Interior designers and interior decorators (NOC 5242)

About this job

Interior designers and interior decorators make inside spaces useful, comfortable and appealing. They determine what is needed in the space and choose elements including lighting, colours and materials.

While interior designers and interior decorators have some things in common, they are two distinct jobs that have different education and training requirements, skill sets and responsibilities.

Interior designers enhance the function and quality of interior spaces. They may specialize in residential, commercial, institutional, cultural and industrial buildings. They may also design for aircraft, ships or trains, trade shows and exhibitions. Their work can improve office productivity, create a relaxed feeling in a home, provide a connected cultural or social experience and can increase the value of a building. They typically work with architects, construction managers, electricians, other building and renovation specialists, as well as inspectors.

Interior decorators make a physical space look and feel good, while being functional. They develop a plan that includes creating the foundation of colours used in the rooms. They choose and place wall coverings, window treatments, furniture, décor and other accessories. Interior decorators work in homes, restaurants, hotels, cruise ships, offices and other spaces to make them feel welcoming, comfortable and useful.

In some cases, an interior designer may take on the duties of an interior decorator, but without the required education and training, an interior decorator cannot act as an interior designer.

Watch the video below to see what a day in the life of an interior designer is like.
Common job titles
  • consultant, home decorating
  • designer, kitchen
  • interior decorating / home decorating
  • interior design consultant
  • interior designer - aircraft
  • interior designer - certified / licensed

Duties

In general, interior designers and interior decorators:

  • Meet with clients to understand their needs and goals
  • Develop design concepts to fit the clients’ needs, create functionality and that follow health/safety codes and standards
  • Develop and present final design ideas to clients
  • Estimate costs and materials
  • Negotiate prices for items/materials
  • Oversee the purchase of additional services, materials and other items for the client
  • Manage the project at each stage
  • May direct the work of subcontractors and other vendors

More specifically, interior designers:

  • Analyze, plan, design, document and manage interior non-structural/non-seismic construction and alteration projects
  • Ensure compliance with building design and construction, fire and energy codes, standards, regulations and guidelines, including universal accessibility guidelines
  • Read and understand blueprints and other architectural design plans 
  • Prepare drawings and specifications for non-load-bearing interior construction, reflected ceiling plans, lighting, interior detailing, materials, finishes, space planning, furnishings, fixtures and equipment
  • Develop detailed plans and 3D models showing arrangement of walls, dividers, displays, lighting and other fixtures using computer-assisted design (CAD) software and other graphics software
  • Collaborate with licensed practitioners in the technical areas of mechanical, electrical and load-bearing design
  • Review and evaluate design solutions during implementation and upon completion

More specifically, interior decorators:

  • Plan and prepare building interiors for effective use 
  • Develop visuals that show what the room or space will look like
  • Identify the colours to be used
  • Plan the style of the room/space and choose/place wall coverings, window treatments, furniture, décor and other accessories

Work environment

Interior designers and decorators may work for or with homeowners, real estate firms, architectural firms, interior design or decorating firms, retail businesses, construction companies, hospitals, airlines, hotel and restaurant chains and other establishments. They may be full-time employees or contractors. Interior decorators may work for REALTOR® and real estate companies to provide staging services, preparing homes to appeal to potential buyers.

Interior designers must understand building and fire codes and should be able to address accessibility for those with physical challenges. Often, interior designers are required to work with architects, electricians, and other contractors to make sure building designs are compatible with building codes and regulations.

People with these careers often work in an office or studio, and go to the construction site, the building or space. Some interior designers go to the worksite to make sure the correct directions are given to construction or tradespeople.

Insights from industry

Good communications skills are important for people in these careers. Also, they should be able to manage a budget, negotiate with suppliers/vendors and work with clients. Time management and being able to juggle several tasks at once is important.

Interior designers and decorators must meet deadlines and stay on budget, identify potential problems and offer practical solutions. Having a calm, positive attitude, even under pressure, is an important skill.

It’s important for interior designers and decorators to keep up to date on trends and new technology. They need to understand what the client expects and make that happen on time and on budget.

An increased area of focus for both interior designers and interior decorators is sustainability and reducing the environmental footprint of materials/goods used.

It’s important to understand that what is shown on television or in the movies is not the reality. A person considering a career as an interior designer or interior decorator should understand how different these two roles can be, even though there are some similarities.

A career as an interior designer requires specific education, technical skills and knowledge related to architecture, engineering, construction and other building trades. Interior decorating focuses on the look and style of rooms or spaces within a building. This includes furnishings, art, wall colour and accessories that make a room welcoming, comfortable and visually pleasing. 

Career paths and resources

Career paths

For interior designers and interior decorators, there are different specialities to focus on, depending on their training, skill level and interest. For both careers, this could mean a concentration on residential (homes), commercial (hotels, restaurants, retail stores), corporate (offices and businesses) and healthcare (hospitals, clinics and health/wellness spaces). Some may specialize further. For example, an interior designer might focus on kitchens or bathrooms and an interior decorator might only work on small condos, single family homes or corporate offices.

A growing area of focus is sustainable interior design, which tries to minimize the environmental impact of the materials used in the building while still providing an attractive, comfortable space with good flow. This could include using bamboo flooring instead of hardwood or adding a rooftop garden. It could also include ensuring that air quality in the home is clean and promotes a healthy living environment.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the leading organization for interior design certifications that offers the designation as a sustainable designer.

For interior decorators, this may include using recycled and fair-trade items to furnish and accessorize the home. It may also include ensuring that paints, wall coverings and other elements do not contribute to poor air quality.

Interior decorators may decide to open their own firm when first starting their career. Interior designers are more likely to work with established interior design firms or other related companies as they build their experience and credentials. People in this career who work for a larger organization often have opportunities for training, mentorship and the ability to work with senior interior designers or decorators on larger projects.

Additional resources