When renovating or designing a new home, owners often seek the expertise of an interior designer or interior decorator, yet the line between the two is somewhat blurred.
The two professions have several similarities as well as differences and the roles they undertake may differ from one country to another.
Dominique Hunter of Victorian interior design firm Hunter and Richards says there is a big difference between the two and proposes as a definition that an interior designer acts as a decorator while having extensive knowledge of project management, construction, documentation and the Australian codes and standards related to these areas.
Interior designers generally work closely with architects and contractors. They do many things from using spatial planning to draw up floor plans to adding decorative colour accents. Using the design from the architect, the designer will create floor plans and decipher wall placement while considering building codes and fire safety. They also consider the acoustics of a space.
More than decorating a space to enhance the look, they aim to enhance the functionality of the room and make the best use of the space. Interior designers consider human behavior and movement to maximise space and enable the space to serve a function. Designers are concerned with functionality, efficiency and safety of a space.
Hunter suggests seeking information from an interior designer such as whether or not they have the relevant qualifications, whether they are a member of the Design Institute of Australia, and whether they are a registered building practitioner.
She suggests good interior designers will have two to three years of formal education or several years of professional experience in areas such as building design, architecture or industrial design. Some countries require interior designers to hold a bachelor’s degree.
Hunter says interior designers should be a member of the Design Institute of Australia (DIA), which requires that members meet experience targets and maintain the appropriate education, ethics, ability and professional experience.
Registered building practitioners (RBPs) protect consumers by carrying necessary insurance. In Victoria, this is the law in regards to the Building Act of 1993 for building works over $5,000. If they are not registered, their work will be uninsurable and this creates a huge risk for the consumer.
Interior decorating deals with the decorating and furnishing of indoor spaces such as homes, offices and public spaces. Interior decorators deal with colour palettes, paint, lighting, furniture purchase and arrangement, fabric selection, window treatments, flooring selections, and accessories. Dealing more with the décor in an existing space, decorators focus on aesthetics and are not involved in structural planning.
There is generally no formal schooling required to be an interior decorator, but many in the profession choose to take courses on fabrics and colours, furniture, space planning and room layout.
Decorators do not typically have any contact with architects or contractors as they arrive on the scene once the structure is complete. They do, however, have regular contact with the owners of the space in order to get to know them and understand their interests which they will then incorporate into the décor of the space.
Which One Is Right for the Job?
Remembering that interior decorating and interior design are two separate professions, consumers must carefully consider what they need done before you hire a professional for the job. If a job requires changes to the building’s structure, the building owner will need an interior designer.
If, on teh other hand, a consumer needs assistance choosing wallpaper, creating a colour palette, choosing the best lighting or furnishings for a space, an interior decorator is right for the job.