Interior Decoration vs. Interior Design: Understanding the Distinction

Caption: Drafting a floor plan for an interior design project Curious to know the difference between interior decoration and interior design? In this guide, we'll delve into both fields, highlighting their unique aspects. Whether you're...

Drafting a floor plan for an interior design project Caption: Drafting a floor plan for an interior design project

Curious to know the difference between interior decoration and interior design? In this guide, we'll delve into both fields, highlighting their unique aspects. Whether you're interested in pursuing a career as an interior designer or interior decorator, we'll provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the roles, training requirements, salaries, and demand for these professions.

1. What is interior design?

Interior design focuses on enhancing the aesthetics and functionality of indoor living or work spaces. The goal is to make these spaces visually appealing, accessible, functional, and safe. In addition to selecting and arranging decorative items, furniture, and fabrics, interior design also addresses the needs of the space's inhabitants, meeting accessibility guidelines, and facilitating the achievement of personal goals within the space.

A brief history of interior design

Interior design can be traced back to early civilizations, such as the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, who adorned their living spaces with intricate fabrics and handcrafted mosaics. During the Renaissance, interior design became a representation of wealth and status, with luxurious and exotic materials used in home furnishings.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, functionality and simplicity became central to interior design due to industrialization. Minimalism gained popularity after World War II and continues to be a significant design aesthetic. Today, sustainability and creating productive, flexible work areas are significant trends in interior design.


Interior design is guided by several core principles:


Creating a sense of equilibrium throughout a space is crucial. Objects and furniture should be placed evenly, considering the "visual weight" experienced by the inhabitants.


All elements within an interior should be unified. This is achieved by creating a flow between rooms and selecting objects, colors, and furniture that complement each other.


Rhythm involves patterns and repetition of decorative elements throughout the space. Consistency is key, with similar elements, colors, and objects repeated or mirrored in multiple rooms.

Example of interior decoration for a living room Caption: Example of interior decoration for a living room

Proportion and scale

Proportion and scale refer to how objects and furniture fit within the space. Large spaces accommodate larger, heavier furniture, while smaller spaces benefit from lighter, delicate objects.


Creating a focal point in a room, such as a striking piece of artwork or an ornate mantelpiece, adds emphasis. This point of focus helps guide the overall design of the room.


Contrast is used to create a dramatic statement in a room. It can be achieved by incorporating dark and light spaces, contrasting textures, or mixing different design styles.


Attention to detail is crucial in interior design. Small details, such as the choice of crockery in a display cabinet or the taps in the bathroom, can significantly enhance the overall design.

2. What is interior decoration?

Interior decoration focuses on the visual aesthetics of an interior space. It entails painting, furnishing, and embellishing the space to create a visually pleasing environment. Interior decorators use their knowledge of style and trends to beautify living or working areas, accurately reflecting their clients' desires. A deep understanding of colors, fabrics, interior trends, furniture design, and room layouts is crucial for interior decorators. Establishing close working relationships with skilled craftspeople, such as upholsterers and carpenters, is also important.

A brief history of interior decoration

Interior decoration has a long history, with humans expressing a desire to embellish their homes since ancient times. From the use of animal hides and stones by cave dwellers to the incorporation of precious metals and stones in ancient Egyptian homes, humans have always sought to beautify their living spaces.

In the Middle Ages, interior decoration shifted towards adorning religious buildings. The Renaissance period recognized interior decoration as an art form, with Italian artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo influencing the field. As accessibility to well-crafted furniture increased in the 18th and 19th centuries, the middle classes developed a greater interest in interior decoration. The 20th century saw a wide variety of interior decoration styles influenced by different cultures and religions.

Principles of interior decoration

Interior decoration is considered a subset of interior design, following the principles outlined by interior design. It focuses on creating aesthetically cohesive spaces through the selection and arrangement of furniture, fabrics, colors, and decorative objects.

3. What does an interior designer do?

Interior designers primarily focus on the aesthetics and functionality of indoor spaces. They make decisions regarding the design of the space, essential and decorative items, lighting, color schemes, and fabrics. Developing a deep understanding of clients' needs, goals, and motivations is crucial to create spaces that align with their vision and meet safety and accessibility standards. The responsibilities of an interior designer include creating design plans, sketching designs, estimating costs, and managing client satisfaction.

Key skills of an interior designer

To succeed as an interior designer, several key skills are essential:


Interior designers possess creativity, imagination, and an eye for visualizing and creating appealing designs. They draw inspiration from fine art, graphic design, photography, and sculpture to create unique designs.

Knowledge of interior design principles

A strong understanding of interior design principles is necessary to create aesthetically pleasing and functional spaces. Interior designers incorporate principles of balance, unity, rhythm, proportion and scale, emphasis, contrast, and attention to detail.

Knowledge of current trends

Staying up to date with the latest interior design trends and technologies is important to meet client expectations. Familiarity with concepts, colors, and furniture designs in fashion, as well as technological advancements like touchless tech and the Internet of Things (IoT), gives interior designers a competitive edge.

