Designers Vs Decorators – Who Are They, How Do They Charge and Which One is Best For Your Project?

Many people use the words interior designer and interior decorator interchangeably. According to the New World Dictionary of the American Language, a designer is one who makes original sketches, patterns, etc. A decorator is a person who decorates; a specialist in interior decoration.

A general assumption is that it costs a lot of money to hire a designer or decorator. This is not always true. They add value to your project and can actually save you money by helping you avoid costly mistakes.

At one point in time only the so called rich hired interior designers. That changed about twenty years ago when the economy was soaring, home building was at a peak, home improvement and decorating shows became popular and homeowners had the money to hire someone to help them create the perfectly decorated home. This led to more people choosing interior design and decorating as a profession. As a result, there are many levels of these types of services available today and a wide range of fees.

For the last few years there has been an ongoing debate within the design industry of who can call themselves an interior designer and what types of services can be provided by this person. This article is not intended to refer to or comment on this subject. The purpose of this article is to educate homeowners about designers and decorators and help them decide who to hire to help them with their projects.

A designer with an ASID (American Society of Interior Design) designation is required to have a certain level of education, pass a rigorous test and serve an internship with an established ASID designer. This designer knows electrical and plumbing codes and can draw up blueprints. He/she is capable of designing the interiors of commercial structures such as hotels, office buildings and restaurants. They study furniture styles and periods and have training as project managers and some even operate their own construction companies. An ASID designer can design and work on residential or commercial projects. They usually have access to a range of products and materials and can buy at wholesale pricing. They are knowledgeable of these products and know the proper use and applications.

Not everyone who is a trained and experienced interior designer is affiliated with ASID. There are fees associated with an ASID membership. A designer has to pay for the testing and there is an annual fee for being a member of ASID. Without being a member, one cannot use ASID beside his name.

Use an interior designer if you are planning a large remodeling project and need someone to design the space and manage the project (specifying, ordering, hiring and managing trades people).

As stated in the first paragraph of this article a decorator is a person who is a specialist in interior decoration. He/she does not necessarily have a degree in interior design. They deal with the aesthetics of a room such as color, wallpaper, furniture, rugs and accessories. A decorator may be someone who has an eye for these things and can create beautiful rooms, but does not have any formal training in these areas. There have been a few decorators that have become world renowned and have been very much respected in their field.

A decorator can help a homeowner choose decorative type products for the home. Some of them have access to trades people who can install carpet and wallpaper, paint, etc. Most decorators also have an eye for balance in a room and proper placement of furniture and objects.

Use a decorator if you are having trouble pulling a room together or if you need help deciding what type of furniture to use in a room. They can choose paint colors for you and make suggestions that will help you solve your decorating dilemmas.

Next there is the decorator with design training. This person has had training and/or schooling in the interior design field, but has not completed all of the requirements to become a member of the American Society of Interior Design. They have taken classes and/or passed courses that qualify them in specific areas of design. They may or may not have an interior design degree, but, they are proficient in their specialties. They may design kitchens and baths, be window treatment specialists, color analysts or are great at space planning, just to name a few.

Use a trained professional decorator if you have a small to medium house project that you can not do or do not want to do on your own. They usually are capable of consulting with your contractor, they have resources for a variety of home products and are knowledgeable of their applications and are proficient at coordinating projects.

There is a designer or decorator to fit everyone’s needs. It is up to the homeowner to determine what their needs are and also determine an estimated budget. Although, if you are having trouble with these areas a designer or decorator can help by asking specific questions to guide you to the answers. A one hour consultation may be all a person needs to receive advise on how to proceed with a DIY project. This consultation could help a homeowner avoid costly mistakes and save time. A simple example, is the person who buys furniture that is perfect for their home, only to find out, after it is delivered, that the scale of the furniture is too large for the room. Then there is the remodeling job where the contractor suggests putting in an extra doorway, only to realize when the job is complete that there are not any walls long enough in the room to accommodate the furniture.

How do designers and decorators charge? Depending on what part of the country you live in fees will vary. Hourly fees are widely used, as well as costs of materials plus a percentage. Sometimes you will be charged straight retail prices with no extra fees attached. If you are working on a project with multiple products and stages of services, it is not uncommon to be quoted a project fee. These are the most common, but not the only, ways to be charged when working with a designer or decorator. It is important to understand the fee structure before starting a project.

Designers and decorators have a passion for creating beautiful, balanced interior spaces that enrich the lives of those using the spaces. They are problem solvers and can relieve some of the stress and anxiety that may accompany a project. Hiring a professional to help with a project can be a fun and rewarding experience. Give it a try. You may end up asking yourself why you did not do it sooner.