What is an interior designer?

Have you ever wondered what exactly is an interior designer?  And what about an interior decorator, or an interior architect. Or perhaps this person says they do styling or staging, what’s that?  Today I am going to give a brief overview of the differences between these terms which are used interchangeably.

According to The Journal of Design History - “Interior design is the professional activity of constructing the homes, workplaces, institutions, retail and leisure environments which constitute the insides of the built environment, and a variety of non-domestic interiors condition our experiences in public and commercial spaces.”  Interior design is the term typically used as an all encompassing term for any element related to the interior of a building.  Interior designers, in a nutshell, are problem solvers.  

In a nutshell, an interior designer or interior architect has formal training and the knowledge and ability to move a wall.  Generally speaking, when one holds a full university degree in interior design or interior architecture, they have a thorough understanding of every aspect within the interiors of a building.  This includes not only the styling, decor and elements that you see, but also an understanding of construction, architecture, and project management. An interior designer typically while having the knowledge of architecture and construction, they typically focused their studies more on the aesthetics of a space and the decorative side where as an interior architect focused on the space planning, and architectural elements within their studies.  Interior architects are typically the most technical of the bunch and produce full sets of construction and tender drawings for the interior of a building. In addition, they typically are less involved in the decorative side of the profession.

Interior decorator and interior stylists typically only focus on the aesthetics and style of a space and typically, but not always, do not have formal training or a degree.  These people typically will focus on the decorative elements or finishing touches of your space, such as furniture, curtains, paint and accessories. Typically, they are involved with more the art and decorative side, not the science and structural side of design.  They have a fabulous eye for style and are responsible for staging spaces and creating picture perfect homes and spaces. They are a wonderful resource and work wonders with finishing touches. This type of interior profession is best when no construction is involved.  

All of these terms are used interchangeably by professionals and clients alike as even to us as professionals, the lines defining each are quite blurry.  It is important to note that the roles of every interior professional can vary vastly, even amongst two qualified interior designers.


What does this mean for you as a client?  

How many times have you been in a public bathroom and turned around to find there were no hooks and you were forced to put your coat and purse on the floor of a public bathroom?  

Or the faucet that doesn’t reach quite into the sink, so water goes everywhere and you’re bumping your hands against the bowl to wash them?  

Or you are in a massive building and can’t find the bathroom or the exit because there is no way-finding or intuitive nature to the space?

I can nearly guarantee you an interior designer was not consulted on that project, perhaps they assisted with the aesthetics of the space, but the technical details were overlooked or simply not planned for.  That’s the difference between an interior decorator, interior designer and interior architect, it’s in the details. The details that you don’t notice when they are done right, but you do when they are done wrong.  A well designed space is seamless and intuitive. 

Here at Beo Glas, Hana balances the art and science of interiors with an in-depth understanding of both the design and architecture sides of interiors, additionally she holds a postgraduate degree focused on sustainability within all architectural environments.  She is considered an interior architect, as she has the knowledge, passion and experience to confidently focus on all elements within an interior space with an emphasis on the space planning and structural elements of the field. While she is well trained and versed in the decorative elements, it is not her primary focus or passion. 

If you are looking for more information on when to bring an interior designer and which specific interiors specialist you need, check back next week for a follow-up blog post with key questions to ask yourself to decide which of the bunch is best for you.


Not my work - but a quick GIF of hand drawing techniques used in interior design.

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