Designer vs. Decorator… what’s the difference?

Designer vs decorator…is there really a difference? These two terms are often used interchangeably within the design industry and by homeowners alike; however, there are many differences (and similarities) between these two separate occupations.

Let’s break it down and see what sets the two apart and where they share common ground!

So, what does a decorator do?

First, let’s dive into what a decorator really does. A decorator solely focuses on the decorative interiors of a pre-existing space. They are hired by clients or architects to create an atmosphere within the home that meets the client’s personal styles. Think a ‘stylist’ for a home!

Decorators work with their clients through constant communication on their likes and dislikes, color preferences, and budget to develop and update their current space. Once a Decorator knows what their clients are looking to achieve they move to sourcing the “soft” furnishings of the space. This includes selecting furniture, fabric, rugs, color, wallpapers, and accessories to create a unique atmosphere in the space.

They often present their clients with mood boards, explore multiple options, and get feedback from their clients to adjust their decor. From there, they shop (physically or virtually) to find pieces that are representative of the client. Once selected, they organize item’s transportation and installation. Decorators often personally install their projects, depending on the size and function of the piece. It’s a very hands-on process!

Sounds like a lot of fun – and a lot of work, right? Now let’s talk about designers.

It is often said that the difference between decorators and designers is that “designers move walls.” This is an easy way to distinguish between the two professions. Designers take on the construction – or reconstruction – of a space in its entirety. This means they often work from the ground up on residential or commercial projects or take an existing property “to the studs” and rebuild it. They offer their skills in interior architecture, renovation and construction processes to their clients.

Designers are usually hired by clients at the outset of a construction project when ideas are still forming and the design is conceptual. Designers partner with architects and builders on the construction of the space from drafting floor, electrical, and plumbing plans and making project specifications for floors, millwork and mouldings, lighting plans, countertops, etc.

This includes making frequent site visits and participating in construction management after groundbreaking. These initial construction phases are very technical and require a trained eye. There is a focus on function, efficiency and safety for each project, making sure their designs are in line with the safety codes and industry standard practice.

For interior designers, hard hats can be a common accessory!

At Laura U, while we have worked on many types of projects, we found our passion in residential interiors! Our group of talented designers work hard to make sure each home is personalized, tailored and functional for each of our clients. Depending on the project, we can be consulted at different stages. If the clients are building a new home, we often collaborate prior to ground breaking, working with the architect, builder and our clients to create a layout of the home that is perfect.

We work in tandem with this team – creating floor plans, electrical and plumbing plans – from the outset of the project through completion of the home. Each aspect of the home is accounted for and strategically designed. At this design stage, we work collaboratively with manufacturers, vendors and our clients to select architectural materials such as tile, paints, plumbing, lighting, etc. We ensure that our design intent is clearly communicated to the entire construction team through thorough plans, elevations, presentations, and finish schedules. This is crucial to a new construction or a large-scale renovation project.

Now we know the differences, where do we find common ground?

Once we have completed the construction design phase, we move on to furnishings design. Or, sometimes we focus only on the furnishings design if the home is already complete. We draw from our client’s unique style and preferences to create the interior aesthetic of the space. This is where the roles of designer and decorator collide. We are lucky enough to be both designer and decorator for all of our clients.

With our Classically Current design philosophy always in mind, we draw inspiration from everything around us. We strive for ever expanding innovative ways to incorporate our client’s style into their home. We begin with an inspiration – it could be a color, a fabric, even a texture – to help stream line the personality of the room.  Our design team works tirelessly to source and select all details, large and small, within the home and always keeps our client’s style in mind. Once these hard finishing’s are selected, we work on the furnishings such as furniture, decorative lighting fixtures, wallcoverings, and accessories to create an interior space that is unique to client – while still staying true to the idea of livable luxury!

We love what we do here at Laura U and I’m thrilled I got to share a little ‘behind the scenes’ action of the roles of designers and decorators in the design and construction process. To see our finished interiors and get some design inspiration yourself, be sure to visit us on Pinterest and Instagram!

– XO, LU

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