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A while back, I taught a public speaking course to budding intellectuals, which is another way of saying I forced undergrads to ramble in front of a classroom for several minutes. Each semester the same topics recycled themselves –lower the drinking age!— but there was one that had a surprising amount of recursion.
Based on anecdotal evidence, there’s some pent-up ferocity toward interior decorators.
A typical interior design student would roll her eyes when someone compared her major, and hopefully profession, to interior decorators. It went something like this:
“No, I don’t just decorate rooms! I’m earning a degree. There’s a lot more to it.”
Based on my extensive knowledge, gleaned from students and the Internet, I’ve learned this much. Don’t ever—ever—call an interior designer an interior decorator—not unless you want to see what it looks like to “Hulk out.”
Here’s what I know about the two similarly named housing jobs: Interior designers are concerned with planning, functional design, and effective use of space. Interior decorators are tasked with turning interior space –such as my gym-shoe-covered living room—into something that won’t scare off my girlfriend.
Got the difference?
Neither did I. To clear up the headache, Movoto Real Estate asked me to figure it out.
Everything Has Its Place
To accomplish my task I turned to the National Council for Interior Design Qualification. The national organization put it this way:
“Interior design includes a scope of services performed by a professional design practitioner, qualified by means of education, experience and examination, to protect and enhance the health, life safety, and welfare of the public.”
If you didn’t fully read the last part, I’ll point something out: Interior designers “protect and enhance the health, life safety, and welfare of the public.”
They’re certifiable heroes.
I’m only partially kidding.
In my–and by extension Movoto’s–quest to get to the bottom of the not-so-semantic difference between the two, I spoke with Mary Jane Grigsby, president of NCIDQ, who acknowledged the general public confusion over the two professions–often to the ire of interior designers.
“Most people feel that interior decorators and interior designers are all the same: it’s just a different word for the same thing,” Grigsby said. “It’s really our fault for not putting it at the top of the list to educate the public. We bring so much to the table, but unfortunately that’s not how it’s thought of.”
She explained that interior designers are more akin to interior architects.
“To me, how people think of decorating is that it makes something pretty; it’s aesthetically pleasing,” she said. “An interior designer does all that too, but we bring more to the table. What I’m talking about is making sure the choices are correct for the place, the time, the people, the structure.”
This translates to a number of things. An interior designer might evaluate a project, and items associated with a project, for:
- acoustic properties
- flame retardancy
- off-gassing properties
- ADA standards
On the other hand, interior decorators evaluate finishes based only on color, style, and texture. They basically spruce up someone’s digs. For instance if you happen to own a small apartment, an interior decorator will be able to offer tips on how to decorate the room so it feels more spacious.
In a professional life interior decorators are good for anything where aesthetics trump functionality. This might be staging a house or model homes.
This second type of designer also happens to be the more recognizable of the two. Look at any shelf in a grocery store or turn on HGTV and you’ll see that interior decorators saturate the airwaves and the “inter-waves.”
But they are definitely not the same. They are close. But definitely not the same.