Choosing the right person for the job
It may not be the ‘age old question’ but it is certainly one that seems to come up on a regular basis in the world of décor and design.
What is the difference between an interior designer and an interior decorator?
Many people believe these titles are interchangeable, when in fact they are quite different.
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.
Many provinces in Canada, as well as states in the U.S., have passed laws to regulate the use of the title interior designer.
They require professionals to undergo education and testing, as well as licensing, before being able to use the title. This allows for documentation of the formal education and training of interior designers be completed.
It’s unfortunate for those working in B.C. that this province is not one of these, although steps are being made to implement regulations in the near future. This makes it even more important for home or business owners to know what to look for when hiring a design professional.
The National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ.org) is the body in North America that administers the exams for those looking to be registered or licensed. In British Columbia, Registered Interior Designers (RID) must also be a professional member of the Interior Designers Institute (IDIBC.org) and meet certain educational requirements and professional development every year to use the title.
Interior decorators are not regulated by any governing bodies, and no education or training is required, although many do complete specialized courses in furniture history, colour, etc.
Interior designers are able to work on both commercial and residential projects, and will often specialize in a particular area—health care, hospitality, personalized services, retail, offices or institutional design.
Interior decorators are only found in the residential field.
For residential projects, either profession may be a good fit, depending on the scope of work. Interior decorators are able to assist with new material selection—for example flooring, paint or wallpaper. They are able to offer advice on furniture placement and selections, window coverings and accessories.
If the project requires changes to the layout of rooms or anything structural an interior designer would be required. Interior designers can offer the same services as an interior decorator, however, they are also trained in building elements, building codes, public safety and accessibility.
Other areas of consideration for interior designers are suitability of materials, psychology and perception of space, and aesthetic vision. Interior designers offer technical documentation and drawings—floor plans, elevations and specifications for each project.
If a renovation project is on the agenda beware of people who call themselves interior designers, and do some research to verify their credentials, and ensure they are appropriate for the project.
For the simplest way to look at the profession and to figure out which is the most suitable for the project consider this, if your space functions well and needs to be freshened up, an interior decorator may be a good fit.
If your space needs freshening up, as well as improvement to the layout and function, an interior designer is likely required.
Sarah Gallop is a Registered Interior Designer based in Ladner. A gallery of her work can be seen at www.sarahgallop.com