Difference Between Interior Design and Interior Styling

Many people struggle to tell the difference between interior design and interior styling. I used to find it difficult, as well. Now, after extensive research and experience in the field, I realize there are a lot of factors that differentiate them. Let’s go through the differences between the two.

General Overview: Interior Design vs Interior Styling

We can start with an overview of each term’s definition to kickstart the explanations. Understanding what they are can give insight into their purposes and meanings. Below, I provide a detailed explanation.

Overview of Interior Design

Designers create a balance of practicality and design within a space. They ensure that each room and area flows smoothly into each other to create an efficient home. At the same time, they work on safety, functionality, and appeal.

Often, these designers work closely with architects. At times, the lines have even blurred between them. From my experience, the input of these professionals helps significantly with ensuring the efficiency of a layout. 

This field requires one to consider almost every detail within a space. Designers commonly work on homes (i.e., kitchens, bedrooms) or commercial spaces. It involves careful planning, with great attention to detail. 

Overview of Interior Styling

Styling, while similar, focuses on enhancing the appeal of a space rather than creating it from scratch. It focuses on adding decorative elements, fixing color schemes, and more to achieve the desired effect. Heavy styling focuses on appeal.

A stylist’s task would include arranging existing furniture and decorations. It aims to highlight what we, designers, have already crafted. Commonly, they work on events and occasions such as photoshoots or weddings.

Additionally, color schemes would likely matter a lot to a stylist. According to a study in 2020, there is a global trend in the perception of colors. Stylists would capitalize on this to create themes and aesthetics that achieve the desired effect.

Comparing Interior Design and Interior Styling

Now, it’s important to distinguish between designing and styling. Each field has its role, yet there’s more to it than that. There are a lot of nuances between their differences and similarities. Let’s explore it in more detail.


Due to their closely intertwined nature, design and styling can be very alike. At first, I also found the line to be quite blurry. Below are a few key similarities:

  • Aesthetic focus. Both designers and stylists hold aesthetics in importance. Both aim to fit all elements within a space in a way that appeals to the eyes.
  • Trend awareness. Staying up-to-date with current trends is a must for both fields. Trends help enhance the work of these professionals, be it in functionality or design. 
  • Balance. They both aim to ensure that each element within a space harmonizes together. Proportion, scaling, and a sense of flow are essential considerations.
  • Consideration for space. Both fields have to work around spatial limitations. They have to consider the most efficient way of arranging room and furniture layouts.
  • Color scheme awareness. Both professions involve an eye for color. With each decision, they must consider whether the colors work well together. Through this, they avoid uncoordinated room aesthetics.


Now, the similarities may have blurred the lines. It’s important to remember the differences between them still. Interior designers and stylists approach space in majorly different ways. From the scope of their field to the amount of time needed to complete their work, here are their main differences.

Depth of Scope

  • Design: Designers have to nitpick at every functional and practical detail. They have to ensure that there’s efficiency at work within a space. This is why these professionals tend to work closely with architects.
  • Styling: On the other hand, stylists focus on what can be seen. They focus on the flair, the decorations, and the surface styling. Moreover, they focus on what can be perceived through the eyes.

Long-Term vs Short-Term Designs

  • Design: Designers create spaces meant to last a long time. They craft rooms to endure with functionality. On top of that is a timeless aesthetic that will last the user a long time. 
  • Styling: Stylists, on the other hand, utilize flexibility. Their work is open for frequent updates and adjustments. It’s due to constantly changing trends when it comes to surface designs.

Time Needed

  • Design: Designers need a considerable time frame to work on. That is evident when the designers work on the structural designs or make significant functional changes.
  • Styling: These professionals can complete their tasks within shorter time frames. That is what gives the field its characteristic flexibility and openness for adjustments.

Major Distinguishing Factor

The primary distinguishing factor between these two fields is the scope. Designers handle more than just surface appeal. They also craft functionality, efficiency, and practicality. 

Meanwhile, the field of interior styling focuses on what we detect when we enter a room. That leads to further sub-differences between them. This is where the flexibility of their craft or the length of their work comes in.

When to Use Interior Design

Designing is essential to the foundations of all things structural. It stands to work on an in-depth approach to creating space. Working with architecture and engineering, it is the soul of homes, offices, and even stores. Below are a few scenarios wherein interior designers are a must:

  • Construction of a new home
  • New commercial spaces
  • A need to maximize space
  • Functional overhauls
  • Historically significant spaces

When to Use Interior Styling

Living room with a white couch and wooden fireplace design and big side windowsStyling is the icing on top of the design. It manipulates color, atmosphere, and the art of a room to achieve a desired effect. Due to this, it’s well suited for making quick changes. 

When I want to freshen up my living room with a new style for Christmas, styling is the way to go. The following are a few situations where interior styling is essential:

  • Budget home restyling
  • Photoshoots
  • Weddings, birthdays, and other events
  • Seasonal style changes
  • Redesign of rented homes

Interior Design or Interior Styling, Which Is Better?

In this topic, I can’t say that one of the two is “better.” Indeed, each of the two has its purpose. Designing excels in making well-rounded, long-lasting spaces. It’s better, if not essential, for creating a founding theme and flow of a room. The structure and the functionality of a space rely on it.

On the other hand, styling is better if we’re looking for a quick or temporary fix. This is the way to go for those looking to satisfy the sudden urge to have an ocean theme in the bedroom. Also, it would suit a house to look extra fancy for a party.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Importance of Interior Styling?

Styling is essential to create the desired effect we want a space to achieve. Whether it’s a comfortable living room or a fancy party, styling will make the necessary steps.

What Are the Principles of Interior Design?

Interior design has seven basic principles. These are balance, harmony, rhythm, proportion and scale, emphasis, contrast, and details. Designers focus on these to ensure functionality and appeal within a room.

Can I Teach Myself Interior Design?

Yes, anyone can learn interior design without a formal education. However, professional practice may be hard to attain without a formal education.

Final Verdict

Ultimately, it’s not a matter of which one does it best. It’s a matter of what we’re looking for and which process would meet our needs. Hopefully, this discussion concerning the difference between interior design and interior styling has provided insight into these nuances.

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