Monday, February 27, 2012

"Design" or "Decorate"...which is it?

Can the terms "Design" and "Decorate" be used interchangeably?

Well they are, ALL the time.

So a better question to ask is, "Should the terms be used interchangeably?"

In my youth my answer was definitely NO, but that's because I defined the 2 terms as people "designer/decorator", and my definition of a designer was someone who possessed the 3-E's (education, experience, examination), and a decorator was someone who did not.  So according to this very limited view, only designers designedDecorators decorated.  End of story. 

However, as I've gotten older and wiser, I've realize that this is a very narrow-minded stance of the interior design profession.  So what's my answer now?...

It's still NO, but for completely different reasons.   As I mentioned in my last post, in order to really understand the difference between the terms, we must first understand the "what" as opposed to the "whom".

Let's dissect:

Both words can be used as nouns AND verbs.  The verb decorate changes form to decoration or decor when used as a noun.  However, the word design stays the same in either case which only adds to the confusion because the word design is often improperly substituted for both the verb and noun tense. 

So let's look at the verb tense first.  You could say:

"I am going to design my kitchen." OR "I am going to decorate my kitchen."

Both make sense, but they do not mean the same thing. In both, the words represent the action that will take place, but it's that action that's different.

To design is to engage in the creative, thoughtful process of planning. This process includes, but is not limited to, such actions as:

building and believe it or not...

If you are designing something you are performing most, if not all of these tasks.  So the term design is never an adequate substitute for any of these actions individually. 

To decorate is to actually implement the final details of the plan, completing the design process. It is the last phase where someone is physically placing items or applying finishes and materials in a room.

You could decorate a pillow by sewing beads on it - applying the beads. Assuming that you bought that pillow at a store, you did not design that pillow. You decorated it. The same premise holds true when dealing with a room. When you are in the planning phase of that room you are designing. When you actually start applying the things you've planned, specified, and purchased you are decorating.

Make sense?...maybe.  But now that you have a better understanding of the difference between the terms as verbs, it will be easier to grasp the even more elusive difference as nouns.  Check back next week as I attempt to explain...and after that we'll tackle the difference between the "whom" - designers vs. decorators.