What is the difference between an Interior Designer and an Interior Decorator or Stylist?

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

The easiest and most straight-forward answer to the above question is that, in most cases, an Interior Decorator or Stylist is focused towards achieving aesthetic goals for a space. An Interior Designer also plans the layout, mechanics and construction of internal spaces with the aim of creating practical spaces that are in tune with the way you live or work.

In addition to having the skills of a decorator or stylist, an Interior Designer also has the knowledge and experience to be able to provide you with construction drawings detailing the design and layout of a space including lighting, electrical and plumbing components, as well as sound knowledge of joinery detailing, construction methods, building codes and passive design principles (amongst other things). Where, for example, a Decorator/Stylist is limited to selecting the finishes, colours and furnishings.

Unfortunately, many Decorators/Stylists also operate under the term 'Interior Designer' and so it is up to you as a client to research and ask questions of them (an 'Interior Architect' should have a degree in either Architecture or Interior Architecture to operate under this term).

While there are no licensing or educational requirements in Australia for either role, an Interior Designer should at least have Diploma level education AND a lengthy history and experience in relevant roles AND a solid portfolio of works that demonstrates construction documentation ability AND, importantly, they should have up to date professional indemnity insurance due to the nature of their work. (Billy Hoo Studio has all these things!).

Is hiring an Interior Designer worth the investment?

Absolutely! Even without considering the time it will save you throughout the planning process of your project, an Interior Designer has access to trade pricing on most items which could literally save you thousands, they will minimise the risk of costly mistakes because they know how things work and what should go where in order to make your life easier.

Take a second and review all the things that make up the space you are currently in. If you were renovating or building this space you will be asked to make a decision about every little thing, where it goes and sometimes how it is cut, joined and finished. Now imagine for each item looking at the corresponding aisle in a large hardware store (used as an example because I feel like everyone has had the experience) and selecting the one you think you need. How long did it take you to choose? Is the item you chose efficient? will it last you as long as you expect? Are you confident you made the right choice?

Interior Designers deal with products everyday. We know which products we would put in our own houses and which to avoid entirely. We know the best opportunities to save money and where it is worth investing a little more.

Yes it is true that your bathroom renovator or kitchen installer can do a plan for you, but they often don't have the rounded expertise of a designer in encompassing, for instance, future planning or harmonious colours schemes. Often times if you leave the plan up to a trades' discretion they are likely to make decisions based on what is most time or cost efficient for them, not necessarily what is best for you. Don't be fooled into thinking these plans come for free either, most of the time there is a design fee built into the overall charge for the Kitchen or Bathroom.

If you are planning to extend, moving rooms around or renovate a bathroom or kitchen you should consider hiring an Interior Designer. If you are only hoping to refresh colours and furnishings then an Interior Decorator may be a better option for you. Either way, an experienced interiors professional is a good investment for your project.

Want a taste of the nitty gritty and some of the intricate details we seek to understand? Read our post on Metaphysics in Interior Design

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