Designer or Decorator - How to Save Yourself the Headache


One of the MOST insanely frustrating things about being a registered professional commercial Interior Designer is being called a decorator.  The word makes me shudder and often results in an inadvertent and completely subconscious eye-roll.  Granted, I’ve gotten pretty good at hiding the eye roll, but just know that it’s there.


I collaborate with countless Architects on multiple projects on a daily basis.  The relationship between the two professions is something I find enjoyable and rewarding.  This morning I was speaking to an Architect I have yet to have the privilege of working with and he was informing me that he and his team had recently been burned by working with a “designer” and said the gist of the story was that their “designer” didn’t really know what they were doing.  They were clearly unaware of how to read the drawings and therefore caused a lot of trouble for this particular Architect.  I concluded very quickly that the “designer” he was working with was actually a decorator.  This unfortunate Architect learned the hard way that titles can be deceiving.




Let me explain. 


Technical Definition as stated by the Council for Interior Design Qualification (check out more details here: CIDQ ID Definition):



"Interior design is a multi-faceted profession in which creative and technical solutions are applied within a structure to achieve a built interior environment. These solutions are functional, enhance the quality of life and culture of the occupants and are aesthetically attractive. Designs are created in response to and coordinated 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. The interior design process follows a systematic and coordinated methodology, including research, analysis and integration of knowledge into the creative process, whereby the needs and resources of the client are satisfied to produce an interior space that fulfills the project goals."




Furthermore, the International Interior Design Association defines a Registered Interior Designer as qualified by education, experience and examination to enhance the function and quality of interior spaces.

While most people refer to the terms Interior Designer and Interior Decorator as the same, they are actually very different and dangerously so if the wrong one is hired to do the job.  In other words, “by contrast, interior decorators require no formal training or licensure” (CIDQ website), whereas registered Interior Designers do.  CIDQ’s website goes on to say, “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”. 

Bottom Line:  Interior Designers are qualified to work with licensed Architects because we understand the technical aspects of Architecture and will give you a professionally finished interior project.




So why work with an Interior Designer at all? 


Well for starters we’re very creative people who are often full of life and energy.  We’re just fun to be around!  But professionally speaking, we bring a lot to the table.  A good designer must be a people person.  Client communication and the ability to see what they see is paramount.  And while seeing is a large part of it, we can also put all of those thoughts and ideas together in such a way that the client can see it all too.  Visualization is not second nature to most people and it is the job of a good designer to communicate those visions back and forth throughout the course of the project.


We know our stuff  


We’ve been educated and tested on everything from building codes, working drawings, details, business practices, and programming to life safety, sustainability, ADA compliance and MEP’s, just to list a few.  We work hard to stay current and must even meet CEU requirements to maintain our IDCEC standing.


Furthermore, we love our Architects! Good designers know that good Architects desire a thoroughly complete project just as much as they do.  We keep a consistently open line of communication between Architects, Designers, Clients and Contractors on a regular basis to ensure the project is running smoothly from every possible angle.  It takes a lot of people to make up a successful A&D team and if everyone maintains that team mentality, the end result will be nothing short of magic.

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