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What is the Difference Between an Interior Decorator, an Interior Designer, and an Architect?

If you are building a new home, remodeling your home, or just want to make your home look better, you may find yourself in need of an interior decorator, an interior designer, and/or an architect.

Some of the areas of expertise of these professionals may overlap, so deciding which one to hire can be a bit confusing.

Here is a simplified explanation of what each professional does.

These professionals can also work on commercial buildings, however this article will focus on the residential side of their jobs.

 

The difference between an interior decorator, an interior designer, and an architect

Interior Decorator
Interior decorators focus only on the aesthetics of a home. 

Their main focus is on making an existing home more visually appealing.

They can assist in selecting flooring, lighting, window coverings, paint colors, furniture, and accessories. 

Interior decorators are not required to have any special training or certifications, so anyone can call themselves an interior decorator.

 

Interior Designer
Interior designers focus on the function as well as the aesthetics of a home - everything from floor to ceiling, but typically excluding the foundation and roof.

They can assist you with everything an interior decorator can, however they also design interior structural components such as plumbing, electrical, carpentry (cabinets, closet layout, decorative molding, etc), kitchens, and bathrooms.

Interior designers often work with architects during the construction of new homes.   Typically an architect will design the house, then an interior designer will select the specific materials (countertops, cabinet material, paint colors, lighting, flooring, etc), furniture, and decorations. 

They can also assist with kitchen or bathroom remodels by designing a change in layout, specifying materials, and adding decorative items.

Interior designers can suggest the modification of walls, however if the wall is determined to be load bearing, a structural engineer is hired to specify supports required to ensure the home is structurally safe.

Interior designers are required to have a college degree and be certified by examination.

Each state has different regulations regarding the title of licensed interior designer, certified interior designer, registered interior designer, and other variations, so research so you know the difference in your particular state.

 

Architect
Architects focus on the function and aesthetics of the shell of a home - interior and exterior (basically all of the items in a home before the homeowner moves in). 

They can design a building from the ground up, including the foundation, structural elements, and roof.

Architects are required to have a college degree and be certified by examination.

 

Note
Sometimes the lines blur between the professions.  Some architects can also decorate.   Some decorators have an interior design degree but never took the exam to be licensed.  Some interior designers design entire homes from the ground up.

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