Interior Designer or Interior Decorator?

I was talking to a friend last weekend and he asked what makes an Interior Designer? He implied that his analysis of such, was somebody who added the finishing touches; the soft furnishings, if you like. I was surprised by his question, but said I thought he was confusing an Interior Designer with an Interior Decorator. In essence, to gain a professional qualification in Interior Design takes approximately the same amount of time as studying for a degree, whereas an Interior Decorator course might take anything from a few weeks to a few months. The subjects I studied to gain my Diploma in I.D. covered the History of Design, Materials, Drafting, Colour, Furniture & Fittings (parts 1 & 2), Construction, and Professional Practice culminating in a Final Test which had a timescale of five months to complete. Having completed my studies I must admit that I do enjoy choosing the “frou-frou” elements for a scheme but I enjoy far more the fundamental designing of a space; the challenge of understanding the constraints and working towards the best possible solution in any given circumstances.

Lovingly tended garden
Lovingly tended garden

A very recent example of this was working with a couple who’s lives had changed beyond recognition due to one of them becoming very poorly. The home in which they live, and in which they intend to stay, suddenly became totally unsuitable. They no longer had easy access to the upstairs rooms and suddenly found that doorways had to be widened, thresholds levelled, and the bathroom completely gutted and reworked. As if that wasn’t enough they could no longer share a bedroom and were therefore forced to put another bed in one of the downstairs rooms. This is where I stepped in to try and help them find the best solution. Through a series of discussions, and a complete survey of the house, which included everything from the location of power sockets through to lighting, heating, ventilation, and storage, I prepared some coloured renderings to help them visualise how their existing furniture could be moved around to make the best use of the space available.

Remodelled lounge to incorporate dining area
Remodelled lounge to include dining area

This was a particularly difficult project as this couple had lived in, and loved, their home for a very long time. They had lovingly tended the garden and kept the house impeccable; they couldn’t possibly have foreseen how their circumstances would change overnight. As such neither were prepared for the complete upheaval of their home and, needless to say, there has been resistance to change, and, I feel, little consideration for the longer term.

Dining room with sofa bed closed
Remodelled dining room; sofa bed folded up

In my role as Interior Designer I have tried to demonstrate a sensitivity to their needs and help them visualise how the rooms could work. It is not my intention to bully them into changing everything around, as, at the end of the day, that’s not my place. What I will do is combine all of the renderings into a presentation folder for them to peruse. I’m sure they will have questions, possibly even alternative suggestions, but I believe that is how a design should develop, and, if necessary, a compromise met.

Remodelled dining room with sofa bed opened out
Remodelled dining room; sofa-bed open

In this case, it may be that once the current building works are complete this couple will feel a lot more positive about the future and agree that it is time to make some more changes. I’m not pushing for a decision, but just leaving them to think about how it could work off into the future. For more information on study courses go to or

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