You know what you like. Or do you? Many consumers feel ill-equipped to put together a room so that it smacks of style and beauty. Men and women alike can throw an outfit on and accessorize with the best of the fashionistas, but when it comes to their homes, they consider themselves neophytes who can do little more than place a sofa flat up against a wall. There are basic rules of thumb you can follow if you don’t trust your decorator instincts. For example, hanging pictures at eye level, hiding electronic cords and using a rug that’s at least as wide as your largest piece of furniture are design basics that can guide your decorating plans. But when it comes to following trends, mixing your antiques with new acquisitions or trying new colors, if you feel like you’d rather sit on beanbag chairs on the floor than try something new, it may be time to call in a professional. North Carolina has no laws governing the interior design profession, but local designers who take courses and learn the fine art of interior placement are the only ones allowed to tout professional credentials. Interior design education provides students with training in design technicalities, furniture layout, lighting and electrical specifications and the nuances of spatial relationships. A few designations you might see and recognize include the ASID, or American Society of Interior Designers or the IDS, the credentials assigned by the Interior Design Society. For designers to be able to list those initials after their names, they must pass rigorous examinations and maintain their certification with continuing education courses. Interior decorators, on the other hand, primarily deal with color, style and the aesthetics of a room. Their primary focus is helping you choose furniture, rugs and accessories. Many people with a flair for decorating call themselves interior decorators. They too can carry professional certifications however such as the CID credentials, which stand for Certified Interior Decorator, received after decorators complete a series of courses and exams. Professional designers and decorators can provide you with a cursory consultation that leaves you with a list of ideas and suggestions or they can participate in the entire process, from hiring your subcontractors, choosing the fabrics for your upholstery and buying your rugs and accessories. A professional often comes up with ideas you may never have thought of and gives you guidance about what materials might work best for your lifestyle. Sure, you can ask a friend whose home decorating you admire, but beware of complications that can arise when your tastes bump heads. You can ruin a good relationship by trying to decorate together. If you really feel that you need help, stick instead to a professional who will tell you the truth. If you don’t like the advice, you can change designers; it’s a lot harder to fire a friend. The best time to hire a designer or decorator is at the beginning of your room makeover. Once you start down a path, it can be difficult to make changes without eating up your initial budget. Retailers such as Rug & Home do spend considerable time training their associates in the kinds of home furnishings they sell, but they rarely come to your home to help you make your plans. The bottom line is that just because you don’t feel comfortable remodeling a worn-out room, even if it’s just replacing your Oriental rugs with contemporary colors, you need not be alone. The Carolinas are rife with professional designers who can work with you as little or as much as you desire.