If you’ve ever wanted to make a few changes at home or in a commercial space and suddenly realized you need a little more help than anticipated, chances are you’ve done some research on interior design and interior decorating. It’s quite common that the two terms get mistaken for each other, and while they share some similarities, the definitions aren’t interchangeable.

Here’s a brief comparison for you to refer to the next time you need interior design assistance.

Interior Design

Most interior designers receive specific schooling and formal training in their field. Interior design studies typically include specific training in colors, fabrics, materials, drawing, space planning, building code compliance, health and safety (e.g., fabric flammability, furniture ergonomics, and air quality), and more. Interior designers specifically go through Building Information Modeling (aka “BIM”) training, so they’re able to draft plan sets and specify materials.

Interior designers in some states must pass exams and become registered with a governing council before they can put their skills to official work. Although interior-designer certification and licensing aren’t required in Oregon, /sāj/ Architecture’s lead interior designer, Rebecca White, has passed the rigorous Council for Interior Design exams and is therefore NCIDQ-certified.

Interior designers help design and renovate home and building interiors. They work on everything from floor plans to the last decorative touch. While their goal is to enhance the look of the space, they also prioritize the safety and function of a space, which requires they understand how people interact with the built environment. Interior designers work to ensure that all finishes, from wood accents on walls and ceilings, to furniture, to lighting fixtures, and more, all meet required safety codes. They also focus on working on proper counter heights, coded specifically for sales and transactions, reception desks, and more. Finally, an experienced interior designer can help select and coordinate a general contractor to build out a space.

In Oregon, interior designers cannot provide architectural services for non-exempt projects without the supervision of an architect or engineer. Here at /sāj/ Architecture, our interior designers collaborate closely with our architecture teams so that we can offer integrated services. We believe this provides the best service and value to our clients and results in the highest level of design.

Interior Decorating

Becoming an interior decorator doesn’t require formal training or schooling. There are, however, courses and programs that can aid in the training of an interior decorator.  Courses for decorating typically cover fabrics and color and furniture styles.

The goal of interior decoration is primarily surface aesthetics. If renovations or structural planning for a non-exempt project are required, an interior decorator won’t be able to assist your project without the support of an architect.

So, who should you hire?

If you’re looking for someone to change the feel of a room by updating furniture layouts, colors, pillows, and rugs, an interior decorator can help you out. If you want to make more significant changes, an interior designer is better suited for your project. And, finally, if your project requires structural changes or building permits for a non-exempt project, you will need to hire either an architect or interior designer supervised by an architect or engineer.

Here at /sāj/ Architecture, we have interior designers as an integral part of our team, so we can develop all aspects of a project for our clients in-house.

Seth Anderson
Seth Anderson

Seth is a Principal Architect.