Interior Decorator or Interior Designer?

21 April, 2020 | Mikala Chapman

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When you’re renovating or refurbishing your home, you want to get it right. 

Once you’ve got your layout and larger construction decisions sorted where do you go for advice on how to customize it? For the finer details of design, an interior decorator or interior designer are most commonly, your go to professionals.

You want your home to make you feel a certain way when you walk through the front door, so who is the best person to help you create this? In this article we discuss what an interior designer and an interior decorator offer?

An interior designer takes the ‘big picture’ approach to your custom design needs, whether the brief involves the interior of a newbuild or a refurbishment of your current home. 

They help you make the big decisions around functionality, dimensions, aesthetics, colours and the structural and spatial elements of your home. Using a range of imaging and blueprint technology, they can work with your architect, home designer, draftsman and, in some cases, tradespeople, to assist with making design decisions.

Interior designers think about the technical requirements of a space in terms of who’s going to be using it, for what and in what way – how people enter, move through a room and exit, has an impact on the size and placement of fixtures and fittings, lighting, couches, armchairs, bookshelves and tables. Interior designers also know what features are needed for the look you’re after. Traditional or uber modern?  Formal 19thcentury antiques or mid-century design classics? 

Interior Designers may be freelancers, or work within an interior design company or architectural firm. They will have a qualification in interior design, such as a Diploma of Interior Design and Decoration, a Bachelor of Interior Design (Residential) and may have a Master of Design. The industry has its own awards; foremost are the Australian Interior Design Awards. Interior designers charge a project fee or an hourly rate. The average hourly rate for an interior designer in Australia starts at around $100. 

Interior decorator

This person is your ‘outside eye’: they’ll make sure your choices in furnishings ‘speak the same language’. An interior designer will help you decide on fixtures, fabric, textures, colours, objects, artworks and all the other details that go into creating a space. Decorating is an intensely visual creative process, but an expert interior decorator will also go with their intuition to get your space ‘feeling’ right. Does this space feel crowded or intimate? Would we call this room ‘fresh’ or ‘cold’? When you’re renovating or refurbishing, the decision-making process can be the worst aspect of the whole experience.  Marriages have come apart through disagreements over a pendant light fitting versus a chandelier. You might have a strong sense of how you want your space to look and feel, but not know exactly how to achieve it – that’s when you hand over decisions to an interior decorator: it’s their business to know that, a group of three or five objects on a shelf will always look better than two or four. They’ll know about incoming trends, where to place art work, what colour linen you should choose, and whether macrame wall hangings are still a thing (they are). 

Interior decorators are usually freelancers, with qualifications such as a Certificate IV in Interior Decoration or a Diploma of Interior Design and Decoration. Unlike an interior designer, there is no hard and fast rule for what qualifications are required to be an interior decorator, some decorators attract a client base via their sheer creative talent. 

An interior decorator charges a flat project fee or an hourly rate. In Australia, the average hourly rate varies from $50-$200/hr. 

Do you need to hire both an interior designer and a decorator for your project?

This depends on a number of things: how much time you’ve got, the kind of space you’re working with, your budget and your sense of perfectionism. If you do decide to go down the path of hiring both, be sure to have an upfront conversation with both parties to ensure everyone is working together to achieve a uniform and cohesive outcome.

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