What’s the difference between an Architect, an Interior Designer and a Decorator?

This past year and a half a lot of people were stuck at home, becoming dissatisfied with their space. Home offices that need help with their WFH layouts, living rooms that need new furniture or a kitchen that needs, well everything. Knowing when to hire a professional is key. But let’s be real if you’re just hanging some shelves or putting together Ikea furniture…you can do it yourself. You can. I believe in you.

That said, if you think that you can save some money by putting up that wallpaper or knocking down that wall by yourself, I would seriously think about hiring a professional. But which one?

There are times when you will need both but certainly not all three. It is important to understand what each trade does before you hire someone.

Architects are professionals that deal with the art and science of buildings. They have analytical and problem solving techniques to create entire buildings with floor plans, elevations, and 3 dimensional models. Their knowledge about structure as well as HVAC, plumbing, and electrical set them apart from interior designers and decorators. They work with more than just the appearance of a building or a space — their concepts become homes, offices, or even entire cities. One of the main differences between an architect and a designer would be that architects understand the permit process (when to use one) as well as the guidelines for all structural, fire safety and local building codes.

Interior designers create solutions for the function and aesthetic for a space, not the entire building. They work with paint, furnishings, art, fabric, and accessories to put together a room. Interior design is an art of finding the right pieces to put in the right place as well as ordering those pieces while keeping the entire job on budget. Interior designers also have access to trade items that regular consumers don’t and can help clients acquire bespoke or custom items. At the end of the day, interior designers help raise your home value and give you that ‘ahhh…I can’t believe my home looks this good’ feeling.

Interior decorators are similar to Interior Designers but the terms are not fully interchangeable. Unlike decorators, designers usually have specific level of education and training. This gives them more experience and a better shared vocabulary with other design trades like architects and furniture manufacturers. The better your design team can communicate with one another, the better your project is likely to be. Interior designers need to pass the NCIDQ exam to be accredited with the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). Interior decorators have less of a need for them to get a formal specialized education. Interior decorating degrees are out there and some have been accredited by the Certified Interior Decorators International (CID) and/or the Interior Design Society (IDS).

What services do you really need for your project? Getting the right professional on your side before starting will save a lot of money, time and sleepless nights in the long run.

Get in touch with our team at www.margaretcarrollinteriors.com to get your project heading in the right direction!



Based in Bethesda, MD, Margaret Carroll Interiors is a full-service firm that draws from architectural and interior design expertise to create joyous spaces.

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Margaret Carroll

Based in Bethesda, MD, Margaret Carroll Interiors is a full-service firm that draws from architectural and interior design expertise to create joyous spaces.