The Difference Between an Interior Designer and an Interior Decorator

Nov 5, 12 • ArticleNo Comments

Schlepping down Awolowo Road, Ikoyi earlier today hoping on an empty air-conditioned taxi that I could hop into to escape the sweltering heat, I passed a showroom that advertised itself as an interior design service provider. Maybe it was the thought of cooler air or just the love of all things beautiful and functional that drew me to go in and take a look. Their furnishings were indeed tasteful and very creatively laid out. Beautiful home decor pieces lay in every corner and I  was most definitely impressed. In  engaging the attendant in conversation, I inquired if they actually offered design services or just decor, she looked at me like I was an alien from outer space and replied almost condescendingly,  yes we do interior design, it’s all design, no one calls it interior decor nowadays. I tried to explain to her that design and decor were two different things but at that point I believe she thought me more of a nuisance. I did, however, notice a slight and reluctantly offered respect when I explained that I was indeed an interior designer, a course which I spent 3 years studying (didn’t add that part though), so I proved myself to be (much to her chagrin), quite qualified to disprove her claim about design and decor being the same.

Many people use the terms “interior design” and “interior decorating” interchangeably, but these professions differ in critical ways.

Below is a brief article culled from the NCIDQ ( National Council for Interior Design Qualification) website explaining the fundamental difference:


“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.

Interior designers apply creative and technical solutions within a structure that are functional, attractive and beneficial to the occupants’ quality of life and culture. Designs respond to and coordinate with the building shell and acknowledge the physical location and social context of the project. Designs must adhere to code and regulatory requirements and encourage the principles of environmental sustainability. The interior design process follows a systematic and coordinated methodology—including research, analysis and integration of knowledge into the creative process—to satisfy the needs and resources of the client.

Many U.S. states and Canadian provinces have passed laws requiring interior designers to be licensed or registered—documenting their formal education and training—and many of them specifically require that all practicing interior designers earn the NCIDQ Certificate to demonstrate their experience and qualifications. By contrast, interior decorators require no formal training or licensure”.

Referenced from:


In other words a designer may take informed critical decisions on all elements that make up the interior architecture of a space including technical decisions like electrical and plumbing layouts as well as fundamental space planning. A decorator needs no such knowledge and is bothered only with aesthetics. IDAN – The Interior Designers Association of Nigeria is the only professional Interior design association in Nigeria. IDAN is a member of the International Federation of Interior Designers/Architects (IFI), the world body for Interior Designers Association. Membership of IDAN is selective and requires a minimum of 6-year full work experience as an interior designer.


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