PLEASE don’t call me a decorator!
Thewords above are a statement resonating among professionally trained and qualified interior designers all over the United States and Canada. For reasons that may not be widely understood or well known among the general public, there is a vast difference between an “interior designer” and an “interior decorator.” Interior designers are highly trained (for- mal college education) with documented experience with a qualified mentor/ teacher. In the U.S. and inmany Canadian provinces, laws have been passed requir- ing practicing interior designers to earn the NCIDQ certification; this has been in place for over 40 years and requires arduous guidelines that enable clients to have confidence in the caliber of work from certified designers.
Interior decorators by stark contrast require no formal education, training, experience, or licensure. The individual state statutes vary as to what the verbiage is that one can use to describe their profession, but make no mistake: interior designers may decorate, but decorators do not design. The education and training required to be an interior designer is not without warrant, because our work affects the health, safety, and welfare of the occupants of any given space. Safety codes and regulatory requirements govern the art and science of interior design. Creating functional spaces requires knowledge and coordination within the building structure, acknowledging the physical location and social context of the project. Knowledge of major elements of lighting, plumbing, and building systems is essential for licensed interior designers. They apply creative and technical solutions that are functional and are appealing to the senses and beneficial to the occupant’s well being and culture. The interior-design process observes a very clearly defined methodology, including research, study, and integration of knowledge into the creative process— to satisfy the client’s needs and budgetary requirements.
To be eligible to sit for the NCIDQ exam, you need a bachelor’s or master’s degree from a Council for Interior Design Accreditation interior-design program and 3,520 hours of work experience. There is only a handful of licensed interior designers in Santa Fe and many, many interior decorators.
There is a new program of NCIDQ Ambassador’s that I am proud to be part of. This program gives newly educated individuals in interior design to seek out professional mentors/trainers who can guide and advise them on the journey of becoming a licensed skilled professional and passing the NCIDQ exam. NCIDQ Ambassadors are practitioners, educators, or advocates who are stellar examples and motivational role models of the industry.
There is much work to be done in educating the public as to the difference of interior design and interior decoration, especially considering “design TV” that interchangeably uses the terms “decorator” and “designer.” So, please don’t call me a decorator!
Lisa Samuel ASID, IIDA, is a Santa Fe native and principal of Samuel Design Group, located in the heart of downtown Santa Fe. She is an award-winning interior designer known for creating unique interiors imbued with warmth and elegance. Lisa (firstname.lastname@example.org) is passionate about good design that supports well-being.
An example of lighting design, appropriate finishes as well as furniture design in a newly constructed space