Organization skills

Interior designers are responsible for project planning, including managing timelines and budgets. They coordinate with clients and external professionals, such as builders and carpenters, requiring strong organizational skills.

Communication skills

Effective communication is essential for interior designers, as they collaborate with clients, tradespeople, and colleagues. Adapting communication styles and language to various individuals ensures alignment and successful project completion.

Knowledge of sustainable practices

Interior designers must have in-depth knowledge of sustainable practices, materials, and technologies. Clients are increasingly interested in sustainable design choices that promote environmentally friendly behaviors within the space.

Sketching skills

While computer-aided design (CAD) software has advanced, the ability to sketch preliminary concepts by hand is still valuable. Quick sketches enable designers to showcase ideas, suggest improvements, and give clients a preliminary idea of the final design.

Knowledge of materials and products

An interior designer should possess extensive knowledge of materials and products used in interior design. This includes furniture, fabrics, lighting, and accessories, as well as knowing where to source these items.

Knowledge of computer-aided design (CAD)

Proficiency in computer-aided design software allows interior designers to visualize, share, adjust, and enhance designs efficiently.

4. What does an interior decorator do?

Interior decorators primarily focus on the aesthetic aspects of a space. They decorate interiors by selecting and arranging furniture, fabrics, colors, and decorative items according to their clients' preferences. Interior decorators often create budgets, project timelines, and sample designs. They collaborate with clients, manage purchases, and supervise external contractors working on the project.

Key skills of an interior decorator

To excel as an interior decorator, the following skills are important:


Interior decorators possess creativity and the ability to visualize and create aesthetically pleasing spaces that reflect their clients' desires.

Attention to detail

Interior decorators carefully select and arrange decorative items, furniture, fabrics, and colors to create cohesive designs. Attention to detail ensures the selection of visually pleasing elements.

Color sense

A thorough understanding of color theory and its application is essential for interior decorators. They use colors to enhance atmosphere, mood, and harmony within a space.

Communication skills

Interior decorators communicate with various stakeholders, including clients, tradespeople, and colleagues. Effective communication ensures successful collaboration and project completion.


Interior decorators must be adept at finding creative solutions to design challenges. They need problem-solving skills to overcome limitations such as budget constraints, space limitations, or strict timelines.

Knowledge of materials and products

Interior decorators require knowledge of materials, including furniture, fabrics, flooring, lighting, and accessories. Understanding how to implement and coordinate these elements to create different effects is important.

5. Educational requirements of interior designers vs. interior decorators

Educational requirements can vary for interior designers and interior decorators.

Educational requirements of interior designers

Some interior designers obtain a bachelor's degree in interior design, while others pursue related degrees such as architecture, graphic design, or fine art before specializing in interior design through additional courses, apprenticeships, or on-the-job training. Accredited courses or Interior Design Diplomas, combined with a portfolio showcasing their skills and talents, can also be valuable.

Educational requirements of interior decorators

Interior decorators can practice without formal qualifications or a university degree. However, certification from recognized educational establishments, such as Certified Interior Decorators International (CID) or the Interior Design Society (IDS), adds value and demonstrates commitment to the profession.

6. Which career is right for you? Interior designers vs. interior decorators

Both interior design and interior decoration offer rewarding and creative career paths. The decision of pursuing interior design or interior decoration depends on personal preferences and interests. While interior design provides a broader range of opportunities due to its focus on functionality, accessibility, and safety alongside aesthetics, interior decoration provides a purely aesthetic viewpoint. Demand is strong for both interior designers and interior decorators, making them viable career choices.

Demand for interior decorators and interior designers

The demand for interior decorators is high, with the industry expecting a significant increase in employment opportunities. The growing interest in home renovations, remodeling projects, and the desire to beautify work and living spaces contributes to this demand.

The global interior design services market has seen continuous growth, driven by increased real estate development and consumer spending power. Urbanization also contributes to employment opportunities in interior design.

Salaries of interior decorators and interior designers

Salaries for interior decorators and interior designers vary depending on the country and other factors. In the US, interior decorators earn between $36,760 and $56,134 per year, while interior designers earn between $52,579 and $95,000 per year. In India, interior decorators earn an average of ₹3,41,585 per year, while interior designers can earn up to ₹19,00,000 per annum.

7. Why interior designers can become decorators but not vice versa

Interior design encompasses both aesthetics and functionality, considering the needs and goals of the space's inhabitants. As a result, interior designers can work as interior decorators given the overlap in creating aesthetically pleasing spaces. However, interior decorators would need significant additional training in user-centered design, functionality, and accessibility to take on interior design work. Interior decorators must also have a solid understanding of interior design principles.


In conclusion, interior decoration focuses on the visual aesthetics of a space, while interior design considers both aesthetics and functionality. Interior design offers a broader range of opportunities due to its emphasis on meeting the needs of space's inhabitants. Whether you choose to pursue a career in interior design or interior decoration, both paths offer creative outlets and opportunities to beautify spaces. By understanding the distinctions, educational requirements, demand, and salaries of these professions, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your interests and aspirations.