It’s a question I get asked quite often. Different geographical areas use these terms differently, but here is how I would explain them for someone in the Halifax area.
Designer and decorator can be used interchangeably, although the use of ‘Interior Designer’ has been legislated as restricted to the members of the Association of Interior Designers of Nova Scotia.
I think of a designer as someone who can alter walls while a decorator can alter everything within the walls. Neither should be making structural changes without the input of a structural engineer or qualified contractor.
If I were sketching the layout of a new kitchen and opening up the space for an adjoining family room, I would be designing. If I were choosing new flooring, backsplash, countertop, and wall colour for a kitchen, I would be decorating. Alternately, if I were showcasing a kitchen for sale, I would be staging. This would also involve my design and/or decorating skills, but would primarily require an understanding of how to excite the target buyer. Staging does not tend to consider the realities of living or the needs of the home seller, unlike both design and decorating.