Interior Design VS. Interior Decorating: Do You Know the Difference? - QC Design School

You’ve always considered yourself a creative individual with an eye for décor, so a career as a home designer seems like it would be a great fit! However, it’s important to know which stream to pursue, and what strengths and training are required for each role.

Interior design and interior decorating are two very different professions (although they sound similar!). If you’re considering becoming either an interior designer or decorator, you’ll need to know the ins and outs of each role. We’ve put together a handy guide to follow to ensure you make the best choice.

Read on and take notes!

kitchen blueprint for interior designers

Know your own strengths

Before we get into the details of design vs. decor, it’s essential that you understand your own strengths as a design professional. When you think of home design plans, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? If you are more drawn to computer-aided design programs, furniture design, and architecture, you’re more suited to an interior design role.

Alternatively, if color selection, furniture placement and accessories are top of mind, then a career as an interior decorator is probably the better path.

It’s also important to consider the training required to become certified in each role. Interior designers require formal training which includes a deep understanding of textiles, drawing, and space planning, as well as a familiarity with computer-aided design (CAD).

If you love the idea of creating custom interiors through renovation, and want to improve the functionality of a space, then you should consider becoming an interior designer. Not all design professionals enjoy renovating and drawing complex floorplans, and if these activities are not your strong suit, you may want to consider becoming an interior decorator…

home staging class

Interior decorating, by contrast, is a profession focused much more on decorative elements. Interior decorating courses teach fundamental design elements such as basic and modern design materials and how to use them in the home. You learn to design specific rooms and spaces. If you’ve always had a keen eye for colors and how they work together, pursuing a career as an interior decorator is where you’ll thrive.

A day in the life…

Often, the best way to understand a specific job is to know the daily tasks it involves. Here are some of the responsibilities that fall under each design job:

Interior Designers

  • Reading blueprints
  • Understanding fire and building codes
  • Meeting with clients and determining the scope of work to be done
  • Taking inventory of existing furniture and getting to know the space
  • Creating a design plan by hand, including drawings
  • Creating a timeline of what needs to be done to make the space functional
interior decorator shopping for home decor accessorizing

Interior Decorators

  • Meeting with clients to determine their needs and tastes
  • Creating the home design plan, including floor plans, color palettes and furniture placement
  • Shopping for furniture, accessories, and window treatments
  • Creating a timeline of tasks
  • Being highly creative and original when decorating for clients

By just glancing at these two job descriptions, it’s clear that interior decorators are much more focused on the aesthetics of the home rather than creating functional spaces based on detailed blueprints and drawings.

Consider the work environment

Before jumping into a design career, you need an understanding of the work environment. Because interior designers and decorators have such different professions, their hours and work locations are highly unique.

Interior designers work on tight deadlines, as they’ve created drawings, blueprints, and home design plans for their clients that must be adhered to throughout the project. Now, this isn’t to say that all interior design jobs are the same, because they’re certainly not. Some designers choose to freelance, and this means that they can have a slightly more flexible schedule when working with clients. However, if they are employed by a large company, they will likely work in a fast-paced office, as other designers will be working on their own deadlines as well. Hours can be long, as designers are innately customer-service oriented and want to please their clients. Keep this in mind if you’re considering a career as an interior designer.

interior decorators focus on eye catching designs and colorful interiors

On the other hand, interior decorators have much more flexibility in their careers. Home decorators can freelance, work for a design firm, or even in retail selling furniture or other decorative pieces for home interiors. While interior decorating jobs can be stressful, no doubt, there is significantly less at stake than in an interior designer’s role. No structural changes will be made by a decorator, as they are more focused on colors, fabrics, lighting, and accessories which reflect the client’s personal taste and vision. This allows them to stretch their creative muscles, build relationships with their clients, and make important decisions – all while creating a beautiful space!


The average salary for an interior decorator in the United States is $45,000, but this number is dependent on how much you charge for your services. Some interior decorators have the potential to make more than $100,000. Your location and client-base will determine how much you’ll be charging, as well as your level of training and experience in home decor.

Interior designers can expect an average salary of $53,000 per year. This is also dependent on how much designers charge for their services, and their level of education and experience. The salary for an interior designer reflects the higher level of education required to break into the field. Of course, programs for interior design can be much more expensive – most post-secondary institutions charge tens of thousand of dollars, and take 2-4 years to complete!

If you’re basing most of your decision on salary, make sure you consider education costs when you’re crunching numbers.

Learn more about the differences between interior decorators and interior designers, and find out which is right for you!

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Kairi Gainsborough says:

    I didn’t realize that interior decorators and interior designers have completely different jobs. I really like the way you explained interior designers as people who like to renovate and improve the way a space functions. In my mind, that is so different than just decorating a room. If I wanted to redo my kitchen or make an addition to my house, I would want an interior designer to help with things like the layout and the materials I would choose. I’m sure their experience working on similar projects would pay off in a great end result that I may not have been able to achieve on my own.

  • Suman Samanta says:

    Great tip, and thanks for using the amazing article.

  • Ethan says:

    Interior designers focus more over space planning, the process usually includes assessment of the existing space. Along, with that they also make functional changes such as re-designing of the whole house or selected rooms.
    Whereas, on the other hand interior decorators are all about aesthetics, they usually handle tasks such as selection of colour schemes, designing furniture, and purchasing new items.

    • ~ c e l i a ~ says:

      Thank you! Does that mean that interior decorators design their own decor plan? Because I got a little muddled and thought that the designers did the decor plan and the decorators followed the designers plan..

      • Sloane Seguin says:

        Hi Celia,

        Great question! Interior designers come up with the design plan of the home itself. However, the DECOR plan can be created by either the interior designer OR the interior decorator. Sometimes, interior designers will handle the decor within the home as well. Other times, interior decorators will be hired for this task. Both interior designers and interior decorators can be responsible for creating a decor plan for their client’s home. It really just depends on the scope of the project and what that individual client is looking for from the expert they book with.

        We hope this helps! If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to let us know. 🙂

        All the best,
        The QC Team

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