A recent Huffington Post Blog entry challenged the legitimacy of the Interior Design profession, in particular the “arbitrary” legislative efforts to regulate it. Unfortunately for the industry and our members, once again the practice of interior design was confused with interior decorating.

The blog post opens, “Homeowners hire interior designers to beautify their living space. It’s an industry focused on style, design, and aesthetics.” This prevailing market misconception of interior designers as merely “decorators” or purveyors of home design secrets and tips makes it all the more important for IIDA, its Members, and the design community at large to educate the general public on what professional interior design really is, and in doing so, advocate for legal recognition of the field.

Interior designers must be highly skilled in order to create interior environments that are functional, safe, and adhere to building codes, regulations, and ADA requirements. They go beyond the selection of color palettes and furnishings and apply their knowledge to the development of construction documents, occupancy loads, healthcare regulations, and sustainable design principles, as well as the management and coordination of professional services including mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and life safety – all to ensure that people can work, live, and learn in an innocuous environment that is also aesthetically pleasing.

We know this. But, we – IIDA, our Members, and interior designers – must continue to educate the public at large so we can dispel this misconception once and for all.

For more information to share with your clients, peers, and friends on the differences between interior design and interior decorating, please visit the National Council for Interior Design Qualification or this excerpt from the Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice on Interior Design.


  1. Thanks for clarification, Interior design is the art and science of understanding people’s behavior 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.


  2. Thanks for sharing this valuable information with us. The difference you have shown between interior designing and interior decoration is amazing. I definitely going to follow your tips. Keep sharing like this.


  3. Anyway, without a good interior design will not leave a beautiful interior decor. The concept of “interior design” today is so firmly embedded in our vocabulary that many do not think about its original meaning – designing aesthetic and functional features of space. However, the majority of those who hire a designer to design their homes think only about the aesthetic component of this term, and then, of course, remain dissatisfied with the functionality of the space. Therefore it is very important to find a good interior designer. It is best to look for them through friends. Go to your friends who used the services of the designer of the interior, if they give good reviews – feel free to call this designer.


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  6. Thank you for sharing such a valuable knowledge with us, as through this I came to know that interior designing and interior decoration are two different things. What we think is designing and what we execute is decorating.


  7. It is really intriguing how you mention that interior designers are more than just decorators. Until I read this article I kind of agreed that they were just professional decorators, but they are so much more. You talk about how they apply their knowledge to development of construction and look into health care regulations. That is going above and beyond. My sister is in need of an interior decorator for her home that she is trying to build. The foundation is set but she needs a more creative eye to look at the plans. I will let her know what you mentioned.


  8. Nice Article. I always think that the Interior designers and decorators are same but after reading your article i got the difference. Thanks for sharing this important article with us.


  9. Wow, I do admit that I used to believe that Interior Designers only specialized in decorating the home. I didn’t know that they are highly skilled in creating spaces that are functional, safe, and follow all these building codes. Now I pretend to think of myself as an interior designer whenever I add decor in my home.


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  11. Danielle says:

    I have an interesting experience that covers both. I just bought a new wine rack online from which is awesome by the way. Choosing the right size, color, where it would go would be the interior design choices? Installing it, placing it and filling it with wine would be the interior decorating action? Thoughts on this? Does drinking the wine constitute interior subtraction. LOL!


  12. I think it’s interesting that interior designers have to be so skilled. I like that they’re able to follow and adhere to building codes, regulations, and ADA requirements! I’m thinking about decorating my home soon, so I’ll be sure to find someone who sounds and acts professionally. Thanks for sharing this post!


    • Ok but to be clear- an Interior Decorator can certainly help you decorate your home. An Interior Designer would also be willing to do that, but the important thing to note is that they aren’t the same thing & have different training. An interior designer has experience and a professional education on all the article above mentions. As the saying goes, a square is a rectangle, a rectangle is not a square! Whichever route you go for your home, thank you for reading & helping to support good design!


  13. Thanks for the great clarification, this will be important and I move into my new home. The difference between design and decoration is actually quite surprising to me, and I’ll make sure I don’t mix it up again. It would be embarrassing to do so in front of a professional.


  14. You’re absolutely right. It’s common for people to have that misconception that interior decorating is the same as interior design, while the latter in fact the goes much deeper than just aesthetics. It looks at the functionality of the space, and how best to design it to allow the space to best execute what it was designed for.

    It’s good to hear that the IIDA along with it’s members is actively taking a role in educating the public of the actual meaning of interior design.


    • Jimmy says:

      I agree with you Tim. You are 100 percent right. 🙂 However, I just want to emphasize that the interior is all about natural beauty. Especially this year. As I heard, wall of plants are a new trend this year. Everyone loves it. Actually, I sow some amazing designs here and I would love to order some of them for my home and office too. Such greenery looks stunning!


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  18. Thank you for taking a stand, but until State Legislation around the country allows designers to pull permits & file drawings with local municipalities for non-structural upgrades, trying to change public perception will only go so far with exception. Currently, there are only 3 States that acknowledge construction documentation by certified designers.


  19. Pingback: IIDA STEPS UP ADVOCACY EFFORT | Professional Interior Designer's Blog

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