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The difference between interior decorating and interior design

by Chloe Baird

Here are some questions for you:

  • Do you love home reno reality TV shows? 
  • Do you always reach for the Home Beautiful at the doctors’ surgery over any other magazine? 
  • Do you have a sizeable collection of home decorating pins on your Pinterest boards for inspiration?  
  • Do you ever walk into a room and think, ‘I know exactly what I’d do to freshen this place up’?
  • Do you have strong opinions about trending textures and patterns?
  • Have you ever considered starting a career as an Interior Decorator or Interior Designer?

If you answered yes! to any of the above questions, then a career in the design industry could be perfect for you. 

What’s the difference between interior design and interior decorating, anyway?

A career in the design industry as an Interior Decorator or Interior Designer can be hugely rewarding. If you have an appreciation for art, a flair for creativity and a keen eye for detail, then working in design could be the perfect place for you to flex those creative muscles. 

But what’s the difference between interior design and interior decorating?

At first glance, maybe it doesn’t seem like there’s a big difference between an Interior Decorator and an Interior Designer. But while these two professions are similar, they are not the same. The easiest way to distinguish between these two professions is that Interior Designers can also make architectural changes to a space; whereas Interior Decorators do not. 

In this blog, we’ll take you through the subtle differences of these career paths and how you can get started in the industry as a Designer or Decorator. 

What does an Interior Decorator do?

Room-Design

An Interior Decorator works with clients to select décor elements for a new or old space. An Interior Decorator could be consulted to help choose furnishings, colour palettes and textiles for an existing space. It could be a client’s house that needs a fresh look or a restaurant that wants to create a very specific atmosphere with their choice of décor. 

In your role as an Interior Decorator, you’ll need to work closely with clients to find out what their wants and needs are. Your days will be busy and varied, as you oversee different projects, manage design budgets, coordinate with suppliers, sketch up new ideas and research the latest trends.

Where do Interior Decorators work?

As an Interior Decorator, you might work for a firm or for yourself. While you’ll typically have your own office space where you can work, you’ll also be out and about a lot. 

Alternatively, you could also work in a retail role. This means that you’d be in a customer-facing position where you would help customers find and choose the right kind of décor—like flooring, tiles, curtains, furniture, soft furnishings, centrepieces, or any other kinds of home décor elements. 

How do I become an Interior Decorator?

According to the Australian government’s Job Outlook website, the majority of people working in this industry hold a VET qualification (41.1% of workers). While it is possible to find work in the industry without a qualification, a VET course can help you stand out from the crowd when applying for jobs. Considering that this is a relatively small industry and competition can be fierce, a qualification can make all the difference to your career prospects. 

What does an Interior Designer do?

Room Mockup

An Interior Designer is different from an Interior Decorator in that they have the training to also make architectural design changes, as well as helping to decorate a space. Interior Designers usually work to create a space that’s not just aesthetically pleasing, but also functional. 

While Interior Decorators usually work with existing spaces to breathe new life into an old building, Interior Designers may work with both new and old structures. 

Where do Interior Designers work?

Similar to Interior Decorators, Interior Designers can work for large or small firms or for themselves. Many Interior Designers tend to specialise in a particular area, whether that’s for residential, corporate, heritage or retail buildings, restaurants, hotels and resorts, hospitals or even stage sets. 

How do I become an Interior Designer?

The vast majority of people who work as Interior Designers hold a Certificate III or higher, according to the government’s Job Outlook website. 

If you decide to follow a career in Interior Design, a great place to start is with a Diploma of Interior Design. With a Diploma, you can enter the industry and from there find your niche. You could even continue your studies at university with a Bachelor’s degree in Interior Design. 

Which design career is best for me?

If you have an eye for style, a gift for aesthetics and are a naturally creative person, then a career as an Interior Designer or Interior Decorator could be for you. 

Open Colleges offers two design courses that can help teach you the skills and knowledge you need to find work as an Interior Decorator or Interior Designer. 

Does a career as an Interior Designer sound like a dream job to you? We offer the nationally recognised MSF40118 Certificate IV in Interior Decoration, which can help teach you the skills to establish a successful career within the industry. It also includes student membership for the Design Institute of Australia and a professional design kit as part of the course.  

Or do you think you’d prefer to follow a career as an Interior Designer? Open Colleges’ MSF50218 Diploma of Interior Design covers the essential skills you need to know, including drawing, conceptual, research and business skills. 

Does a career in design sound like the perfect career path for you? 

Enrol today with Open Colleges and find out where a career in design could take you. 

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