What’s the Difference Between Architects, Interior Designers and Decorators?

What’s the Difference Between Architects, Interior Designers and Decorators?

. 4 min read

Does your reno project require an architect, an interior designer or an interior decorator? Perhaps you aren’t sure which of these professionals to hire, because you aren’t clear on what, exactly, the differences between them are. If you’re stumped about which, if any, of these professionals you should be interviewing, the following information will help:


If you’re hoping to make significant structural changes to your home, that’s the ideal time to consider hiring an architect.

Perhaps you want to move, or totally remove, a wall or a portion of one. An architect will be sufficiently trained to evaluate your building’s design and make a determination on whether or not the wall is a load-bearing one. Or perhaps you want to add rooms onto your existing structure. In cases like these, an architect’s fees are money well spent, because they can help you to avoid extremely costly disasters.

What an Architect Typically Does

  • In cases where a property needs to be renovated, the architect consults with clients to gain an understanding of the type of alterations that must be made and a target budget for completing the work.
  • In cases where a new construction project is being considered, the architect will determine what functionality is needed and will seek to understand the client’s ideas for its intended size and style as well as the proposed budget.
  • The architect often prepares site plans and specifications for building or remodelling projects and calculates cost estimates for each project.
  • Once the work is in progress, the architect typically inspects the construction work to ensure the project stays on track.

What an Architect Doesn’t Do

An architect isn’t typically concerned with things like interior colour selection or helping you choose textile prints that complement each other. If you need help with tasks such as these, in addition to making structural changes to your property, you might want to consider hiring two different professionals to help you; one would be an architect, and the other could be either an interior designer or decorator, depending on your preferences.

The Architect’s Education

The requirements for licensure vary by state in Australia – but Australian architects typically need to obtain a high level of formal training in architecture to qualify for licensure. The Architects Accreditation Council of Australia is the accrediting body that oversees the curriculum for architecture in Australia. Their accredited degree programs are postgraduate programs -- typically master’s degree programs. A bachelor’s degree in architecture is the usual prerequisite for admission to one of these accredited programs; however, the admissions officers do sometimes make allowances for students who hold related degrees to gain admittance if the student can demonstrate a sufficient level of competence.

Interior Designers Vs Interior Decorators

There is much overlap between the job that interior designers and interior decorators do. These professionals are both concerned with the appearance of an interior space. However, the interior designer is also concerned with the space’s structure and function – not, typically, to the extent that an architect would be; but it is likely that, for example, an interior designer would be able to advise you on whether or not you could safely rearrange the appliances in your kitchen, because s/he would have an educated understanding of how kitchen plumbing is laid out.

However, you wouldn’t expect your designer to actually be able to do the plumbing work. Many interior designers are generally familiar with building codes, documentation requirements and construction practices; but the construction itself is not typically their main area of expertise.

An interior decorator is likely to be able to help you with most aspects of a space’s appearance and functionality that don’t require bulldozers and other such heavy machinery; if you need that, you’d probably want to consider hiring an architect.

In contrast, an interior decorator is more specifically focused on helping you accomplish a pleasing effect with the decorative aspects of a room’s appearance – choosing surfaces and finishes, colours, furnishings and textiles. An interior designer can do all these things too, but is not limited to doing just these things.

An interior decorator is less likely to be able to help you with the aspects of a design project that require an understanding of building codes or construction practices.

However, it is possible that all of these professionals, to some degree, may acquire some expertise in each of these aspects of the others’ jobs. The more projects they do, the likelier they are to mature in their understanding of multiple facets of building and remodelling.

Interior Designer’s Education vs an Interior Decorator’s

In Australia, interior designers typically need to have successfully completed a course in interior design or architecture. This could be a bachelor’s degree from a university, or it could be an advanced diploma resulting from having studied Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses. Some interior designers additionally hold a master’s degree in interior architecture.

There are no formal academic requirements to become an interior decorator in Australia. While it is possible that you may encounter decorators without any training, many of them do study TAFE courses in interior design. It isn’t at all unusual for interior decorators to hold a diploma in interior design.

The Main Takeaways: If you want to be absolutely sure of hiring a highly educated design professional, you might want to start by interviewing interior designers; but considering there are many decorators who have undertaken suitable training, education isn’t always a differentiating factor between interior designers and decorators. Therefore, if candidates’ academic history is important to you, it’s ideal to ask about their academic credentials when you’re going through the initial vetting process.

Those are the main differences between architects, interior designers and interior decorators. Hopefully you now have a better understanding of which type of professional would be best suited for helping you with any future home remodelling projects you have in mind.


Part of the expertEasy team in Melbourne. Mark is a keen gardener, a DIY addict and a father of two beautiful girls. He is originally from Perth and is a true Eagles fan.

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