The Difference Between Interior Design and Interior Decorating

The term interior design (and by extension, interior designer) is actually different from interior decorating (and likewise, interior decorator), although some use these terms interchangeably.

An interior decorator simply applies decorating principles to beautify a space. Although an "interior designer" can also make aesthetic changes to an interior space, the interior designer is actually a professional licensed and/or registered with a licensing authority who coordinates design projects. This effort includes designing the interior architecture, in addition to beautifying the space.

Educational requirements are less technical for an interior decorator than for an interior designer. While an interior decorator requires no formal mandated education or licensing requirements, an interior designer must meet both educational and licensing requirements of the licensing jurisdiction, and the designer must be well versed and knowledgeable technically in the building and safety codes that can affect changes to interior spaces.


Interior designers can specialize in a particular interior design discipline, such as residential and commercial design, with some developing expertise within a niche design area such as hospitality, health care and institutional design. Some jurisdictions may require interior designers who specialize in certain design disciplines to acquire additional certification. For example, residential designers in the United States who are specialists in kitchen and bath design may be required to take the National Kitchen & Bath Association examination to receive certification in this design area. Interior designers who also possess environmental expertise in design solutions for sustainable construction can receive accreditation in this area by taking the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) examination.

The specialty areas that involve interior designers are limited only by the imagination and are continually growing and changing. With the increase in the aging population, an increased focus has been placed on developing solutions to improve the living environment of the elderly population, which takes into account health and accessibility issues that can affect the design. Awareness of the ability of interior spaces to create positive changes in people's lives is increasing, so interior design is also becoming relevant to this type of advocacy