September 9, 2010

Do you need an Interior Designer, Decorator, or Home Stager…what’s the difference?

Posted in Decorating, Uncategorized at 10:46 am by dotcomdecorator

When asked the question, “Have you, or would you, work with a professional to create your interior space?” people respond in surprising ways! I have heard all of the following:  “No, they (designers) are all alike…pushy, overpriced and self-absorbed.” “I have, but it was horrible!” “I would love to, but it is so expensive!” ” I don’t need that, I just have a simple home.” “I wouldn’t know how to find the right decorator–it’s intimidating.” My favorite comment is, “I don’t know what to do with this space, so I just gave up altogether.”

Give up? Ouch! That cuts to the heart. People, these are YOUR homes you’re talking about. YOUR sanctuary, YOUR personal space. You deserve to have a space you absolutely love! And the good news is, there is someone out there who can help you!  Someone personable, someone reasonably priced, someone willing to take on your project, no matter how large or small, and someone who will listen to you and design your space from your desires! I’m going to help you get started on your quest!

First and foremost, there are three distinct titles to consider:  Interior Designer, Interior Decorator, and Home Stager. Before you can begin your search, you should understand what each of these professionals can offer you. It is important that you contact the right professional for your project.

When I first meet a potential client, I share with them my background, experience, training, and portfolio. As a professional, I am also obliged to inform them that despite being in the industry over twenty-two years, I am an Interior Decorator and Home Stager, not an Interior Designer.  It is generally at this point in the conversation I also explain the differences.  While I have yet to have a client abandon a project based on my official title, it is information a knowledgeable consumer should possess before beginning a project. (And I feel it is my moral obligation to clearly represent myself).

The designation “Interior Designer” applies to those who have completed an Interior Design course at an accredited institution.  Interior Designers apply their analytical, technical, and aesthetic skills in the construction/renovation of interior spaces. Designers have architectural design skills which permit them to create or alter interior components–such as relocating walls, designing kitchens, or major renovations–they understand and adhere to building codes. Most, but not all, Interior Designers also practice Interior Decorating and/or Home Staging.  For a major renovation or new space, an Interior Designer can serve as general contractor, architect, and decorator/stylist.  Because of their training and expertise, Interior Designers command higher rates.

Interior Designers and Interior Decorators are charged with improving the psychological and/or physiological well-being of their clients. They achieve this by understanding their clients needs, seeking appropriate solutions, respecting their clients social, physical and psychological needs and applying them in safe, aesthetically pleasing, budget-adhering and ecologically sensitive ways.

Interior Decorators deal with space renovations that can be easily and quickly changed, and at lower budgets. Projects such as changing kitchen cabinets or flooring,  selecting paint colors, furnishings, window coverings and accessories all fall within the realm of an Interior Decorator. In general, most projects do not deal with structural building codes, unless the Decorator is working in tandem with a general contractor. An interior decorator does not need a degree, but often has a certificate in interior decorating. Beyond simply “decorating” a space, a Decorator changes style and quality of life with their skills. Many Interior Decorators are also skilled as Home Stagers.

In general terms, Home Stagers prepare a property for sale by making it aesthetically pleasing to potential buyers. Home staging often begins with an assessment of the property–both inside and out–then a presentation of a task list to the property owner. Tasks may include, but are not limited to, the need to clean or paint inside and/or out; general cleaning and landscaping; removal of furniture to open up the space; introduction of furniture to create a homey environment; depersonalization of spaces; and re-purposing of specific areas.  Like Interior Designers and Decorators, a Home Stager must understand the client’s needs, but also guide the client toward preparing the home for new owners. This often means reasoning with a client to pack up prized possessions, create a more neutral space, and live with some inconveniences while the property is being marketed. While a Designer and Decorator are able to excite their clients with the potential of great things to come, a Stager often has to neutralize negative emotions and lead the client to focus on the end result–the sale of the property.  A Stager’s duties can end with the delivery of the staging report, or may include the hands on preparation of the property–from cleaning to decorating.

Each of the aforementioned professionals should have a network of reliable subcontractors/suppliers whom they rely upon for various aspects of the project. Often times, the professional will have additional skill sets–faux finishing, furniture construction, etc–and perform those tasks him/herself. Many professionals work only under a turn-key (start to finish) guideline, meaning they control every nuance of the project; others invite your input and will allow you to select and hire additional service providers on your own.  Consider to what extent you want to be involved and have this discussion during your initial meeting.

Now you know which professional you need for your project!  The next step is to narrow your search. For example, if you want to completely gut and renovate a kitchen, look for an Interior Designer who specializes in kitchen renovations. Further narrow your search by what style a Designer specializes in–if you like clean modern lines, find a Designer who specializes in Modern or Industrial style, not Old World European design!  Once you’ve created your short list, make an appointment. During the appointment, review the client portfolio, ask for references, talk about your budget, and most importantly, gauge the comfort level and ease of communication between you and the designer/decorator/stager.  Were your desires heard, were your concerns answered, and do you feel confident he/she can deliver what they promise? While it is unreasonable to expect on-the-spot delivery of a full design concept (unless the designer/decorator/stager produces cookie-cutter concepts!), rather than giving you a blank stare and proclaiming, “This will take some thinking about!” a skilled professional will provide a sense of direction or a little “teaser” of what you should expect and a promise to deliver a plan that will “knock your socks off!”

As in all professions, you will find highly skilled professionals and charlatans; you will find those who make you feel unworthy of their service and those who wholeheartedly embrace you; you will find those who hear what you say and unearth the desires you don’t verbalize, and those who hold valid only the words that come from their own lips; and you will find those who want nothing more than to showcase their desires, tastes and talents in your space. However, if you are lucky you will find those who understand the importance of creating the most comfortable and appealing space for your tastes, desires, and needs…and are willing to sacrifice their own agenda to achieve that.

The process of changing your space can be challenging. However, if handled properly, you should have more excitement than stress, more optimism than fear, and experience as little disruption to your life as possible. The designer/decorator/stager work for you–make sure your voice is heard!

Life is too short to suffer bad design! So today, stop cringing when you walk by that room, pick up the phone, call a professional and explore the possibilities for your space! A single room or a whole house–no project is unworthy of good design!

Until next time,

Viva Con Gioia!

The  DotComDecorator

P.S.  Remember, if you’re a hands-on, do-it-yourselfer, you can work with our online design service at


1 Comment »

  1. Carrie said,

    After finish reading your article I understanded what is the difference. Thank you for sharing. after builders cleaning

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: