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Kathleen Peterson

As a retired Interior Designer, it is important that the client understand the difference between a Designer and a decorator. An Interior Designer has the credentials to prove their worth: a design college or program degree (usually three years minimum) from an accredited college or university; experience in the field, from being a designer for a small firm of less than five people, to a firm with 5 or 10 or more designers, all working on different types of job for the firm; testing by the NCIDQ (National Council for Interior Design Qualification); a keen understanding of the clients' needs for privacy with respect to their choices and the dollars spent on their project. This is not an all-inclusive list of a designer's background, but will begin to distinguish the Designer from a decorator. Expect a fee per hour that approaches or exceeds $100 an hour, and will vary by location and what the firm they work for requires. Designers usually have ample portfolios of their work that you may view in order to help you make a decision. They likely will carry other designations with their names, such as ASID, ISID, etc.

A decorator may or may not have some schooling in decoration, or furniture specification, or training in drapery decoration and hangings, etc. They are NOT qualified by exam to advertise their name with the NCIDQ designation. A decorator may be amply talented in helping others with their homes, and will likely charge less per hour, or by the job, than a Designer will. This might be an hourly fee of $35 up to $50, or thereabouts. It will vary with the location. This does not mean that all decorators are not to be trusted with good decisions. If you have a recommendation from a friend who has used a decorator and you have seen their work, this is the best way to tell if they are right person to work with. Feel free to talk with them at their place of business so that you can decide for yourself which person is the best choice for you.

When I ran my own business, I requested that the first meeting be scheduled with me in my office, and if I could help them with anything at that time, I would charge my hourly fee. It they wanted to just find out what my qualifications were, there would be no charge for that. I also taught Interior Design for a number of years, and worked closely with ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) and the NCIDQ.

The thing that is important is that the client knows the qualifications which make the difference between a Designer and a decorator, the cost per hour which could include drawings, advice, specifications, checking on the job, working with contractors, and final decisions and placement of furnishings, etc. And please, do not call a Designer a decorator, and call a decorator a Designer. They are different terms for different qualifications, experience, and the final outcome.

K. Peterson, former IDEC member (Interior Design Educator's Council)

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Studio NOO Design

If you are on a budget for a big job, like remodel of a room, hiring a designer will save you time and money and will get you a great looking room.

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Retired, moved out of state and are building a house. Our new kitchen/open concept great room has white kitchen cabinets with a mahogany type stained island. The fireplace (and window trim) is white. We did not add built-ins, but want to buy two pieces of furniture for each side of the fireplace. Our family room furniture tables are mahogany type. Should be continue with mahogany type console and media center next to fireplace or would white pieces of furniture look OK?


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