With more and more people hanging out shingles as either interior design professionals—thanks partly to the popularity of television shows like Design on a Dime, Extreme Home Makeover and Trading Spaces—knowing who to hire for a job in your home or building can sometimes be a little tricky.
For example, the terms “interior designer” and “interior decorator” are often used interchangeably—but the two professions are not identical. Both interior designers and interior decorators can turn your lobby or common areas into cozy, welcoming spaces, but the two professions are not synonymous.
Interior designers are, according to the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), responsible for an array of tasks including non-aesthetic considerations like building codes and acoustics. Interior designers are also required to have a license in most states, certifying that they are a qualified professional with the required background and schooling.
By contrast, interior decorators are almost purely concerned with aesthetics: surface decoration, paint, fabric, furnishings, lighting and building materials. In a word, they make a functional space beautiful. The educational requirements for decorators are not as stringent as they are for designers, and licensing is not required—so if your building wants to simply make the lobby look better without a complete, down-to-the-studs overhaul, you may need a decorator, rather than a designer.
But how can you be sure that the decorator you hire is experienced and competent? One way is to look for a decorator who is a member of Certified Interior Decorators International, or CID.