What is an Interior Designer?  



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What is an Interior Designer?

  • Someone who picks out a color scheme?

  • A person with a great eye who will shop for art and accessories?

  • Someone who can rearrange my furniture and make my house more comfortable?

Yes but that’s a small fraction of what an interior designer does. They are problem solvers who try to get to the heart of an issue and even the emotional reasons you have for designing a new space or redesign the space you already live or do business in.

Let’s start with the big picture first, the building itself.

The Difference Between an Interior Designer and an Architect

Architecture cannot be lived in without interior design. Architects design the structure itself and an interior designer does almost everything within the structural frame. In new construction or renovation, interior designers plan the ceiling levels and where walls will go to create different rooms and corridors.

I think of a building like the human body. The architect provides the skeleton that gives a framework and support structure for all the interior elements. This includes the mechanical organs and technical guts that work together, along with the interior designers supportive and beautiful elements we are more familiar with, see and use every day.

What an interior designer and architect study have similarities. Most secondary interior design programs include basic architecture like ceiling, floor, and wall construction. You may also see a crossover from interior design into an architecture program. For example some architects lay out furniture. In four year programs, both architects and interior designers will take art history, two and three-dimensional design to round out some of the creative skills that are so important to both careers.


The Difference Between an Interior Designer and an Interior Decorator

Interior decorators typically focus on style and aesthetics of already existing spaces and add decorative elements to it. Their services may include picking paint colors, arranging and selecting furniture, art, and accessories. Others offer staging services to prepare a home for a speedy and profitable sale.

Interior designers first focus on the functionality, accessibility, safety and building codes along with the aesthetic aspects of a room design. They are trained to do everything a decorator does, but their services may include new buildings and renovations such as kitchens or bathrooms. They could also work on commercial projects like hospitals, offices, restaurants, or retail spaces. Interior designers provide scale drawings of floor plans, elevations and detail drawings for construction. They are also part of project management, product, and material selection.

The education is different between the two as well. Interior decorators may not have had training but rely on a keen sense of style. An interior designer will have secondary education from a two, four or a post baccalaureate masters degree program. Some states in the US and countries like Canada require interior designers to take an exam to become legally licensed to practice interior design. Interior decorators are not requried in any state to have licensing. Pennsylvania does not require interior designer licensing. However, the two have clear education and service differences.

What Interior Designers Do

So far we know that an interior designer takes care of nearly everything inside a building expect the design of the building structure itself, that's what an architect does.

We also know that an interior designer does the nitty-gritty work involved with creating interior spaces, more so than an interior decorator who could choose the paint color for the wall but not where the wall goes.

An interior designer is a problem solver, researcher, and planner. Interior designers combine abstract ideas and concrete ways of getting those ideas across. They create individualized environments by manipulating volume, size, and shape. They are also somebody that needs to understand the behaviors and physical needs of the people within that space so they can create a safe environment for them.

They love watching transformation occur both in the designs and in the clients. That's the most important part because each time an interior designer does work for you, they're really thinking about how they can transform your life.

A Day in the Life of an Interior Designer

During the design phase, an interior designer is trying to capture a mood and a story that will communicate clearly with the client so they can say yes to the design. If a designer can't express their ideas, they may as well not have had the idea. The interior designer wants the client to feel like they are speaking the same language they are and that they understand what is being recommended.

The designer will do research, create drawings, and select materials samples of fabric, stone, ceramic, wood, anything that feels right and communicates the aspirations of the project.

An Interior designer must be passionate about their work. They put a tremendous amount of time and care into creating a presentation and seeing a project to completion. It’s all worthwhile when the designer puts the design in front of the client and their eyes light up with a smile. When the interior designer know they have nailed the design it feels fantastic, and that’s not something everyone gets to do.


Want to know more about being an Interior Designer?  

Why I'm an Interior Designer


My Design Philosophy