Interior decoration vs interior design

‘… interior design engages at the scale of an individual space so will include the arrangement of built-in elements and more mobile furniture, while interior decoration is concerned with surface effect. …’ ( Interior Design 1: Exploring Principles and Theories: 14 )

The quotation above is extracted from the welcome part in the course book. Later on the same page I am being asked to find and upload images of work of both interior decorators and designers, to ‘analyse, critique and reflect on the images to explore their differences, in relation to this course and my own objectives.’

At first I was taken aback, despite being given a definition above I struggled getting my head round interior decorating project, as for me the decorator is hired to paint the walls and other surfaces, I highly doubt these guys ever have any say on colour selected, leave alone any other aspects of renovation or design. For a while I was worrying and googling interior decorators that were bringing up interior design firms or american blog articles (It seems in US there is a legislative difference between the two, i.e. interior designer would have a more formal qualification than an interior deocrator). Then I had an idea and searched for interior decoration before and after, this way I found multiple images of the same rooms, taken from same perspective but redecorated (i.e different colours, furnishings, but windows, doors and other stable elements were in the same locations). So here we go: Interior decoration in simple words is a makeover. No major changes, no need for qualified electricians, plumbers or brick layers, and unless custom built or made to measure furniture is to be fitted anyone (with a knack for DIY) can do it. A few before and after images of a redecoration project of the same room: (visited 30.08.2019) (visited 30.08.2019) (visited 30.08.2019) (visited 30.08.2019)

I thought it would be a good idea to find some bedroom design project photos (the before and after kind). After some research and finding exactly same photos as for makeovers I now think it will be a better idea to compare the projects of kitchens (both redecoration and redesign). Before I plunge into searching for suitable images for each category I would like to note what I’ll be looking for:

  • For kitchen redecoration – Cabinets and walls repainted, perhaps some cabinets changed, maybe new worktop and sink, but the layout mostly same, so the practical use of the space wouldn’t change too much, i.e. sink and oven in same spots, no major changes to where the storage is etc. Notwithstanding kitchen redecoration could make a massive difference to how the kitchen looks and to the quality of life. So re-decoration will be changing how the room looks, while keeping the current layout of the room. Redecoration could be done a designer, but the client wouldn’t want the massive layout changes.
  • Kitchen redesign – could be all of the above, but may include more major changes depending on clients needs – maybe find a space for a bigger dishwasher or a double oven instead of single. Perhaps finding better use for dead spaces in corner cabinets. Often opening the space more to another room, such as lounge or dining room. It is also more likely that all new furniture and appliances will be installed during such project. A designer would have to listen to the client wants and needs and think of a solution to propose. So interior design will include decoration but may also include changing the layout and maybe even finding additional or different use for that space.

So here comes a kitchen redecoration (lets call it Kitchen 1 for later comparison) project example, where the look is dramatically different but the layout is pretty much the same: (visited 30.08.2019)

And here kitchen re-design (Kitchen 2), were looks and layout where changed to suit the needs of the client better:


The images of Kitchen 2 above come from: (visited on 31.08.2019) (visited on 31.08.2019)

So looking at the images of two different kitchen renovations I can start my comparison. Lets look at similarities first:

  • Different, modernised look.
  • Spaces looking more tidy and stylish.
  • New cabinet handles / knobs in both.
  • In both kitchens sink, cooker and the fridge remained in the same location
  • New sinks and worktops were installed in both projects.

Here are the differences:

  • Kitchen 1 had cabinets painted, kitchen 2 had at least some new units (or maybe just the fronts).
  • Kitchen 1 had new dishwasher installed while keeping the location same, Kitchen 2 kept the old dishwasher but it was moved.
  • Kitchen 2 has new wall tiles, but the floor remains same
  • Kitchen 1 has same wall tiles, but the floor has been altered (either new or stained darker)
  • Kitchen 2 had a bar and cabinets under as well as some of the wall cabinets removed – this created a more open and airy space.
  • Kitchen 2 had a portable island added in the middle.
  • Kitchen 2 now has a seating area (two comfy chairs) which probably makes entertaining while cooking easier.
  • Kitchen 2 lost quite a bit of storage, there must have been some serious decluttering done before the works commenced.
  • Renovation of Kitchen 2 included more changes, which would have more impact on the life of users; more than the renovation of Kitchen 1.
  • The designer of Kitchen 2 must have listened to clients needs and incorporated the solutions into the final design. The designer of Kitchen 1 most probably was told that the client is happy with current layout so concentrated on surface changes.

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