This is a fundamental question and why the professional Interior Designers (NCIDQ certified) are asking the remaining states to license the profession.

You can not compare a store "designer" with an educated and experienced Interior Designer that upholds a professional business license. You be the judge.

According to The National Council For Interior Design Qualifications...
Interior Decorator vs. Interior Designer
"Interior design is the art and science of understanding
people’s behavior to create functional spaces within a structure. Decoration is the furnishing or adorning of a space with fashionable or beautiful things. Interior designers may provide interior decorating services, but decorators are
not qualified to provide interior design services.One primary difference between the two professions is that interior designers are responsible for the elements that affect the public’s health, safety and welfare. For example, an
interior designer can evaluate wall finishes based on durability, acoustic properties, cleanability, flame retardancy, allergens, toxicity and off-gassing
properties. An interior decorator can evaluate finishes based only on color, style and
texture." -NCIDQ

According to dictionary.com, here's how a  stylist is defined.

  styl·ist   /ˈstaɪlɪst/ Show Spelled[stahy-list]
Show IPA  –noun 
a designer or consultant in a field subject to changes in style, especially hairdressing, clothing, or interior decoration.

This is a very loose term and anyone may call themselves a stylist. There are no educational or professional qualifications necessary.  

Retail Furniture Store " In House Designer"
This is a person selling product that may be a great decorator or stylist. They are not required to have any
educational training. However, at least in 29 states, they may not call themselves a "designer". They must use the term decorator.

Remember, they make more by selling you more. Some retail furniture chains are savvy to this and have now begun to hire those young designers laid off in this economic  down turn. Ask if they are NCIDQ certified. Ask if they have a 4 year degree in Interior Design. Ask how they are compensated for their travel, job site visits, fabric selections, CAD drawings, etc. Free is usually not Free! They must earn a profit to stay in business, but why not be up front about it? Would we think about comparing a retail sales person to an architect? No. It's the same crazy comparison for those of us in Interior Design. 

Licensed Interior Designer
This professional is licensed by the state (29 states have Regulatory requirements). They have at least a 4 year college degree in Architecture or Interior Design. They most likely have taken and passed a 6 part National exam conducted by the National Council For Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ). They usually have years of work experience under the supervision of another Senior licensed Interior Designer or Architect(s). They are required by their state's  Dept of Business and Professional Regulations to maintain ongoing educational goals in the form of CEUs (continuing educational units) which may include: updated building codes for their state, classroom training,  health, safety, & welfare courses, home study courses, etc. For example, every two years I must complete 20 hours of CEUs -16 of those must be under Health, Safety, and Welfare (to protect the general public) and 2 must be to learn the updated Florida Building Code. In addition, I must understand ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) requirements for designing public spaces, Occupancy Loads, Fire Ratings for Interior finishes, durability requirements among other things.






01/07/2014 2:21am

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