Many people use the terms “interior design” and “interior decorating” interchangeably, but these professions differ in critical ways. Interior design is the art and science of understanding people’s behaviour to create functional spaces within a building. Decoration is the furnishing or adorning of a space with fashionable or beautiful things. In short, interior designers may decorate, but decorators do not design. Interior designers apply creative and technical solutions within a structure that are functional, attractive and beneficial to the occupants’ quality of life and culture. Designs respond to and coordinate with the building shell and acknowledge the physical location and social context of the project. Designs must adhere to code and regulatory requirements and encourage the principles of environmental sustainability. The interior design process follows a systematic and coordinated methodology—including research, analysis and integration of knowledge into the creative process—to satisfy the needs and resources of the client.
California-based Interior Designer Caitlin Campbell – owner of Symmetry Designs – explained the difference this way:
The biggest difference is that the interior designer typically has a number of other issues on his or her mind. For instance, when it comes to floor coverings, an interior decorator will probably be responsible for choosing the type, colour, texture, and pattern. The interior designer, on the other hand, will make the selection based on those criteria, with an additional eye towards the appropriateness of type, usage, sound transference, acoustic properties, flammability, off-gassing properties, static electricity requirements and flammability.