Decorating vs Designing

Decorating vs Designing

The idea for this post, Decorating vs Designing, originally came from a conversation I recently had with clients. I had just officially wrapped up a project with a final photo shoot and was talking with my client at the end of the shoot. Somewhere in the conversation, the topic of renovations came up and I had said that I much prefer the designing and renovating than decorating. The Mrs. was surprised at that for when she was doing her research to find a designer, she found me on Houzz, read my reviews,  and specifically chose me because I didn’t just do renovations.

Decorating vs Designing

If you know me and have been reading my blog, you know that I tend to make up my own words for things.  I have done that for explaining the decorating and designing.



I call this stage the ‘Fluff and Stuff’ stage.  For me, decorating is taking an already existing space and focuses primarily on aesthetics.  That may include:

  • furniture size and placement
  • adding textiles like area rugs and/or drapery
  • adding in decor and art work


I call this stage the ‘Crash and Bang’ stage as it often includes those sounds.  This stage revolves around creating the function of the space first (prior to making it pretty).  It also involves me creating 2D and 3D renderings.  I LOVE this stage as I get to see a space transformed right before my eyes.

Once the function is nailed down, then picking out the pretty begins: flooring, cabinet colour and style, counters, backsplash tile, etc.  Once that is all complete, then the ‘fluff and stuff’ can begin for that space!

Last week on my business Facebook page I posted the following image with the caption: “So much fun today making selections with a client for their new build (being built in Radium BC). The interior selections are starting to come together!”  

I LOVE shopping to pull a newly designed space together!

Decorating vs Designing: My Choice

When is comes to decorating vs designing, there is a ‘sweet spot’ for me – and that is in the designing.  Since my client was a bit surprised, I took some time to think about why that is.  I love to self-evaluate and enjoy going through the process of the ‘whys’ in my business. I think for me, there are a couple of touch points that draw me to designing over decorating:

  1. When designing, you truly get to see a space be reconfigured. In my world, there are often times when walls come down to open up a space and/or there are HUGE changes!  I love seeing change. With decorating, although there can be change, I find that it is not like that of a renovation.
  2. When people are ready to renovate, they have a good idea of their budget. Let me re-phrase that:  people have an idea of what they can spend and know that there will be money spent.  When people are ready to decorate, the budget word is almost like a swear word.  My good friend Claire Jefford with Creating Contrast Designs in Burlington Ontario had a great video on ‘How Much Did this Living Room Cost?’  People are typically shocked at the price it takes to pull a room together. It doesn’t take long for things to add up and what I find is that most clients who wish to start the decorating process have unrealistic expectations (budget wise).  This makes for a challenge as there is only so much magic I can pull out of my ass when a budget is unrealistic yet the client wants the ‘designer look’ for their space.  Perhaps this is the biggest reason why I enjoy renovating more.

Claire joked with me as she knows I like the ‘crash and bang’ more than the ‘fluff and stuff’.  After posting the portfolio of my latest decorating project she wrote, “For someone who doesn’t like the fluff and stuff, that sure is an amazing job!”  Here is why I loved working with those clients and their ‘fluff and stuff’ project.  My clients had:

  • Very realistic expectations of the process of working with a designer.  We got to know each other, joke with each other, and they put their trust in me that I was making professional decisions for their amazing new home.
  • A realistic budget to work with (we used some of their existing furniture and purchased new).  This is so key I just can not emphasize this enough. I’m not saying you have to have tens of thousands of dollars.  What I am saying is that you get what you pay for and if you want the ‘look for less’ – you are going to get the look for less!  Wishing for gold on a beer budget will lead to disappointment.  I would rather see you save you money and chose quality than spend your money on shit.  Period.
  • They were keen on working with a designer to get the look they desired.  Oh we had some good laughs, we used technology to connect via Team Viewer so they could see their space come together via computers when we were in different countries, and they knew what they liked and what they didn’t.  They just needed help in pulling it all together.

Those three key elements listed above are key to any of you who wish to work with a designer.

Looking for assistance for your next Crash and Bang or Fluff and Stuff project in your home?  Click here for my Client Questionnaire to get the ball rolling! 


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