What is an interior designer?
To answer this question, let’s break down the several interior-focused professions in Australia and their specialties.
Note, that except for ‘architect’, there is currently limited regulation around how these titles are used in Australia, although there is a push among the interior design industry to outline stricter education requirements.
Interior designer: Interior designers are involved in spatial planning; circulation; design of joinery (cabinetry and shelving) ; and the selection of finishes, fixtures and fittings, In addition, an interior designer may also take on a decorating role that involves selecting furniture, accessories, and artwork.
Australian interior designers usually have a bachelor’s degree, associate degree or advanced diploma in interior design or interior architecture, although this is not currently a requirement. They need to work alongside an architect, builder or draftsperson in order to ‘sign off’ on documentation relating to building permits or permit applications, or alternatively they can become a registered building practitioner with their relevant state regulator.
The terms ‘interior designer’ and ‘interior architect’ are often used interchangeably, however, as there are strict rules surrounding the use of the term ‘architect’ in Australia, a person advertising themselves as the latter should be registered with their state or territory board.
Architect: Architects provide the overarching design of buildings. In residential design this may include the design of the exterior shell/envelope, interior spatial planning, kitchens, and bathrooms.
Some architect practices collaborate with interior designers, while others offer both interior and architectural services in-house, such as Studio Esteta.
Architecture is a regulated profession in Australia that requires registration with the relevant state board. To qualify, registered architects need to have completed a recognised university degree (usually five to six years of study leading to a Master of Architecture qualification), completed a minimum two years on-job experience, and passed an exam.
Decorator: An interior decorator creates a bespoke interior space through selection of decorative elements including paint colours, wallpaper, window furnishings, artwork, furniture, floor rugs, lighting, and custom joinery. They may hold a diploma qualification in interior design and decoration.
Unlike an interior designer, decorators don’t usually move walls or deal with changes to plumbing/electrical services, as they work within the existing space. Unlike a stylist, they not only source from suppliers, but can also provide custom soft furnishings and joinery.
Stylist: An interior stylist works with the existing pieces belonging to the client, as well as sourcing loose furniture, homewares, art and lighting pieces, and artfully arranging these inside the home. Think of styling as the ‘finishing touches’ in an already structurally complete space.
There are also specialised stylists such as ‘editorial stylists’ who source and arrange furnishings and decorative elements for the purposes of photography; and ‘property stylists’ who stage homes for the purpose of selling a property.