Understanding the Difference Between Interior Design and Interior Decorating

Defining Interior Design

Interior design is a multifaceted profession that focuses on creating functional and aesthetically pleasing interior spaces. Interior designers consider the layout, flow, and functionality of a space. They work on both residential and commercial projects, addressing structural changes, space planning, and detailed design elements. Interior designers often collaborate with architects and contractors to ensure the project aligns with the overall vision and structural requirements.

Key Responsibilities of Interior Designers

  • Space planning and layout design
  • Selecting and specifying materials, furniture, and fixtures
  • Creating detailed plans and renderings
  • Ensuring designs meet building codes and regulations
  • Enhancing the functionality and safety of interior spaces

Defining Interior Decorating

Interior decorating focuses on the aesthetic aspects of a space. Interior decorators enhance the visual appeal of interiors through the selection of color schemes, furniture, accessories, and decor items. They work with existing spaces, making cosmetic changes to improve the overall look and feel. Unlike interior designers, decorators do not make structural changes or alterations to the layout of a space.

Key Responsibilities of Interior Decorators

  • Choosing color palettes and paint options
  • Selecting furniture, fabrics, and accessories
  • Arranging decorative items and artwork
  • Advising on window treatments and lighting
  • Creating a cohesive and visually appealing look

Comparing Interior Design and Interior Decorating

Scope of Work

  • Interior designers handle both the functional and aesthetic aspects of a space. They may make structural changes, design layouts, and ensure that the space meets building codes.
  • Interior decorators focus solely on the aesthetics. They enhance the existing space through color, furniture, and decor without altering the structure or layout.

Skills and Expertise

  • Interior designers require knowledge of architecture, space planning, and building codes. They need to understand how to create functional layouts and ensure safety and accessibility.
  • Interior decorators need a strong sense of style, color theory, and knowledge of current design trends. Their expertise lies in creating visually pleasing environments.

Collaboration and Overlap

  • Interior designers and decorators often collaborate. Designers might bring in decorators to add the finishing touches to a project.
  • While there is overlap in selecting colors, furniture, and accessories, the primary distinction lies in the designer’s ability to make structural changes and the decorator’s focus on aesthetics.

Career Paths

  • Interior designers typically hold degrees in interior design or related fields and may need certification or licensing, depending on the region.
  • Interior decorators may have formal training in decorating or related areas, but certification is less common and typically not required.


Interior design and interior decorating are complementary yet distinct fields. Interior designers focus on the functionality, safety, and overall layout of a space, making structural changes as needed. Interior decorators concentrate on enhancing the aesthetic appeal through thoughtful selection and arrangement of decor elements. Both roles are essential in creating beautiful, functional, and cohesive interior spaces.

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