Why hire an interior designer?


About a month ago I had a wonderful lunch with a young, professional mother of three who is the Marketing Director at a creative entertainment company in New York City. She and her husband had recently finished construction, combining two apartments into one living space. I posed this question: “Do you know the difference between an Interior Designer and an Interior Decorator?” She replied, “No. Aren’t they both the same?” I said, “No.” and proceeded to explain.

In fact, many people confuse interior designers and interior decorators. That is because Interior Design is a multi-faceted profession with a major overlap when it comes to aesthetics. Most projects involve décor in one way or another. Finishes and fabrics are selected, etc. However, the two professions are significantly different. The dilemma is who to choose to do the job?

An interior decorator does not have to graduate from a college program to be a decorator. They can take a nine month certificate course or just print up a card and say they have talent. And many do.

An interior designer does have a degree from an accredited college or university. In order to be a member of the American Society of Interior Designers they need to have a degree and a certain number of years of experience before applying. If they want to attain the highest membership category, and put the letters “ASID” after their name, they must pass a six part exam on design. (the NCIDQ exam) Most of the states that certify interior designers use the passing of this exam as part of the application process.

What does an interior designer know? Plenty!

They must know about fire safety and “means of egress”. This means that in the planning of a space, there must be more than just the way in—there must be a planned way out as well. They must know about building codes and accessibility. They must know about lighting and electrical systems; building structure and construction. They must know about ventilation and items that can be harmful such as high VOC-emitting paints or flooring. They must know about glues used in furniture construction. Used improperly, these can make you sick. They know about fabric, what it is composed of, how it is constructed and which one is best for the application it is being used for. And it goes on and on. There is so much more!

When I finally stopped, I asked, “If you were going to hire a person to turn your new apartment into a home, who would you look for–an interior designer or an interior decorator?” She said: “Now that I know the difference, I would go for an interior designer.” I said, “What if you all you needed was décor?”

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“For my money and investment in my home, I would rather work with a person who had all that knowledge than someone who did not.”