Helpful Tips

Renovating? Who do you hire?

As exciting as it is to redecorate an existing or new home it is not always easy. You basically have three options: do it yourself (DIY), hire a designer/decorator, or have your contractor help you make all the design decisions.  The DIY’ers know that a lot of time is required researching, running around and hiring tradespeople, let alone managing the project.  Being somewhat of a DIY’er myself I know that all the blood, sweat and tears lead to great satisfaction after a job well done.  If you have the time and the organization skills and the right people to do the work then you’re off to the races.  Otherwise project management can become a huge headache.  With the amount of time and money involved, hiring a professional becomes the best option especially for busy, working professionals who just do not have the time.  So where does one begin?  Who do you hire?  What resources are out there?  With a little bit of research and resourcefulness you should be able to find your answers, otherwise a good referral is usually needed.

The first thing you need to be clear about is the scope of work that needs to be done.  Are you renovating an existing structure and tearing down structural walls, moving plumbing or creating ceilings, windows or skylights?  Or are you merely changing the surface finishes of the space such as flooring, wall colours, window treatments and lighting?  There are a myriad of contractors, renovation companies, decorators and designers out there so the decision to hire a professional can become overwhelming.  Hopefully the following distinction between Interior Designers and Interior Decorators will help you to move forward.

Interior decorators have expertise in the surface design or aesthetic of a room such as window treatments, textiles, furnishings, antiques, paint and colour coordination. Their education ranges from a seven course certificate to a two year diploma program.  Decorators do not need any formal training to practise and many decorators with years of experience have made quite a mark in the field.  Most people choose to hire decorators who are either well known in the industry or have some formal education in art and/or decorating.  Decorators are therefore a great choice for people looking to update their space without the need for structural changes to their home.  However, there are Interior Decorators who carry out renovation projects by hiring external consultants such as structural engineers to ensure that building code requirements are met. For a list of certified decorators and designers as well as industry resources,  I highly recommend visiting the CDECA (Canadian Interior Decorators Association) website at

Interior Designers are also trained in surface design but their expertise is in building codes and construction with much more focus on drafting and technical design.  They have in most cases completed either a three year diploma or a four year degree from an accredited interior design program.  From there, some design graduates choose to complete about three years of apprenticeship work and are then qualified to write the NCIDQ (National Council for Interior Design Qualification) exam which is a requirement for licensure in Ontario.  Licensed Interior Designers are responsible for ensuring that building codes and safety standards are met and they are regulated under ARIDO (Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario). This becomes important when renovating an existing structure or new construction because you want to ensure that codes and safety standards are adhered to.  Although there are many people and firms offering interior design services, the term ‘Interior Designer’ (at least in Ontario) is legally restricted to licensed members of ARIDO.  For a list of registered Interior Designers in Ontario please visit the ARIDO website at

Once you are clear on what the requirements are for your project, you can start researching your options, interview some candidates and go from there.  The rest is basically dependent upon your budget and your working relationship with the designer or decorator.  It is a complicated process and can be time consuming but with the right decorator or designer, it is well worth it.

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