If you’re anything like me, you can frequently be found with your head inside an interior design magazine, a beautiful home book or browsing a fabulous design blog (like this one!).

You will likely have come across work by interior architects, interior designers, interior decorators and interior stylists. You’ll have read about things such as scope of works, briefs, schedules, fixtures, fittings, furnishings and a whole host of different types of trades. And it’s highly likely that at some stage you may have either thought “huh?” or simply switched off to any more interior design lingo entirely.

This article is here to clarify some of the terminology once and for all.

Who’s who?

An Interior Architect and an Interior Designer are one in the same. An Interior Designer is someone who alters the interior structure of a building. Think moving walls, doors, windows. They consider the spatial use and purpose of the space. They can also custom design furniture, lighting and flooring.

A peak inside a residence in Woolhara showcases Decus Interior’s customised banquet seating, wall panelling and high impact floor tiles.

An Interior Decorator will work within an existing interior structure. They also consider how a space is used, and how furnishings can enhance the flow of a space. An Interior Decorator will specify furniture, lighting, flooring, window coverings, colour schemes and fabric to create cohesive décor schemes.

Australian Interior Designer, Greg Natale, phrased the difference between and Interior Designer and an Interior Decorator succinctly when he said that an Interior Designer works with structure, while and Interior Decorator works with soft furnishings.

An Interior Stylist is someone who will work with a specific brief to create a visual scheme. They will use furnishings, colour and pattern to create an overall style, story or feeling for a space. They are often trend setters, and typically work in both residential and commercial as well as for magazines and other media.

Stylist Natalie Walton’s pure interior styling evokes a clutter free casual ambience

A Colour Consultant is someone who, naturally, works specifically with colour. They understand how colour can affect emotion and mood in a space, and they understand how groups of different colours work together. They work within a building and also, create external colour schemes for buildings.

Studio Pepe use colour and line to visually ground a bedroom

I’ve got to say though; the Interior Design and Decoration industry is far from clear cut. Some designers decorate and some decorators do some design (joinery design or custom soft furnishings). A good Interior Designer, Decorator, Stylist and Colour Consultant will have a clear set of offerings stated on their website.

Furnishing, Fixtures and Fittings

These 3 examples are often interchanged. But they are very different and are typically used in difference scenarios. For example, an Interior Decorator would use furnishings to mean decoration and soft furnishing items and fixtures to mean items permanently affixed to a surface.

Usually the terms fixtures and fittings are heard together mostly in real estate when describing the contents of a space and what is or isn’t included in the sale of a property.

Furnishings are essentially decorative items for an interior. They include furniture, carpets, rugs and fabrics used for curtains, cushions and upholstered items such as chairs and sofas.

A fitting is essentially a furnishing, and the term is used outside of Interior Decoration mostly in the real estate and building industry.

Generally, a fixture is an interior item that is bolted to a surface. Such as lighting, kitchen or bathroom units, built in wardrobes and plug sockets.

Studio McGee furnish a room with a mid-century modern twist, while playing to the existing architectural features

In Part 2: Interior Lingo Decoded, differentiating a proposal from a brief and understanding the different trades.