What do Interior Decorators do?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

Interior decorators are responsible for designing interior spaces that blend artistic style and functionality with a client’s budget and individual taste. By choosing correct fabrics, furnishings and color palettes, an interior decorator can turn a plain or mismatched dwelling into a seamlessly designed home that fits together to reflect the owner’s personality. Part architect, part psychologist, part artist, an interior decorator can help a less design-inclined client express their individuality through the look and feel of their home.

It's important to select an interior decorator who understands how lifestyle factors into a client's interior design choices.
It's important to select an interior decorator who understands how lifestyle factors into a client's interior design choices.

Many interior decorators have a background in art, architecture or design. Although some come to the business of interior design through practical experience, many choose to become certified or accredited by following a combination education and experience program laid out by overseeing groups, such as the Interior Design Educators Council or the National Council of Interior Design Qualification. These boards certify, through tests and portfolio reviews, that an aspiring designer has satisfied a basic criteria for a career in the field.

Interior decorators design interior spaces within a client’s budget and individual taste.
Interior decorators design interior spaces within a client’s budget and individual taste.

Interior decorators tend to specialize in a particular field of design. While some may specialize in creating luxury interiors for the homes of wealthy clients, others may focus on office or industrial design. The field of commercial design can vary widely, with work available designing hospitals, offices, businesses and industrial interiors. Residential designers tend to focus primarily on homes, though some may be called upon to design multi-family dwellings and apartment complexes.

Interior decorators may help pick furniture pieces to finish a room.
Interior decorators may help pick furniture pieces to finish a room.

Experienced interior designers frequently form beneficial relationships with professionals in related fields. Having contacts within the painting, furnishing and fabric industries can allow a designer to get better prices and speedier service for their clients. Some interior design firms form partnerships with other professionals, so they are better able to provide clients with a completely streamlined design package based on their needs.

Interior designers need to possess excellent communication and customer service skills. If designing a client’s home, they need to create a focused picture of the clients design preferences. Established designers must be able to determine what a client needs on a practical and artistic level: do they like tropical furnishings or English country styles? Do they want a warm, comfortable and kid-friendly environment or would they prefer their home to be a sleek work of modern style? In order to satisfy a client’s sometimes nebulous demands, any good interior designer will be able to ferret out answers to these questions and lead confused clients to satisfying solutions.

Those considering careers as interior decorators should begin taking classes and seeking resources regarding art, design history, and practical skills such as painting, molding and sewing. Consider contacting a local design firm and asking about intern or entry-level positions within the company. Those interested in becoming interior decorators may also want to check with firms regarding certification programs and the best path to a career in the field in your area.

In choosing interior decorators, be as choosy as possible. While it is very important to review prospective designers’ portfolios of work, it is even more critical to find a designer who listens and communicates well. Remember: the finished product is meant to reflect the sensibilities and needs of the customer, so be sure to find a designer whose primary focus is ensuring that their clients' vision is established.

Interior decorators need to factor in color choices when coming up with designs.
Interior decorators need to factor in color choices when coming up with designs.
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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Discussion Comments


Firstly, there is a large difference between an interior decorator and an interior designer. A decorator is responsible for only furnishings and finishes, i.e. - paint colors, window treatments, flooring, wall coverings, furniture, etc. Anyone can call themselves an interior decorator and most are often very talented in putting rooms together. An interior designer is an individual who has a four year degree -- usually a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design -- and has worked under a licensed interior designer or architect for a minimum of two years.

After the graduate works under a licensed individual, they are eligible to take the NCIDQ which is the qualifying examination. An interior designer works not only with residential "upscale" houses, but also on large-scale commercial projects including hotels, restaurants, airports, business complexes, etc. An interior designer is educated in building codes, functionality and lastly, aesthetics.

Along with these previously mentioned traits, an interior designer will undoubtedly have multiple art history classes ranging from primitive art all the way through modern art and is as well versed in art as well as the artists themselves. If you are not creative and you do not like art, I would not recommend going into decorating, since that is the vast majority of the job. Interior design, on the other hand, can go in various different directions but I have personally never met an interior designer or decorator who was not highly creative and interested in art.

If it is something that you feel very passionate about, absolutely follow your dream, but be aware that your competition will undoubtedly be highly ambitious and creative.


I am in school for interior decorating right now. It is one of the most project heavy, intense programs I've ever been in. My boyfriend is in pre-med and I have more classes and homework than he does.

Let me just say that creativity is a must. Without it, you only get bland, cookie cutter rooms. Why would someone hire you for something they could do themselves?

You also have to be on top of trends, yet still know all your styles and history.

I am also an artist and I am having a much easier time with the program than some. We have to hand render rooms with ink and markers, draw to scale and accurately depict patterns and forms in perspective. One of my classes was an art class because it teaches you all about the design principles which are exceedingly important in creating a harmonious scheme.


For four years, I have tried to find an interior designer in this city. First, they stress that they "only do up-scale homes". Second, they only use products that they sell from given stores whether they suit the client or not.

Where I lived before, I had an excellent designer who set up my apartment according to my lifestyle. I enjoyed it for years. Not here. They don't even condescend to talk to an apartment dweller, let alone work with one. As for knowing art - is that part of their training? I tried discussing some of the best artists with one person. She had no idea what I was talking about.

Sorry but I am totally jaded about so-called interior designers. There used to be interior designers (called interior decorators back then) who worked with the customer to suggest and find exactly what the customer needed and wanted. They charge by the hour, and thus have no obligation to sell any particular merchant's goods. They listened and adapted the customer's lifestyle until they finished the job. My apologies for ranting. I am just so disappointed.


@anon91082: That is absolutely possible. Follow your dreams. You can get creative through other people, or you can get creative during college. Who knows? I don't like art either, but I love to see great artwork. Just don't give up, no matter how hard it gets.


if you are creative and have a good knowledge of modern art and interior decoration, you should be a good interior decorator.


I'm not creative and i don't like art, but i would like to be a interior decorator. is it possible?

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