For anyone who needs help decorating/designing their home but has never hired a designer before and aren’t sure whether to go with a traditional designer or a virtual decorator, please know that there is a big difference between the two. It’s important to know what the differences are so that you can make the RIGHT decision for you. I’ll explain the differences below- primarily the distinction between a traditional interior designer and a virtual decorator from online sites offering affordable design such as Havenly, Dwell Candy, Laurel & Wolf, Decorist, and Decorilla.
First, most traditional designers are licensed (in states where licensing is required) and have the appropriate education, training, knowledge, and expertise to help you with your design needs. They are trained to look beyond the aesthetics to design code compliant spaces that are healthy as well as beautiful and efficient. They can move windows and doors, remove/add walls, and plan a space that functions better for the client. A traditional designer can design an interior space (new construction or remodels) as well as decorate in the appropriate style that matches the client’s tastes. Secondly, they know the right questions to ask in order to solve your design problems. Traditional designers know about local building codes and regulations for bathroom and kitchen remodels, have the right resources for plumbing, electrical, and construction work, and also know where to get the best materials at the right prices. They can provide a range of services from color consultations to space planning, kitchen and bath remodels, furniture & accessory selection, custom millwork or furniture design, and much more.
I believe most virtual decorators on Havenly, Dwell Candy, Laurel & Wolf, Decorist, and Decorilla, are purely interior decorators, not interior designers. I wrote a previous blog post on the difference between an interior designer versus an interior decorator. You can read about it here. Virtual decorators on these affordable e-design websites can’t help you with bathroom and kitchen remodels. Most likely they aren’t licensed and don’t know about local building codes and regulations. They can’t move windows and doors or remove/add walls. The services they provide are purely decorative and cosmetic, therefore they should be called virtual interior decorators, not interior designers. Virtual Decorators on these online sites typically provide a floor plan (with measurements provided by you), probably a furniture plan as well with space layout, a visual mood board, and a shopping list with a selection of paint colors, furnishings, lighting, accessories, and perhaps some surface materials. You can also purchase furnishings and accessories through some of these websites at a discounted rate if it is offered by the e-design site. Some virtual decorators provide 3D models. I can’t attest to whether the floor plans or 3D models are accurate in terms of measurements since the dimensions will be provided by the client. Since the decorators are “virtual”, they can’t drop by in person and take accurate measurements of your space. They have to rely on you, as the client to provide them with accurate measurements and even though these e-design sites may give detailed step by step directions for taking measurements, problems do come up. Wrong measurements can be provided by the client or sometimes, even the virtual decorators make mistakes when the correct dimensions are provided by the client. This would never happen with a traditional interior designer. A traditional designer would know the right questions to ask. For example, I read a review on one of these e-design sites where a client was upset because she ordered furniture recommended by her virtual decorator but it didn’t fit through the elevator of the apartment complex she lived in. A traditional interior designer would avoid costly mistakes like this and know the right questions to ask at the right time.
Some people prefer a traditional interior designer for peace of mind, while others who are on a tight budget take the risk of going with a virtual decorator based on their financial limitations and project scope. It depends on what your design needs are. If you need help with a bathroom or kitchen remodel or need help expanding a room and space planning, then I highly recommend that you go with a traditional interior designer. If you just need help decorating your space and picking out paint colors, furniture, and accessories with a limited budget, then it might make sense for you to select a virtual decorator from one of the e-design sites listed above. My recommendation is that you go through these e-design sites thoroughly, ask questions, and know clearly what you are getting before you sign up. Also, read as many reviews as you can to help you make the right decision for you.
But, I want to be clear. These online websites offering affordable design such as Havenly, Dwell Candy, Laurel & Wolf, Decorist, and Decorilla provide virtual decorators, NOT interior designers as they list on their website. Virtual decorators are NOT the same as interior designers and I just want to make sure that is crystal clear.
Have you hired a traditional interior designer or a virtual decorator for your design project? Let me know how it went!