What's The Difference Between An Interior Designer and Interior Decorator?

Comparing and contrasting the two interior design professions and when each should be considered in the home renovation process.

August 1, 2023


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What's The Difference Between An Interior Designer and Interior Decorator?

Renovating your NYC apartment and considering interior design assistance? Let's review the two options - interior designer and interior decorator.

Table of contents

When taking the preliminary steps in a NYC renovation, interior design is often the logical starting point. This tipping point for your dream renovation is where you masterfully imagine all the various elements of your redesigned space from fanciful form to fine-point function. For those who lack the creative brain or perhaps time to properly materialize your would-be new apartment aesthetic, bringing in a design pro can provide the push needed to get the proper look and feel for your home. But, who to call - interior designer or interior decorator? 

This article details the roles of an interior decorator and interior designer to ensure any confusion between the two is alleviated before starting your upcoming NYC renovation. 

[#Role]Role Comparison: Interior Decorator Vs Interior Designer[#Role]

Role Of A Interior Designer 

Design & Function

Trained design expert who drives the overall form and functionality of a space, from kitchen configuration and lighting design to home safety and overall project management - while always remaining mindful of making sure the final product is beautiful as possible. 

Architectural Essentials

Has a deep understanding of architectural principles, building codes, and safety standards.  

Floorplan Configuration

Works closely with architects and contractors to create a space that meets the needs of clients, making sure to maximize space in the most effective and efficient ways possible.

Material Selection & Procurement

Often responsible for selecting materials, finishes, and furnishings.

Role Of A Interior Decorator 

Visual Appeal

While interior designers establish the visual blueprint of the space, interior decorators add the visual appeal of a space, working with the provided square footage of canvas and furnishings to create a cohesive and aesthetically pleasing look. 

Style Specialist

Interior decorators are skilled in selecting colors, patterns, and textures that work well together, and they may also be responsible for selecting and arranging accessories.

Living room from pre-war co-op renovation in Manhattan. View the full renovation before and after.

[#Cost]Designer vs Decorator: Cost Differences[#Cost]

Typically, interior designers charge more than interior decorators, as they often cover a broader range of services, such as space planning, structural changes, and project management. However, the specific cost of hiring an interior designer or decorator can vary based largely on the two following factors:

Scope of Work

The complexity and scale of the renovation is the main cost variable. For example, a full gut renovation or apartment combination will require more extensive design work than a simple kitchen makeover, which will result in a higher fee. 

Materials & Sourcing

Materials and furnishings are the other key cost driver for the renovation. The bigger your project, the higher the cost of materials. The more immaculate your design is, the higher the price of materials. While interior designers and decorators may both have access to trade discounts that can help reduce these costs, decorators are less equipped with determining feasibility of particular materials working within a renovation compared to designers given their limited knowledge of construction. 

Living room from Brooklyn loft renovation. View full renovation before and after.

[#Design-Build]Interior Designers & Decorators for Design-Build[#Design-Build]

Interior designers and decorators are both vital within design-build firms, which are full-service renovation contractors that provide both design and construction services as part of a full-service end-to-end renovation. In these firms, interior designers and decorators work alongside architects, engineers, contractors, and other professionals to ensure the interior of a building is not only functional but also aesthetically pleasing.

The Role Of Interior Designers In A Design-Build Firm May Include:

  1. Collaborating with the architect and project liaison to ensure the interior design is aligned with the overall design of the building
  2. Developing a floor plan and design plan that align to meet the functional and aesthetic needs of the client
  3. Selecting materials, finishes, and furnishings that are both functional and visually appealing and aligned with the project budget 
  4. Creating detailed drawings and specifications to guide the construction team
  5. Working closely with the construction team to ensure the design is executed as planned

The Role Of Interior Decorators In A Design-Build Firm May Include:

  1. Selecting colors, patterns, and textures to create a cohesive design aesthetic
  2. Choosing and arranging accessories, such as artwork, lighting fixtures, and window treatments
  3. Working within the constraints of the budget and timeline to create a beautiful and functional interior space
  4. Collaborating with the interior designer, architect, and other professionals to ensure that the design is aligned with the overall vision for the building

Overall, the combined role of interior designers and decorators in a design-build firm is to ensure the interior of a building is both functional and visually appealing. They work collaboratively under the same roof to create a cohesive design that meets the needs and preferences of the client while also adhering to the constraints of the budget and timeline. 

Kitchen from Manhattan townhouse renovation on 529 E 87th. View full renovation before and after.

[#Full]Full-Service New York City Design-Build Firm With Award-Winning Interior Design[#Full]

Considering a residential renovation in NYC? Gallery is a design-build firm in New York City focusing on renovations of pre-war apartments, condos, lofts, brownstones and townhomes, with a speciality in apartment combinations. View our portfolio of renovation before and afters, learn more about Gallery, or simply contact us today. We’re experts in renovating kitchens, bathrooms, flooring, custom millwork, smart home installations, exterior updates and all that falls in between. Let us bring your dream home to life.

Marketing Director

Ben Bowdonhttps://www.gallerykbny.com/authors/ben-b

Ben Bowdon is the Marketing Director of Gallery KBNY, a full service design-build firm specializing in the design and interior renovation of apartments, townhomes, and lofts in NYC. For over a decade, Ben has navigated the ever-changing landscape of online marketing, delivering digital strategy solutions for companies of all sizes, until finding a permanent home with Gallery. As lead brand champion and curator, the proud Western Michigan Bronco strives to deliver thoughtful, industry-leading expertise to Gallery’s esteemed clientele via the most seamless omnichannel experience possible.




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