Become an Interior Decorator

The information on this page is an excerpt from the FabJob Guide to Become an Interior Decorator. It is only a small sample of the valuable information contained in the 257 page complete guide.

Interior Decorating vs. Interior Design

If you have been searching for information about interior decorating, you have almost certainly come across the term interior design. While there are some similarities between the two, there are also some significant differences. It is important to know these differences because they have a direct impact on the types of jobs you can apply for. Here is a basic overview of the two careers:

Interior Decorator

Just as the job title says — an interior decorator decorates (or redecorates) interiors of buildings, with the aim of making rooms more attractive, comfortable and functional. Most interior decorators are hired to decorate homes (including yachts!), but they may also be hired to decorate interiors of businesses such as boutiques, restaurants, and offices. They may work on the entire interior of a building or a single room such as the living room, kitchen or bathroom.

An interior decorator’s work may involve a variety of elements, including:

  • space planning or "layout"
  • color schemes
  • furniture
  • paint and wallpaper
  • window coverings
  • fabrics
  • flooring and carpeting
  • lighting
  • art objects
  • hardware fixtures
  • accessories (e.g. vases, pillows, bookends)
  • plants

A decorating job may be as simple as rearranging furniture yourself, or it may involve hiring and supervising contractors. As an interior decorator your tasks may include:

  • meeting with clients to determine their wants and needs
  • reviewing and taking measurements of the space you will be decorating
  • preparing proposed room layouts
  • obtaining cost estimates
  • showing samples (e.g. colors, fabrics, tiles) to clients
  • arranging and overseeing painting, wallpapering, flooring, etc.
  • selecting and purchasing furnishings and other items

There are no formal educational requirements to enter this career. You can start calling yourself an interior decorator as soon as you start doing interior decorating.

This guide will tell you how to get started and succeed as an interior decorator. You will find resources to teach yourself any parts of the job you are not familiar with, information on how to get hired for a full-time job, and advice on how to start your own interior decorating business.

Interior Designer

While anyone can become an interior decorator, it is considerably more difficult to become a certified interior designer. Professional standards for the interior design profession are set by organizations such as the American Society of Interior Designers or the Interior Designers of Canada.

In both the U.S. and Canada, interior designers are certified through the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) after passing an examination. To be eligible to write the examination, you must have an acceptable combination of full-time work experience and two to five years of post-secondary education in interior design.

While some people who call themselves interior designers are not certified, in 18 states it is illegal to call yourself an interior designer unless you are licensed.

You are probably wondering why it is so much more difficult to become an interior designer than an interior decorator. The reason is because interior design involves much more than decorating.

According to the official definition endorsed by the NCIDQ and the Foundation for Interior Design Education Research (FIDER), an interior designer is qualified "to enhance the function and quality of interior spaces for the purpose of improving the quality of life, increasing productivity, and protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the public." Obviously, this goes well beyond making an interior look more attractive!

Interior designers may work on a wide variety of interiors, such as office buildings, airport terminals, hospitals, manufacturing plants, government institutions, and many other types of buildings.

To do their job properly, interior designers must be educated in a number of areas. To quote from the official definition, the skills they need include:

  • analyzing "clients’ needs, goals and life safety requirements"
  • preparing working drawings and specifications "in compliance with universal accessibility guidelines and all applicable codes"
  • "working with other licensed practitioners in the technical areas of mechanical, electrical and load-bearing design as required for regulatory approval"

In addition, their work can include interior decorating tasks such as the selection of furnishings, fixtures, and lighting.

Your Career

As you can see, the two careers are similar because they focus on improving interiors, and a number of people who become interior designers also do interior decorating (the part of the job some find the most fun and interesting). In case you decide at some point in the future that you would like to become an interior designer, chapter 2 of this guide gives links to interior design educational programs.

However, many people who want a career decorating homes or businesses do not want to become an interior designer. They may have thoughts similar to the following:

"Interior design doesn’t sound like what I want to do. I don’t want to have to spend years studying, worry about things like building codes, and write an examination to be certified. Can’t I just start decorating people’s houses without going through all that?"

The answer, of course, is "yes!" While some jobs clearly require the services of an interior designer (e.g. upgrading the interior of an airport terminal), there are many opportunities open to interior decorators.

For example, if you want to start an interior decorating business, you can offer your services to the many people who want their home to be more attractive, but simply do not have the time or the skill to do it themselves.

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The above is only a small sample of the information contained in the FabJob Guide to Become an Interior Decorator. The complete guide has detailed information on how to learn interior decorating and get hired as an interior decorator.

Recommended Reading:

FabJob Guide to Become an Interior Decorator

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