I just read this fantastic blog by a writer for HGTV, Brian Patrick Flynn, about the difference between a decorator and a designer. He asked the question " is it safe to say that all designers can decorate; however, not all decorators can design?" to a handful of successful decorators and designers. The answers were interesting to read, that's for sure!
Let me give you a little background. In order to be considered a licensed interior designer, you must have gone to an accredited college and received a degree. After college, you must work in the field of interior design for so many hours, which equals about 2 years if you are full time, and then you must take, and pass, a test. If you pass, you are then allowed, by law, to be called an interior designer.
If you want to be an interior decorator, well, there is no law requirements or education necessary.
So, lets discuss the difference between the two. A designer has formal training, which is usually in commercial design. They work on the project from the very start, all the way to final completion. This includes programming and schematic design, design development, construction documents and the overseeing of the entire project. A designer can move walls and re-locate windows and doors; a designer will create the shell of the space and follow through with the selections of furniture, materials and lighting.
A decorator may or may not have formal training; it is not necessary. If they do, it can be in either residential or commercial design. A decorator does not have the authority to move walls or re-locate doors or windows. They strictly design the inside of the shell that the designer created.
A decorator MUST have talent...either you are good at decorating or you are not; design is a skill that can be learned. Just because you are a designer does not mean that you are a talented decorator. A designer can be skilled in the technical aspect but have absolutely no eye for design or style. Designer, Erica Reitman, said a designer is "someone who guides others towards their own styles using a combination of creativity, innovation, color theory, architecture and psychology." Decorator Phoebe Howard, said this of decoration, "decoration is the comprehensive and conclusive finishing of a home. It is about arranging furnishings in ways that are both pragmatic and beautiful." This is decorator, Nick Olson's answer to the question, "To my understanding, calling oneself an interior designer requires a degree in the field, a professional certification, accreditation and so on. I think the biggest difference between designers and decorators is that the former literally moves walls and other structural elements of a given space, while the latter decorates the box."
So, it seems that there is a clear definition for both decorator and designer, but is the statement true? Can all designers decorate, but all decorators can not design? I am undecided. I am formally trained, from an accredited college, in commercial design; I just happened to have found my niche in residential design. I am not licensed, yet, but I do have the formal training, so technically, I am skilled to do both decorating and designing. I believe that a decorator and a designer can do the same work...it just depends on their background in design, if any. However, I do believe that a decorator is a decorator for a reason, they are talented and know tons about style, where as a designer may not have that same skill set. On the other hand, a decorator may not have the same skill set as the designer; they may have no idea how a wall is built or know the codes that are put in place to keep people safe. I guess this one is just a matter of opinion, and ego if you ask me!
So, it looks like I am considered a decorator, and proud of it!!
What do you think? Would you not hire a super successful and talented decorator to decorate your dream home just because they do not have a degree?