In the UK, if you do a simple google search for "Interior Designer", you will come up with thousands upon thousands of results. I think it's a safe bet to say though, that a vast majority of these professionals aren't designers at all - they are interior decorators or stylists. There is, in fact, a significant difference between the two, and in many cases, it makes all the difference to the outcome of a project.
But what is the difference? Why does it even matter? And how can you tell them apart? Read on to find out.
Interior Decorators / Stylists
Interior Decorators (not to be confused with the common term decorator in the UK, referring to the people who paint your house!) or Interior Stylists are professionals who deal only with the decorative elements of a space, i.e., how it looks. They will usually provide advice on fabrics, colours, materials and put together decorative schemes that are not backed up by technical drawings, detailed technical space planning and other aspects like lighting and electrical design, architectural and ergonomic standards. Stylists usually come into the picture after interior design - staging a property for shoots, sales, magazines etc. Simply put, decorators and stylists deal with the final look of the space, but are not trained or skilled in the technical aspects of design.
Interior Designers, simply put, are the technical and creative experts of the interior design world. Designers have had formal training and qualifications, and deal with far more than just the aesthetics of the space.
Designers deal not just with the art of design, but also with the science and psychology of it.
Designers are trained to practically analyse the context of a project, paying attention to several factors such as human interaction, behaviour, psychology, technical aspects such as space and architectural standards, interior architectural elements, lighting, materiality etc. - and then creatively translate all of that into an aesthetically pleasing space. Designers are trained to use technical software like CAD (AutoCAD, Vectorworks etc.), or technical drawing by hand, which is imperative if you want to make sure that the design is technically accurate, safe and practical.
Designers do everything that interior decorators and stylists can do, but with an eye on the overall design strategy, firmly backed up by, and within the context of all relevant technical matters like space, lighting, architectural components, building control matters, etc., and are also trained to liaise with other technical experts like architects, structural engineers, electricians, plumbers, building control officials etc. Frequently, an interior designer will have additional knowledge of architecture, history of architecture and styles, construction, materials etc.
A decorator or stylist may, for example, specify a certain flooring based on how it looks, but an Interior Designer will have taken into account its material properties, how it interacts with other materials in the space, how hot or cold it would make the room, etc. An Interior Decorator or Stylist may specify some beautiful lighting for a room, but an Interior Designer would have specified the lighting based on a detailed technical lighting plan, to ensure that the money you spend on the lighting is worth it and that you achieve the functional and aesthetic goals in the space.
To make it really simple - all Interior Designers are also interior decorators/stylists but interior decorators/stylists are NOT Designers.
In the US, the above distinction is made very simple - professionals are not legally allowed to call themselves Designers unless they have the appropriate skills training and qualifications that go into making a Designer. Unfortunately, in the UK, there is no such regulation, putting clients at risk and allowing anyone at all to call themselves Interior Designers.
But now you know! So when you're thinking of hiring help for your next interiors project, make sure you hire the right professional, to have the best chance of achieving your interior design goals - not just aesthetically, but safely.
At ShilpAtelier Interiors, we provide a technically sound, formally trained and qualified design service, as well as styling services. Contact us to find out more or book your complementary consultation today.