The roles of the interior decorator and the interior designer are often used interchangeably as if they were identical professions, and – having studied interior design myself – I would like to clarify this matter.
The interior decorator is mainly concerned with surface decoration, e.g. carpets, wallpaper, paint, soft furnishings, lighting. In order to practice as an interior decorator you do not need formal training, unlike the interior designer, who is a trained professional (one way of making sure you are dealing with a qualified interior designer is to check whether s/he is registered with the ‘British Institute of Interior Design‘). For example, when it comes to floor coverings, an interior decorator will probably be responsible for choosing the type, color, texture, and pattern. The interior designer, on the other hand, will make the selection based on those criteria, with an additional eye towards the appropriateness of type, usage, sound transference, acoustic properties, flammability, off-gassing properties and static electricity requirements.
When working on a project, the interior designer would start off with a client brief in order to understand exactly how he lives, what his habits, hobbies, family circumstances, likes and dislikes are (an interior designer may end up knowing his/her client better than a doctor knows his patient!), so that he can then develop a scheme that works for this particular person (or family); he sees interiors as an expression of the client’s personalities, as solutions for psychological needs and functional requirements. The interior designer will then take a survey and measurements of the space involved and put together a presentation for the client, to get his ideas across. Once the scheme has been accepted he may manage the project through to its completion.
Furthermore, his roles may include space planning (e.g. should your bedroom really be the biggest room in the house with the best view if you only spend the night in it?), acquisition of furniture (interior designers can get big discounts on furniture, from which the client profits) or advice on what style of furniture, window or wall paint goes best with the style of your house. Also, during this time of the ‘credit crunch’, when a lot of people are struggling to sell their house, the option of ‘don’t move – improve’ becomes more and more popular. Or you can get advice on how to improve the look of your home to make it more attractive to potential buyers.
So, although both professions deal with decoration of the interior space, the interior designer goes further and concerns himself with human interaction, functionality, efficiency and safety of a space.