What Does an Interior Designer Do?

An interior designer is professionally trained to create a functional and quality interior environment. Qualified through education, experience and examination, a professional designer can identify, research and creatively resolve issues and lead to a healthy, safe and comfortable physical environment.

Interior designers provide various services including:

  • consulting services to help determine project goals and objectives
  • generating ideas for the functional and aesthetic possibilities of the space
  • creating illustrations and renderings
  • developing documents and specifications relative to interior spaces in compliance with
  • applicable building and safety codes
  • allocating, organizing and arranging a space to suit its function
  • monitoring and managing construction and installation of design
  • selecting and specifying fixtures, furnishings, products, materials and colors
  • purchasing products and fixtures
  • designing and managing fabrication of custom furnishings and interior details
  • designing lighting and specifying

Frequently Asked Questions About Interior Design and Designers

What is the difference between an interior designer and an interior decorator?

Interior designers are professionally trained in space planning. In 18 states, they must pass a strict exam and be licensed. While both designers and decorators are concerned with aesthetics, style and mood, interior designers have comprehensive training and command skills that may include an understanding of:

  • flame spread ratings, smoke, toxicity and fire rating classifications and materials
  • space planning for public and private facilities
  • national, state and local building codes
  • standards regarding the needs of disabled or elderly persons and other special needs groups
  • ergonomics
  • lighting quality and quantity
  • acoustics and sound transmission

A decorator works only with surface decoration – paint, fabric, furnishings, lighting and other materials. Because no license is required, upholsterers, housepainters, and other tradespeople also claim the name “decorator.”

Do interior designers do more than make spaces attractive? 
In addition to the aesthetics of a space, an interior designer creates a space that is functional, efficient and safe and enhances the quality of the working and living environment.

Are architects and engineers ultimately responsible for most of the jobs that interior designers perform?
No. Increasingly, buildings are designed not as completed objects, but as “shells” into which tenants and others create their own design. Think of the numerous examples of completed exteriors with incomplete interiors such as shopping malls, restaurants, office buildings, hotels and apartment complexes. Interior designers focus on and specialize in the planning of the interior elements of a building’s design.

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