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October 11 - Interior designer/interior decorator - what's the difference?

Source: Resi Mortgage Corporation

Whether you’re looking to change the interior of your existing home or are building a new home and need advice on how to co-ordinate the overall look of its interior, you may be recommended to use the services of an interior decorator or an interior designer. 

It’s therefore important to understand the differences between the two roles so you can be clear about the type of service that is most going to suit your needs.

The main differences between the two roles are the level of training and the subsequent scope of work that each person is qualified to provide.


An interior decorator generally refers to someone who deals with finishes, surfaces, furniture, and wall coverings.

Interior decorators are predominantly concerned with the look or appearance of a building or space. The basis of their profession is that they can change the interior aesthetics of a room.

This change can be achieved by altering the walls, the floors and adding decorative elements to the room. However they cannot remove or alter any standing structure and they also do not work with the exterior features of the building.

There is also no specific government regulation regarding the work of an interior decorator.


An interior designer is a more specialised career field, requiring a certain combined level of education, work experience, and licensing.

An interior designer may also deal with issues of safety like accessibility and building codes.

Interior designers are trained to work with architecture and concern themselves with how the entire space looks, rather than just the interior.

While only architects can alter load-bearing structures, interior designers can move non-load-bearing elements that do not affect the structural foundations and stability of a building, such as changing the roof of the building to add skylights or adding exposed wood beams.

In addition, they can also advise on anything within a given area of space such as furniture, accessories, lighting and even exterior elements like windows and doors.

Once you have chosen which of these two professionals will best suit your needs, you can then progress your search by looking at each person’s credentials, examples of their work and by having access to references from past clients.

You should also ask if they are a member of an industry association such as the Design Institute of Australia so you are confident they have already have six years industry experience and will adhere to the association’s code of conduct and standards of behaviour.

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