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Interior Designer or Interior Decorator

If you've been dreaming of starting your own design business, either as a second career, after you've taken some design classes, or you just have had a lifelong passion for everything design related, you'll be asked to make a very important choice.

What are you going to call yourself?

It may seem a bit confusing, Decorator… Designer… What’s the difference, right? Well there is a difference, but few people actually know what that is and most clients will use the terms interchangeably.

Some will tell you that one is better than the other, but it really comes down to what you want to do with your business and what type of designer you want to be? How fast do you want to get started, and how much time do you want to invest into this new career of yours?

The basic definition of an interior designer (in my own terms), is someone who has a college degree in interior design from an accredited school, and has passed the NCIDQ exam, (It’s like passing the bar exam for interior designers, and it’s required if you want to be licensed in your state). Most designers will also expect you to be a member of ASID, the American Society of Interior Designers, or a similar professional affiliation. Before you're allowed to take the NCIDQ test, you must work for 3,520 hours (or two years) for a certified designer. If this seems like a ton of work, you're right!

That may be why most designers get a little defensive about our title. They think, “Hey I busted my hump through four years of school, and many years working in the field for another designer; I deserve that title!” OK, we may have a bit of a chip on our shoulder, I’ll admit it.

I’ll also admit that I was dumb. What did that mean for Everyone Else? Were all of those talented people I read about in design magazines who are design visionaries, yet don’t have a design degree, not designers?

Well, times are changing and the list of possible titles for professionals who “plan, design, and furnish interiors of residential, commercial, or industrial buildings, formulate design which is practical, aesthetic, and conducive to intended purposes, such as raising productivity, selling merchandise, or improving life style” is growing. You can even specialize in a particular field, style, or phase of interior design.

You no longer have to define your craft as merely an interior designer or interior decorator. You can be a Certified Kitchen Designer, Home Stager, a Re-Designer, an Interior Coach, Color and Materials Designer, Commercial Interior Designer, Decorating Consultant, Designer, Director of Interiors, Interior Design Consultant, and Interior Design Coordinator.

After actually working in the field for more than 24 years, I’ve discovered that unless you plan on working for an architectural firm, or strictly in commercial design, you don’t really need to put yourself through all of that time, effort, and money of .

​*Very important​:​​​​​​​​​​ If you want to advise a client on moving walls, or structural changes, you must be educated on the latest building codes, fire regulations, and structural physics of a building. There is serious liability if you make a suggestion that has dangerous or detrimental consequences. If this is the type of designer that you want to be, then the school route is for you.

If you change your mind and want to be considered a technical “designer” someday, you can always go back to school. I've found that when you want to make suggestions about moving walls or structural features, that it’s easier to contract out to your engineer or general contractor and let them handle the technical stuff.

So what do you want to be?

Let me help you decide by asking you a few questions:

  • Are you interested in new construction, commercial projects such as hospitality, medical, and retail?​

  • ​Do you want to work directly designing interior structures that require you to understand blueprints, and roof lines?​

  • ​You like extensive projects that you are in complete control of and may require you to know basic fire codes, safety regulations, and liability issues.​​

  • You want to learn computer drafting and perspective.​​​

  • You have an interest in historical restoration.​

  • ​You live in state that has strict regulations regarding licensing* and using the title “Interior Designer” and you have a personal problem with not having that title.

You should consider working towards a degree in interior design.

If these answers sound more like you:​

  • ​Interior design is a true passion of yours, and you know that you can help homeowners to have the home of their dreams.

  • You're interested in residential work and working predominately with homeowners.​​

  • You work well as a team player and like to collaborate with other professionals in related fields such as architects and contractors.​

  • Your interested mostly in material selections, space plans, and color palates.​

  • You understand that what really matters is bringing joy and beauty to your clients.

You should become an Interior Design Professional.

If you decide that you want to start your own Design Business, then make sure you set-up a strong foundation for success. There's a brand new certification program called the "Interior Design Business Success Studio".​

This program is for those passionate people who LOVE design, know they have a knack for transforming boring rooms into beautiful spaces, and want to grow a solid and profitable design business the Simple Way. We are building an amazing community of Interior Design Professionals, working together to build a Better Interior Design Industry! Click Here to Learn More...

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