle these seamlessly!

Interior Decorator Los Angeles
Interior Decorator Los Angeles

Is It Worth Getting an Interior Designer?

Hiring an Interior Designer is crucial during a home remodel and construction, because their expertise bridges the gap between your vision and execution. With a deep understanding of architectural principles, spatial optimization, and local building codes, Interior Designers ensure your project is both aesthetically pleasing and structurally sound.

They collaborate seamlessly with architects and contractors, translating your dreams and aspirations into a detailed set of plans.  Construction Plans are drawn, complete with the existing layouts to be removed (Demo), the new floor plan that includes the layout, lighting, material finishes and functionality.  The General Contractor will use these plans as a road map, leading to a cohesive and polished outcome that maximizes the potential of your space while streamlining the renovation process.

Is It Worth Getting an Interior Decorator?

Hiring an Interior Decorator is an invaluable investment when furnishing and styling your home.  Their expert guidance, experience and attention to detail ensures a harmonious and curated design. With an astute eye for color palettes, furniture arrangements, and decorative accents, interior decorators bring a cohesive look that’s custom tailored to your specific preference. 

Because of their access to wholesale pricing, specialized trades and proficiency in understanding spatial balance and current design trends, this will help guarantee a polished outcome.  You’ll save time, effort and money, while elevating your living space into a curated haven that reflects your personality and showcases a seamless blend of function and beauty.

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Interior Design by Lori Dennis and Sara Plaisted
Construction by SoCal Contractor