What does an interior decorator do?

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What is an Interior Decorator?

Interior decorators specialize in enhancing the aesthetics and functionality of indoor spaces by selecting and arranging decorative elements, furnishings, colors, and materials. Their primary focus is on transforming interior spaces to reflect the client's preferences, style, and lifestyle.

Interior decorators work closely with clients to understand their needs and vision for the space, and then they curate and suggest suitable furniture, artwork, lighting fixtures, fabrics, and other decor items to create a harmonious and visually appealing environment. Their expertise lies in combining elements of design, balance, proportion, and color to create inviting and well-coordinated spaces that cater to the client's tastes and serve the intended purposes of the room, whether it be a residential home, office, hotel, or other interior setting.

While interior decorators primarily focus on the aesthetics of a space, they do not typically engage in structural changes or major renovations. Instead, they work with existing architecture and design elements to enhance the ambiance and style of the interior. Their role also involves staying updated with the latest trends and design innovations to offer clients fresh and creative ideas for their spaces.

What does an Interior Decorator do?

An interior decorator looking at paint samples on her desk.

From selecting the perfect furniture to choosing wall coverings and accessorizing with decor accents, interior decorators play an important role in transforming interiors and making them more visually pleasing, functional, and personalized.

Duties and Responsibilities
The focus of interior decorators is on the decorative elements of a room and space. Their role involves:

  • Space Analysis and Planning – analyzing the space, considering factors such as the room’s size, layout, natural light, and existing architectural features; determining how to best utilize the available space to optimize functionality and flow
  • Color and Material Selection – choosing appropriate colors, fabrics, textures, and materials to complement the space, provide a sense of comfort, and evoke the desired atmosphere or mood
  • Furniture Selection – selecting furniture and furnishings that fit the space and align with the overall décor style
  • Lighting Selection and Placement – selecting lighting fixtures to enhance the ambiance and functionality of the space; determining where in the space they should be placed
  • Accessories and Décor – curating decorative elements such as artwork, carpeting and rugs, curtains, and other accessories to add character and style to the space
  • Budgeting and Procurement – working within the client's budget, sourcing materials, and coordinating with suppliers to acquire necessary items
  • Presentations and Design Refinement– preparing presentations of décor concepts to help the client visualize the proposed vision; refining the proposal based on input received
  • Project Management – overseeing the implementation of the decor plan, including coordinating with contractors, painters, and other professionals
  • Styling – arranging the selected furniture and other pieces for maximum aesthetic effect
  • Administrative Responsibilities – handling tasks like preparing invoices, documenting project details, and updating project timelines

Types of Interior Decorators
Now that we have a sense of a day in the life of a general interior decorator, let’s look at some different types of interior decorators, focusing on several different kinds of projects:

  • Residential Interior Decorators – These decorators focus on decorating residential spaces such as houses, apartments, and condos. They work closely with homeowners to ensure that the décor reflects their lifestyle.
  • Commercial Interior Decorators – Commercial decorators specialize in decorating interior spaces for businesses, offices, retail stores, restaurants, hotels, and other commercial establishments. They often consider factors like brand identity, functionality, and customer experience in their designs.
  • Hospitality Interior Decorators – These decorators concentrate on decorating spaces for the hospitality industry, including hotels, resorts, spas, and restaurants. They aim to create inviting and aesthetically pleasing environments that cater to guests' needs and enhance their overall experience.
  • Healthcare Interior Decorators – Healthcare decorators focus on decorating medical facilities, clinics, hospitals, and assisted living spaces. They prioritize functionality, patient comfort, and creating a calming and healing environment.
  • Event and Set Designers / Decorators – These decorators specialize in designing temporary spaces for events, trade shows, exhibitions, and film or television sets. They create visually impactful environments that align with the event's theme or the production's requirements.
  • Sustainable Interior Decorators – Sustainable decorators focus on eco-friendly and environmentally conscious practices. They prioritize the use of sustainable materials, energy-efficient solutions, and eco-friendly décor elements.
  • Online Interior Decorators – With the rise of virtual design and décor services, some interior decorators offer their expertise online. They work with clients remotely, providing décor concepts, mood boards, and product recommendations through digital communication channels.
  • Stylistic Specializations – Some interior decorators specialize in specific décor styles, such as contemporary, traditional, modern, rustic, or eclectic. They have in-depth knowledge of the elements, materials, and color palettes associated with their chosen style.
  • DIY and Budget Decorators – These decorators focus on creating stylish and inviting spaces on a limited budget. They excel in repurposing existing items, thrift shopping, and utilizing cost-effective solutions.
  • Color Consultants – Color consultants specialize in selecting color palettes that harmonize with a space's architecture, lighting, and function. They help clients choose colors that evoke specific emotions or create desired atmospheres.

