Designer vs Decorator – a Quick Look into Design Fields

When it comes to decorating and designing a space, there are two main options for you to choose from. Whether you’re planning to build a new space, or to update and refresh a tired design, investing in a professional designer is your best bet to save money and time. Discovering my passion for design and decorating was one of the best things that ever happened in my life, and I hope that I can share that passion with you. I’m going to give you a quick run-down of designers and decorators, what one I chose as a career, and give you a couple of resources for getting into the industry.


An interior decorator is highly skilled in pulling together a clients aesthetic with their own individual skills, and creating beautiful and functional spaces. A decorator doesn’t need to complete any formal training, and therefore cannot advise you on architectural and structural changes. However, a decorator is still highly skilled and is your best choice for less complex redecorating and spatial updates, or consults to help you refine your design tastes.

Skilled in creating color schemes– A decorator can create beautiful color palettes that will work not only for your personal tastes, but also for the lighting in your home. They’re familiar with major paint company catalogues, so you can rely on them to choose the right colors.

A strong knowledge of furniture and furnishings – If you want a specific piece of furniture, but it’s out of your price range, your decorator can quickly locate and recommend similar pieces. They’re always up-to-date on the latest catalogues and sales, so you can be assured that your budget will be utilized the best way possible.

Creates interior layouts for optimal use – If you like your furniture, but just can’t figure out how it fits into your space, a decorator will use their skills to arrange your items for whatever purpose you need.

Will purchase and install furniture – A decorator will usually drive to the store, purchase the items you’ve chosen, and arrange delivery of the pieces to your home. Not only that, but they will carry and arrange the pieces in your space, so that when you get home, everything is set up beautifully.

Will style spaces for aesthetic purposes – Some decorators are available for interior styling for certain purposes. If you’re hosting a party, or having guests stay in your home, a decorator can tidy up and style your home so you can show it off to your friends and family.


An interior designer is similar to a decorator, but requires formal training. A designer is a bridge between a decorator and an architect. Structural alterations and lighting/electrical plans are the reason why a designer needs to be properly trained. Designers work on both renovations and new constructions, and everything from small homes to large commercial spaces. A decorator is your wisest choice for more complex work, due to their knowledge of building codes and their experience combining function with visual properties.

Detailed working drawings– Designers undertake training in CAD (computer-aided drawing) programs. This means that they can map out your floor plans, elevations, furniture arrangements, and electrical and lighting plans. They’ll provide you with copies for your tradespeople, and you’ll be able to get an idea of what the final space will look like.

Sourcing and costing work– One of the main things a designer does is source and cost everything from your flooring materials, to your artwork and décor. This is usually provided in a form with images, so that you and your designer can easily locate and purchase the things you want. A source and costing sheet is also helpful for finding out which items you want to save more on, and which to splurge on.

Feasability research and building surveyance– The most important part of a design is finding out if it can actually be done, safely and legally. A designer must have a current knowledge of local building codes, and will do research into finding out the safest way to install your design.

Project management and liaising with tradespeople – To ensure that the tradespeople are interpreting and installing the design in the way it was meant to be, your designer will usually supervise the project and act as a go-between with you and your tradespeople. That way you can be assured that your requirements and desires are being properly considered, without actually having to be there yourself.


When I stumbled into the field of design and decorating, I wasn’t sure which one I would choose. I’m not very good at mathematic and technical things, so I thought a decorator would be the best choice. However, after doing a course in interior design, I realized that I absolutely adored figuring out ways to make the technical aspects work. One of my favorite things is to come up with new floor plans and to imagine what houses will look like when they’re complete.

The two most influential people in my decision to become a designer are my grandmother on my paternal side, and my grandfather on my maternal side. My grandfather was an architect, and my mother would always point out the things he worked on when we drove past them. My grandmother died last year, and my cousin had been managing her finances. I had been interested in a course, but I couldn’t afford it until together, they raised enough money to give all 8 of my nanas grandchildren $2000 each. I was able to invest in the course, and I graduated on the anniversary of her death. Without the encouragement of my family, I never would have gotten into the design field and my life would be so much less enjoyable.


In New Zealand, it can be hard to find the resources you’ll need to get into the design industry, so I have compiled a little list of the things that I used to research.

There are a few diploma courses in New Zealand for Interior Design. I started with the one year diploma from the Interior Design Institute, and I’m hoping to eventually be able to do a second two-year course from Wintec, followed by a degree from Unitec or Otago Polytech.

If you need any more information on design and decorating, dont hesitate to get out there and research. You may find yourself drawn to a field you never expected to be in.

P.S.: You can find me on Houzz here to see what things inspire me!


4 thoughts on “Designer vs Decorator – a Quick Look into Design Fields

    • Thank you! I tried my hardest to make sure I addressed the differences, made all the more difficult by my cat deciding to sit in between me and my laptop.


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