NCIDQ has the interior designer vs decorator defined in a very analytical way. However, I have my own interpretation about who is an interior designer and who is an interior decorator.
The one key word I can use to define interior designer vs interior decorator is the word – “custom”. Has any custom designed items been incorporated into the space by the person who designed/decorated this space? Let’s give you an example by using a bathroom remodeling case. If I only selected tiles, slabs, plumbing fixtures, sink cabinet, wall sconces, or wallcovering/paint colors to put in a bathroom which the layout stayed the same, I only can say I did a decoration job because I did not design anything in that bathroom but only chose things that other people designed to fit into that bathroom. I didn’t design the tile patterns, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, wallcovering/paint, or sink cabinet by myself. Therefore, I can’t say I designed this bathroom but I decorated this bathroom.
On the other hand, if I altered the bathroom layout, added a window, or added a shower to make the bathroom more functional and more visually appearing, I could say I designed this bathroom because I altered the structure based on my design ideas. If I “custom” designed the sink cabinet or light fixtures just for that particular bathroom, then I could say I designed the bathroom. If I used the tiles which the tile patterns were designed by me in that bathroom, then I could say I designed the bathroom. If I used the faucet that was designed by me in that bathroom, then I could say I designed the bathroom.
So, if you only selected fabrics for bedding, window treatment, or furniture upholstery in a space, you are a decorator, if you only selected furniture from retail stores or furniture venders to fit into a space, you are a decorator, if you only chose paint color or wallcovering to put on the walls or chose slabs and tiles for the floor, you are a decorator. If you chose plumbing fixtures, appliances, or light fixtures that were not designed by you to put in a space, you are a decorator, or you can say you did a decoration project if you have done real design projects before. Pulling other people’s designs or creations to fit into a space does not make you a designer because you didn’t actually “custom” design anything in that space.