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What is the workplace of an Interior Decorator like?

Interior decorators can work for various types of organizations or individuals. These are among their most common employers:

  • Interior Design Firms – Many interior decorators work for established interior design firms. These firms undertake a wide range of projects, including residential, commercial, hospitality, and healthcare spaces, and employ decorators to assist in the design and decoration process.
  • Staging Companies – Staging means preparing the home for a potential buyer – or ‘setting the stage,’ if you will. It involves redecorating, rearranging furniture, cleaning, and other aesthetic strategies to present the home in the best possible light. Staging companies, of course, are frequent employers of interior decorators.
  • Architectural Firms – Interior decorators may be employed by architectural firms to collaborate on projects that involve both structural design and interior decoration. In these settings, they work alongside architects to create cohesive and well-integrated spaces.
  • Retail Stores and Showrooms – Some interior decorators are employed by furniture stores, home décor retailers, or showrooms to provide design / décor consultation services to customers. They help clients choose appropriate furnishings and accessories that suit their style and space.
  • Hospitality Industry – Hotels, resorts, and restaurants, particularly larger ones, may have in-house interior decorators or design teams to create and maintain attractive and comfortable spaces for their guests.
  • Real Estate Developers – Interior decorators may work with real estate developers to stage model homes or showrooms to attract potential buyers and showcase the property's potential.
  • Event Management Companies – Interior decorators with expertise in event and set design may be employed by event management companies to create captivating and themed event spaces.
  • Private Clients – Many interior decorators also work independently and are self-employed, offering their services to private clients, homeowners, or businesses on a freelance or contract basis.
  • Online Platforms – Some interior decorators work on digital platforms, offering their expertise to clients globally through websites or interior design and décor apps.
  • Educational Institutions – Some interior decorators may work as educators in interior design schools or institutions, sharing their knowledge and expertise with aspiring decorators.

Employment opportunities for interior decorators can vary based on location, market demand, and the size and nature of the industry within a particular region. Additionally, decorators may transition between different employers or work on a combination of employed and freelance projects throughout their careers.

The role of the interior decorator, of course, always involves collaborating and meeting with clients and vendors or artisans, and often with interior designers, architects, or other professionals. Interior decorators frequently visit the properties on which they are working. Depending on the scale and location of their projects, they may need to travel to different cities or countries, or they may have the flexibility to work remotely.

Frequently Asked Questions

Interior Designer vs Interior Decorator

Interior designers and interior decorators are two distinct professionals with different roles, education, and responsibilities. While both focus on enhancing interior spaces, there are significant differences between the two:

Interior Designer:

  • Education and Qualifications: Interior designers typically have formal education and training in interior design from accredited schools or programs. They may hold a degree in interior design or a related field and are often required to pass a licensing or certification exam, depending on the state regulations.
  • Scope of Work: Interior designers have a more comprehensive scope of work, which includes not only selecting decorative elements but also making structural changes and modifications to interior spaces. They are trained to understand the functional and spatial requirements of a space, create floor plans, consider building codes and regulations, and handle project management aspects.
  • Specializations: Interior designers may specialize in specific areas such as residential design, commercial design, healthcare design, hospitality design, or sustainable design. Their expertise allows them to design spaces that not only look visually appealing but also meet safety, accessibility, and building code requirements.
  • Services: Interior designers work with clients to develop design concepts, create space plans, select finishes, coordinate with contractors, and manage the implementation of the design.

Interior Decorator:

  • Education and Qualifications: Interior decorators may not necessarily have formal education in interior design, although some may have completed design-related courses or training. Unlike interior designers, decorators are not required to pass licensing exams.
  • Scope of Work: Interior decorators primarily focus on the aesthetics and decorative aspects of interior spaces. They work with existing structures and do not engage in structural changes or architectural modifications. Decorators specialize in choosing and arranging furniture, textiles, accessories, and color schemes to create visually pleasing and cohesive spaces.
  • Services: Interior decorators offer services such as selecting furnishings, fabrics, wall coverings, paint colors, and decorative items to enhance the ambiance and style of a room. They work closely with clients to understand their preferences and design preferences to create personalized and stylish interiors.

In summary, while both interior designers and interior decorators contribute to creating beautiful and functional spaces, interior designers have a broader scope of work that includes spatial planning and design, while interior decorators focus specifically on the decorative elements of a space.

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Interior Decorators are also known as:
Decorative Consultant Interior Stylist