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Baltimore, Maryland interior designer Brad Weesner shares insights on luxury residential design and fine commercial interiors. Read blog.

The Difference Between an Interior Designer and an Interior Decorator

An interior decorator helps with many of the decoration details of an existing interior; area rugs, wall colors, wall coverings, help with artwork, perhaps draperies, and general furnishings. A decorator is what we first think of when we wonder about getting some help. In working with the room’s confines, we think of adding some pillows over there with that new sofa, and maybe new window treatments. An interior decorator certainly feels more approachable.

An interior designer helps in a more holistic way, and works with many other things in mind – things you may never realize; health and human safety, ergonomics, color theory, spatial planning, proxemics, lighting design, built-in features, moldings, trims and other architectural details before moving onto the wall coverings, furnishings, area rugs, art, draperies, and the decoration your room will need.

The designer might sound just like what you need, or may sound overwhelming, and yet I strongly encourage you to weigh out how you want your journey to go. A designer would likely work in the background to learn more about not just what you want, but why you want what you want. How does your family live? The effect of sunlight color in your rooms, the level of entertaining you wish to do, the size of your husband’s frame, and the length of your legs for your chair. In planning furniture placement, it is more likely that the designer has already thought of the access from the lower level in placing a floor outlet for the floating furniture you both have just found inspiring. A designer may think of a chandelier lift in the ceiling of your two-story foyer, a $500 cost while the work can be done, saving ladders and danger during cleaning and changing bulbs. Concealed wiring that turns on lights collectively can be easily done before the room is painted, and be cost prohibitive later. A designer does more, but it does not mean that a decorator does less either.

The lines can get very blurred, and things get confusing. I know of people who present themselves as interior designers, who do not know very much about the building process, such as floor joist support for the extra granite you are thinking about in the kitchen, and other details. And I know of people who refer to themselves as interior decorators who are fully and completely trained in the aspects of interior design. Unfortunately, there are no strict guidelines on the differences, unless you get into complicated discussions of certain and unpredictable accreditations.