Interior Designer or Interior Decorator: What’s the Difference?

There is no place like home. The comfort that comes with being home is indescribable. But sometimes, we aren’t in love with our homes the way we wish we were. 


Working with an interiors professional can help you create not only a look, but a feeling in your house that you can’t wait to come home to. But you’ve probably asked yourself who should you hire and how expensive is it going to be? If so, keep on reading, my friend. 


Who should you hire: Interior designer or decorator?


Interior Designers understand the structure and architecture of a space. In addition to the aesthetic and function of a space, interior designers also have a deep understanding of the structural space that won’t go with you if you move, such as walls, windows, doors, cabinetry, trim, etc. While they may dabble in decor and furnishings, they are likely starting from the bones of the space to achieve the flow desired and then working toward the aesthetic. 


Interior Decorators also focus on the aesthetic and function of a space to achieve an aesthetic, flow, and function of a particular space. They are thinking about achieving the desired aesthetic and function while mostly staying within the existing structure, rather than changing the structure itself. Interior decorators specialize in being creative within the box by coming up with out-of-the-box ideas.


Many interior services professionals can do both services, so it might be worth asking about their area of specialty, a sample of their work, and their favorite type of projects. 


If you still aren’t sure which is the best professional to work with, consider calling both to get an estimate. Most interior designers and decorators offer a free design consultation and can give your rough recommendations and a ballpark estimate to achieve your vision. 


How expensive is it to work with an interior decorator or interior designer?


The cost is more likely to be driven by the path you choose to take in creating the vision and flow of a space, such as level of quality, level of reconfiguration, and size of room, rather than the type of professional you choose to work with.


Let’s break down the factors that influence cost, and additional factors to consider when looking for home interior services. 


Size of the Space - The size of the space, room or home that you’re looking to update will have a significant impact on the budget as it equates to more materials, furnishings, and labor. 


Materials Needed - If the vision is to replace big-ticket items like replacing carpet for hardwood floors or key furniture pieces like a sofa, the cost will be higher than if you’re looking for wall decor. However, small items don’t necessarily mean small dollar amounts. Styling shelves, for instance, can have a huge visual impact in a room. The number of pieces, and thus the cost, needed to have a pinterest-worthy focal point will add up quickly


Level of Quality - When you are making an investment in your home, it is important to consider the durability and longevity you expect for the space. If you’re looking for an on trend update and anticipate switching out the elements, Ikea and Target may offer viable decorating options for you. If you’re looking for timeless pieces that will uphold their quality and design appeal for years to come, it may be worth the investment to spend more on key pieces. Similarly, built-in’s create a custom look to a home and often up the resale value of your home, but that investment isn’t as cheap as they say it is on HGTV. 


Labor vs. Material - Sometimes you can find great design alternatives at a lower price point. However, there might be hidden costs in labor. If you are a skilled DIY-er, there are so many options to have a built-in look for Ikea prices. When enlisting the help of an interior design professional, budget alternatives often lead to more cost in assembly. I recently was quoting a gallery wall and realized that while buying high quality framed prints was a higher material cost than buying inexpensive frames and mats at a craft store, the time it would take to size, buy, print, and assemble everything needed, the final price to the client would be nearly double because of the additional labor and the quality wouldn’t have been as nice. Similarly, I often see hacks for creating a trendy piece of furniture using cheaper base furniture and adding materials. Yes, the materials add up to less, but let’s not forget time is money, so consider your own time or the price of labor before settling on a cheaper option. 


Structure - If you are changing the structure and flow of the space, the cost can add up quickly, especially if you’re moving walls, plumbing, electrical, or hidden ductwork. That said, there are often creative solutions to achieve the flow and function of the space without significant renovation. 


Level of Involvement - Are you looking to have the space completed and ready for you to just enjoy or are you an avid DIYer that just needs help with determining what to buy and where to place items? Determining how much you want to take on will impact the scope of the project and thus the cost. Hartstead & Co offers packages that meet the level of involvement you want to have in the project. 



There are many considerations in achieving the design you’d love to call home. But you don’t have to have it all figured out beforehand. Contact a home interiors service provider to help you weigh your options.