Which Should I Choose, A Decorator Or An Interior Designer?

Whether you hire a decorator or interior designer depends on the type of project you have, and the scope of the project. If what you’re doing isn’t really a big deal, or it’s something that isn’t going to have a huge impact on the space, or you don’t see your project developing much further than say a coat of paint, or maybe it’s just a freshening up, then I would advise you to use or hire a decorator.

In the past, painters were called decorators. They were the ones that actually did the work. Then later, decorators were known as those who could help you furnish or decorate a room. As things became increasingly more sophisticated, especially in businesses and then in homes, designers came on the scene that had more education in the technical and architectural realm, as well as the health, safety, and welfare of the public. If you have the desire to, you can do further research into the development of the interior decorating and design profession, from the beginning until the present time.

Interior decorating and design is a very easily infiltrated field. It seems that anybody with a flair for color or pattern can get in to this profession and call themselves a professional. Many have just enough knowledge to make themselves dangerous to a client or potential client.

When I graduated from design school, I garnered my first job with a very high-end furniture store. My passion was for design first, and then selling the furniture and furnishings to bring out the design concept as well as the personality of the client. Store employed salespeople that had some degree of skill in decorating, while others came from very different careers and backgrounds. I found out fairly quickly, that furniture stores including very high-end furniture stores, do not really care about design or what you will get in terms of design. As furniture stores, whether or not they employ decorators or designers, their number one concern is selling you furniture. Period. I don’t care what they tell you otherwise. Their profit comes from selling you the furniture.

Independent decorators and interior designers are usually not beholden to any one particular furniture store or line of furniture. Some work through furniture stores even though they are on their own. Some work through showrooms.

Some independent decorators and interior designers, only work in their own style and look. They are comfortable working in only a certain genre. Or, they are only comfortable working with the types of furniture and styles that they personally like and are comfortable with. If you want to work with them, you are basically buying their look or what they like. So, in essence, you are buying their look or brand. In addition, everyone else that uses them gets their look and brand. So, your house may well look very similar to someone else’s house. Where is the individuality and uniqueness in that? Therefore, your personality and the look and ambiance that you want or need is partially or totally submerged by the look the decorator or designer would prefer to impose on you based on the personality and aesthetic preferences of the decorator or designer! So, whose houses it anyway? Who pays the house payment? I think you get my point here.

When it comes to selecting an interior decorator or designer, you must be careful. Realize that you can rank interior decorators and designers, in categories from kindergarten level, all the way up to Masters, Ph.D., and Doctorate. Or if you prefer, you can rank them from 1 to 10; 10 being the highest. To judge properly you have to know what you’re looking for and what constitutes the top-level in interior design.

If you need a level 8 to 10 interior, don’t mistakenly hire a level 7 designer. Taking a quote from one of Clint Eastwood’s movies, “A man (or woman’s) got to know their limitations.” If you as a client don’t know the decorator or designers limitations, relative to what you need, then the next line from one of Clint Eastwood’s movies is appropriate to you. “Are you feeling lucky?” Well, you’re going to need a lot a luck if your interior decorator or designer is underpowered and lacking in talent and ability. It’s, like the buying good sports car. You’re buying it for the excitement and pleasure of driving it, as well as looking at it, and admiring it.

To use the sports car analogy further, you always want a car with more horsepower and speed than you really need. This is important especially if you need to get out of a bind real quick, vs. getting stuck between a guard-rail and a truck and ultimately getting squished. That would be a bad day.

It’s also will very much like health or life insurance. It’s better to have it and not need it; than to need it and not have it. Both analogies point to the fact that it’s better to have more than less. This is also important from a peace-of-mind and safety aspect. I know that there’s a famous design saying that, “Less is more,” as it applies to minimalist design. However, in most categories of life, it is much better to have more than less, as well as having more than you need. This applies to oxygen, money, health, and food, etc. It’s also kind of like the saying, “There’s safety in numbers.”

A lot of the automotive commercials say, “Best in its class.” My first question is “What class you are in?” or “What class are you in, which you are the best in?” This is what you have to do with every interior decorator or designer that you are considering for hire. You need to find out what “class” they are in, what they actually do, how they do it, how they think, what is their design philosophy, and how do they set you up for success.

Getting the right designer for you and your project is critical to your success! In truth, it is very much like a mini marriage. Therefore, you had better get it right! You don’t want to end up in design divorce court. There’s too much at stake and your money needs to be invested wisely for design, as well as furniture and furnishings. As they say, “You get what to pay for.”

To use a quote from John Ruskin, “It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money; that’s all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little in getting a lot-it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the rest of you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.”

Finally, a great quote from Red Adair that is so appropriate to hiring the right designer for you. “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.”

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