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What Skills Are Needed to Be an Interior Decorator?

author image Linda Ray
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."
What Skills Are Needed to Be an Interior Decorator?
An interior designer standing in a home that he completed. Photo Credit Gregg Felsen/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Interior decorators work with inside space to make it more useful and attractive for homeowners and businesses. Interior decorators are creative professionals who can listen to a client and transform a space, utilizing the desires of the owner and the space, light and budget that are available. Designers at the American Society of Interior Designers say their members create the optimum use of space, taking into account aesthetics, safety, ergonomics and functionality.


Interior decorators garner their skills through a combination of education and experience. While many of them may start out with a 2-year degree at a community college, the marketplace has changed so that most interior decorators must have at least a 4-year degree from an accredited design program as well as 2 to 3 years of experience as an apprentice. In addition, interior designers in 23 states and the District of Columbia are required to take a certification exam and get licensed to practice.


Interior designers must possess basic knowledge about light sources and how they affect the overall look and function of a space as well as how to make different colors and fabrics work well together. A well-rounded knowledge of furniture is a basic requirement in addition to basic skills that apply to safety and ergonomics. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that solid basic skills will help provide a space that boosts productivity, increases sales and adds to the market value of the property.

People skills

Interior designers must have well-developed people skills to work with clients. In addition to listening to the needs and wants of the clients, designers must be able to coordinate with architects, painters, carpet installers and furniture movers. Designers frequently are involved with electricians, subcontractors and regulators to prepare buildings for inspections. Interior designers often manage installations and must be able to supervise workers.


Increasingly, interior designers must be able to work with computer-aided design programs to create drawings for contractors to work from. To perform the tasks, designers must be familiar with blueprints and how to incorporate designs into the final draft to print plans that can be followed by contractors. Plans also need to follow municipal code regulations, requiring additional skills in translating those requirements.


To further their careers, many interior designers develop specialized skills that provide them with additional work opportunities and help them market their services. An interior designer can develop skills in plumbing and water use to design kitchens and baths. Others learn more about organization to sell their services as professional organizers. Still others hone their skills in ergonomics and environmentally friendly options that can be incorporated in the final design.

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